My 50th Birthday
It was a cold night last night -- I could tell by the crackling sound of the super cooled cuben fiber shelter. This sound occurred every time I shifted my body or each time the wind blew. Other than this sound, and the resulting flakes of ice that fell on my face, I was toasty warm thanks to my recently departed neighbors.
The young couple from Hawaii, who had chosen winter in AK for their vacation, had brought everything plus the kitchen sink for their backcountry camping experience. They flew into Anchorage, shopped at all of the normal places, plus made a stop at the local thrift store. It is here that they acquired two old blankets that would act as their sleeping pads, and would become the source of my new found warmth.
After two days here in the park they opted to head north to Fairbanks and the lure of Chena Hot springs. I must admit to a tinge of jealousy as Chena or one of the other hot springs had been high on my list of destinations. Ironically, the same was true of my kayak journey up the Inside Passage where I dreamed warm dreams of hot springs, all to no avail. Apparently this trip will end the same way, but alas, I digress.
Upon deciding to depart, this lovely young couple offered up the remainder of their firewood plus these two blankets. I immediately accepted, especially in lieu of the -20 degree forecast. The blankets and wood were hauled down to my camp before dinner and then carefully spread out over my sleeping bag. The sight of this arrangement looks quite strange given the diminutive size of my 1 pound ultralight shelter. But hey, what are you going to do when faced with ridiculously cold temps. I could have made it with what I had, but it would not have been comfortable.
Instead, I curled up in my 0 degree down bag, with my two new blankets and yes, even a pillow, and fell fast asleep in the warmth of this arrangement. While each night the bag starts out warm, it is in the middle of the night when the frigid air has crept in and silently stolen all of the warmth, replacing it instead with a bone numbing chill. This has been the ritual the entire time I have been in Alaska, but last night, the ritual did not occur. Instead, other than the crinkling of frozen cuben fiber and the ice bits falling on my face, I slept a solid 12 hours in complete warmth.
Agh, what a great way to start your 50th year on this amazing planet.