Monday, January 27, 2020

Can I Go Winter Camping, Please?

In the driveway without the cover, waiting for a winter camp

I haven't covered the Green Goddess this winter because I expect--or want, anyway--to try some winter camping. I'm sure I can find the right temperatures; next week, for instance, the temperatures will be in the high teens to the thirties. That's acceptable.

Why, then, is the title of this blog post a question: "Can I go winter camping, please?"

It just has to do with safety. The main roads are fine, and even the lesser roads in town are tolerable. You see, the storm patterns and temperatures have been this: freezing rain, snow, freezing rain, snow, and then temperatures just at or below freezing. You can imagine or most likely know from experience that that original freezing rain is still there beneath the snow.

This morning we have fog, which might settle to freezing condensation. Driving the roads right now is safer than walking on sidewalks. My request for permission to camp is really directed to Mother Nature, not to me or my wife or my family.

Our closest state park is seventeen miles away. I'm sure the state roads to the park are fine, and the ranger has told me that the state also plows the main road into the park. However, the main road into the park will not have had the traffic of the state highways--or as much attention from the snowplows and sanders, either. I'm pretty sure I could make it in, though. My Nissan Pathfinder can lock into 4WD, and it holds the road well. My tiny trailer also isn't going to add appreciably to the mass and inertia as I drive, so I think getting to the campground is possible.

Once I get there, though, I will have the campsite covered with a blanket of snow . . . and beneath that, the ice. I imagine I could back in and camp. We haven't had a huge accumulation of snowfall. I'm thinking, though, how active could I be surrounded by all that ice with snow on top? Would I be able to hike or even safely walk to the water faucet or toilet?

I have to consider, also, just because it's the reasonable thing to do, the safety factors. I'm almost certain I will be the only camper in the park. I mean, that was true in November! What if I were to fall? If I had my phone, I could call the ranger--if they were near the phone. I could call 911.

Snow accumulation at a local county campground. Where's the gravel area?

The deciding factor for me will be the ice. I can deal with some snow, but the ice from that first storm and the later ice have stayed. I shoveled the north sidewalk at my house, and beneath the snow was a sheet of ice. My wife right now is out of state on business. I still have family in town, but . . .

When in doubt, defer. I'm not planning on leaving today. I may not leave to camp altogether. I might just take a Sunday drive to the local state park and check things out. Better yet, I can first check the local county park outside of town to see what an unused campsite is like when covered with freezing rain and snow.

I've just taken a drive to our local county park. The road in was fine, even with the temperature at freezing, but I really wouldn't want to drive the snow- and ice-covered in the state park, with its hills and turns. The county park road is flat, but the campground is closed for the winter. And as for the campsites, I would have to dig to discover the outlines of the camp area at the state park--and then deal with the ice beneath. All things considered, at the point on a Monday, it's best to stay home. It is supposed to be warmed later in the week and next weekend, though.

Whatever my course, I'm not going to rationalize away that freezing rain is still icing our SE Iowa landscape. Roads and sidewalks have been shoveled and sanded and salted. Not the fields and the woods, though. Not the landscape of the state parks. I suppose just checking out possibilities is some interaction with camping!

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  1. This is why Southerners are ridiculed for our snow-driving abilities, or lack thereof. The ground temperature and the air temperature compete to see which one can control the pavement. The weather patterns you describe are exactly what we experience nearly every time we have a winter event. And since they are actually few and far between, it's cost prohibitive for most cities to keep the heavy equipment necessary to clear the roads. And many roads in East Tennessee are like roller coasters anyway.

    1. Last early fall I drove through Tennessee and camped at Harrison Bay State Park. Beautiful country! Ice on windy, twisty roads with lots of hills is not my idea of pleasant travel. Thanks for validating my experience here and my conclusions. If I really want to camp, I'll just overnight in my trailer while it's parked in my rural driveway. A big REAP field is just across the way, and if I can make it safely to the rig, then I'll have no worries. Here's to next camping season!