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  Dipper   SpIG Writeup

Last things first--As information on the Dipper, who stayed over Sunday night solo in the middle of the storm, as of 9:00am Monday morning he is at his car at the Parking Area to Big Dam with about 1/2 hour of shoveling to get on the road. All is well, he mentioned most of his time was spent just keeping warm and dry and fed.

Now from the beginning, an overview of the past 4 days of winter adventure in Nova Scotia's beautiful Kejimkujek National Park. Some personal journals to follow.

Things started with a fun evening in the Sungod's basement as our first 'GEAR BARE' was held. Packs were opened and compared by Dipper, IMAX, Sean Gaultos, Sungod, and the VIKING, observed by the Birder and Spell Chic. There were oohs and ahs, plus some doubts on the requirement or efficiencies of certain pieces of gear. We all weighed in on the big fish scale and, in general, appeared when water added, we would all be around 40-42 pounds.I showed off the sled I would be hauling my gear in with, there were very little comments, but the next day there was two more sleds.

As we were in the comforts of our little game, two Gonzo wannabees (Paul Kundzins and Dave MacPherson) were already in the Park, set up and sitting around a fire. More of them when we rendevous the next day.

After coffee around our kerosene 'firepit', we all returned to our home kennels to rendevous at 7:00am at Timmies.

We were off, IMAX in 'Chilkoot Dave' Alexander's truck, Sean with the Dipper, Sungod and Malcolm Goat in the Viking Mobile, and Fireball in his stealth Acura.

After a stop at Bridgewater Timmie's and a bit of a side trip up (and back down) a road to New Germany, we arrived at the Park, filled out he necesary papers to notify next of kin when we don't get out, we were on the trail just before 11:00am. The road into Big Dam Parking lot had the better part of 2 feet of snow, but previous skiers-our friends last night, and the snow shoe clad Chilkoot Dave, Sean, and Imax, plus Malcolm's, Sean's, and The Sungod's sleds quickly packed down a trail even the hikers could walk with minimum effort. An easy hour covered the 3.5 km to the parking lot, the woods were absolutly beautiful with all the snow on the branches. After a brief water break, we headed up the trail toward our goal (site #3), 4 kms away, on a single track trail whaich at times was difficult to find (which later was to be impossible to find) After 10 minutes we came ti site 'C', where Paul and Dave MacP. had spent a damp night. They had arrived under cover of darkness in a fairly heavy, and wet, snow. After conversation and a few giggles we carried on our way with a promise if they skied down to our site later 'WE' would have hot tea for them. Fireball remained behind at this site.

The trail now had no previous traffic on it and we both had to break trail and try to figure out where the trail actually went. It was fairly easy most of the way as the 'BIG' hemlocks provided a path, usually no more than a couple feet wide. It was just magical with the snow hanging off the branches. This snow more than a foot thick. It was surrealistic when you looked of into the forest. The difficulty came when the big trees thinned out and there was lots of space around and no distinct trail. At that time we went what looked to be the best route, keeping the lake in site to our left. Since Site #3 was also a widerness canoe site, and on the water, we knew we would hit upon it. This non trail was not too bad except for the sleds that kept catching in the undergrowth we were forcing our tired bodies through. Finally,1 1/2 hours after leaving Site 'C' we saw out camp site, across a small bay. We had the choice of going straight across the lake, flat obviously, and maybe a couple hundred feet closer, or to follow the shore line, either on the ice which is the weakest point of ice (there were some open areas) or drag our bodies through the underbrush. Across the bay we went, not with a really confident feeling on my part. I found out later a few others didn't feel real good either. The ice was fine but it is a funny feeling when you sink through the fott or more of snow and your foot hits the slush on top of the ice. We did not tarry long on the water. I siad to myself I would never do that again. (of course the next morning found me on the water again-It was -15* the previous night wasn't it?)

We arrived at our camp site around 2:00 pm the what was just palin beauty all around. Our first view was the picknic table with about 2 1/2 feet of snow on it. What a site. Then we realized we had to removed that ice encrusted chastity belt that covered every thing. Where was the fire pit? Where was the fire logs? Where were the tent pads? Everything was coverd with up to 3 feet of snow. Now all this beauty became work. Get the tents up, get the fire going, get the stoves going to melt snow, get meals on---Try to keep warm. It was -10*.

By 4:00pm we had all eaten, the fire was sort of going-it would later be big blaze-Chilkoot had made snow benches around the fire and now all we had to do was keep warm until it was time to climb into our sleeping bags. We all? sort of agreed that bed time would be 8:00pm. What to do for 4 hours?--keep warm!!!!!! At 7:45 it was time, and off we went into our homes for the night. The temperature went dow a few more digrees over night and was back around -10* whan we got out of our bags around 8:00am.

Boil water, melt snow, cook porridge (or use water from last nights thermos), pack gear, dismantle tents, pack more gear, load sleds, put on snow shoes. It all takes soooooo much longer. You do something and you have to put your gloves back on. etc. Keeping warm and melting water take up so much of your time. And we were only out a couple days.

The hike back was uneventful, except we again couldn't find the trail and we went across the lake again. Very disconcerting. I was starting to snow, the impending storm may actually be taking place. Two hours later we got to our vehicles-The decision to not spend the night in the storm had already been made by most, there were still a few decisions to be made. Dipper was the only one that decided to stay and as he walked down the road to Jeremy's camp site someone said, we just had an IQ test and all but one passed.

It was into our vehicles for the 2 hour drive home--It was a drive that was to take us six hours, the worst road conditions I have ever been on. The comment a bit later was "maybe ONLY one person PASSED the IQ test"

Our first concern was to get out of the Park onto the highway. This was accomplished, only to find the secondary road we would be on to Bridgewater was not as good as the Park. We made it with out incident to Timmies in Bridgewater for soup etc. We felt much better now, it would be onto the 103 and home to Halifax-Wrong, the road was there but finding it was another thing. We slid to the side of the road into 3 feet of snow, out, push, no avail--the snow and wind was howling. Along came Chilkoot Dave who had my pack (and shovel) Also another truck stopped with a chain-Shovel shovel, push push and out. Off we would go again, moving okay at 50km? per hour. All of a sudden an 18 wheeler, two vehicles ahead of us seemed to be pulling off to the side, then more, then more, then over the side, then rolling down and sideways-upside down in the 20foot ditch-Mailcolm Goat was out the door before the car stopped. down the ditch and basically climbing into the cab ensureing the driver(s) okay. They were well, I had called 911 on the cell and police and Ambulance were on the way. As we were stopped the plow had gone by and we followed him. The rest of the trip was not uneventful but nothing quite as exciting. We sat at Timmies in Hammonds Plains for a bit. Heard that the city ahd taken the plows off the roads-This was not a pretty storm.

In retrospect I think Malcolm and Gordon had the best conversation, after getting out of the tents deciding what to do.

We are mostly all in our infancy of winter camping having gone in a very short time from summer car camping to winter hikes, to winter overnighters in Keji at Mason's Cabin or the Fire Tower, to winter overnight at the Fire Tower-but camping out doors, to now carrying our tents 8 kms into the woods with no protection except what we carried. That we did this in fairly cold conditions and now a storm, we feel we are still learning. There were lots of things we found out in the two days we would do different:

Gordon:-Have you learned alot from these two days?

Malcolm:-I sure have.

Gordon:-Are there things you would do differently?

Malcolm:-There sure are.

Gordon:-Do these things need study and preparation?

Malcolm:-They sure do.

Gordon:-Do you need a 3rd day in school?

Malcolm:-I sure don't!!!!!

Looking forward to our next adventure, Third (4th?) Annual Munroe Day hike at Taylor's Head. Friday, February 2nd-An all day adventure 10 km, around a beautiful ocean trail.



-- The Sun god

Winter Hike - Dipper Solo Adventure


I really like multiple day back-country trips. I like that feeling you get when you walk away from the car, knowing that it won't be available for a missed item, or as a great gear/garbage dump. I also like packing for these trips, as they force you to review just how useful each piece of gear in relation to its size and weight. This is actually a hobby in itself. It gives you a reason to browse gear magazines, stores and web sites, searching for that magical piece of techie gear that will make everything all right.

The more you do this stuff, the simpler it gets. I don't just mean the process, I mean the results. There are a million ways to put 30- 40 lbs on your back, but even a light reading of the hiker diaries from the AT, shows how people pare down their essential lists until they have what works, works well, lasts, and does what's required, no more.

Every trip is an excuse to talk and buy gear, and for this one I bought a pair of leather mitts, a water bottle holder and a wool shirt. I also picked up a clothes dry-bag for Christmas. Between having Sean and Glenn at work, Gordon during runs, Duffy emails, and the 1st Annual Gear Bare, I think I should try and write "Zen and the Art of Backpack Maintenance"


The early morning wakeup, the collective meeting at Timmies, the drive to the location, the start-out picture (did we get one this trip??) and finally we're off. I'm watching the sleds and snowshoes. I'd like to try them, but not this trip. I like the simplicity of my back and my feet. I know what they can do and in what conditions. I like that slow burn you get going on a backpack trip. Not too fast, not too slow, just steady and comfy.

I like walking in the woods, any woods. I really like walking in snow. I want to go and live in Alaska. I really like having my world on my back. Winter camping adds that extra spice. The environment around you is beautiful yet potentially deadly. It teases you with its loveliness, but it doesn't care if you come or go. It has a life of its own. If anything, you are an intruder.

We get to camp with a minor detour over the lake. Yikes! Amazing what you will do in a group. Feeling that slush come up over my boot probably cost me a year of my life, not to mention that soaking the only footwear you have presents interesting challenges later on. You carry backups of just about everything, but usually just the one pair of boots.

Camp was a big snowfield. Now I know why people bring snow shovels. Winter camping takes a lot of maintenance, so the rest of the day is spent making food, fire and drinkable water, interspersed with lots of frivolity and potty humour to match anyone.

Chilcoot Dave had some neat gear (the alcove tent, zoomin' snowshoes) and sense of humour easily equal to the abuse being handed out. Sean (SPiG) had the simplest food setup I'd ever seen. Basically hot water, a big mug and stuff that cooked in it or in a bag on the stove. Gonna steal some ideas from that. Personally, I just started wearing poly liners under my gloves, and almost never take them off. They are good in the snow and for unlacing boots, setting up tent poles, zipping up clothes and dozens of small tasks too hard for bulky gloves. I liked the sleds, but only for open, cleared trail. A real pain in anything else. I really liked the snowshoes and hope to get started on a pair (Oh Boy! Another excuse to research and buy gear!) I wore regular hiking boots instead of mukluks and cheated with some chemical heat pads. Still debating as to which I like better. Sean has a pair with reversible sock liners which are worth checking out

The overnight was fine. You sleep in fits and starts, adjusting positions, access to air and identifying body parts not as warm as they should be. My gear had been in in a few of these, and this was the coldest. Things went well except for a small period around 4:00 AM, something I fixed for the next evening, which was even colder.


Man, those boots are cold in the morning. Taking another idea from Sean, I had a minimal breakfast of porridge and tea before leaving the sleeping bag, using the overnite Thermos of hot water. Very cool.

The weather wasn't clear, but it was gorgeous. It was like a snow crystal fog over the lake. I was a little disconcerted to hear the open discussion about going home. It was like watching a mating dance. A little hint here, some mild agreement there and soon you have the unmistakable, uncontrollable herd response, with everyone nodding in agreement. Sean was still up for another evening, but everyone else was going home. Some had only booked in for one evening, but others had taken a day off to stay the 2 nights. I liked the idea of going to bed cold, waking up cold, knowing you have to go to bed cold again, and see how your planning and preparation work out.

Back-country camping leaves you a few standard options. Hike all day, setup camp, eat, enjoy the fire, repeat until done. Another choice is to hike in, setup a base camp and do day hikes. Some hikers are really naturalists who like to spend a lot of time in one place. We don't really do that. We tend to move and quickly at that. We talk about spending more time at camp, learning things like shelter options and cooking options, but really, we like to move.

One of the reasons I like Katahdin so much is that we get to work from a base camp and usually in various groups, allowing you to hook in where it makes the most sense that day. You get to come home at the end of the day, but you slogged that portable home on your back for 3 hours from the car. I just love that.

The hike back to the cars meant to get us back on the trail, but with so much snow, our only real option was Gordon's decision to re-cross the lake and get back on the 401 the sleds carved the prior day. When it comes to directional problems, I have a very hard time with the clues obvious in the environment. Hiking in, Chilcoot Dave led us on the trail through some very deep snow and only mis-stepped within hailing distance of the site. I can't pick out the trail easily in the summer. I can read and set a bearing, but I can't step outside the basic rules and come up with the common sense answer to the many directional problems that pop up in backcountry, especially in winter.

Our break at the Big Dam parking lot brought us into contact with 6 guys (some with external packs, yeah!) who had camped at Site D. Counting the group of young guys at A, us at C and Site #3 and it was a busy night. Add the 2 groups of xskiers on the way out it's like a winter playground in there.

Back at the cars, Sean was pretty wet and not comfortable with the idea of staying over in a storm with no real chance of an open fire to dry out some clothes and gear. That left me, and I was going to camp if it meant setting up by the car. I decided to hike to Jeremy's (about 4 km) and setup, then think about walking back for the car, so as to not put myself in any needless danger. The cars take off as I turn my back and head down the road, into what was becoming a big snowdump.


"Well, I'm walking down the road, with my hat on my head
Had to leave my buddies who went home instead
Well, the snow is falling on me and you know, I sure feel fine
The sun is shinin' on me and you know...I sure feel fine"
Ozark Mountain Daredevils, 1970's

The decision to stay and camp another night was easy. The desire to go to Jeremy's and camp near the beach in the Meadows was really strong. My confidence in the ability to stay hydrated, fueled up and warm was also strong. The desire to do this all by myself was more than compelling. The realization that even a small accident with a fall or a knife could put me in some serious danger was never far from my mind for the next 20 hours.

I convinced myself in small steps.. at least hike to Jeremy's and decide there, an old Gonzo trick of not making decisions too early. Then it was at least setup camp, then go back for the car. A car can be used to get over sloppiness, which is why I don't like car camping. All I wanted it for was emergency.

There is something very liberating about being by yourself. Tunes play in your head. Birds sing and you stop hiking to look (in vain). When you stop, there is no other sound other than nature, and it can be pretty quiet at times. There was a lot of snow coming down, which just enhanced the feeling of isolation. I made it to the beach and took a quick break reviewing some older memories from there (camping with the family in the 80's, when a big tree branch fell on the tent during a stormy night, hiking/biking with Sophie a few years back, kayaking the Channel loop with Grodon and Bruce in the fall and landing at the beach)

I dug my way into site #31 and setup the tent while an amazing amount of snow continued to fall. Went inside for some tea and crumpets and took stock of my situation. Lots of food, to be eaten hot or cold, decent amount of water, stove and fuel, enough fire-starter kit for a few fires, no access to dry lumber unless I took the car back to the Admin building, basically dry clothes and enough gear to stay warm all night.

Loaded up enough clothes/food to hike back to the car, stepped outside, slogged out to the Meadows loop road and was confronted with an astounding sight. The road was flat, no sihn of the plow ever having been there, no sign of tires tracks, no sign of my passing just an hour ago. Just flat, white snow. There was no thought of even trying to bring the car down here. Easy enough, my last decision was made for me. I was here for the night.

If you ever read my kayak story from Kenduskeag, I mentioned soemthing about the noise that goes on in your head when you're trying to make a hard decision and the silence that accompanies finally making that decision. Once I knew I was staying, my whole focus changed from mulling options and possibilities to one one concentrating on heat and hydration management.

Accidents are usually accompanied by sloppiness, so I spent a fair bit of time ensuring that what I was doing made sense and that I could do it safely. This included searching out a couple of close sites for firewood, poking through almost 2 ft of snow with Sean's snowshovel, and then dragging a bit of leaning deadwood back for fire makings. I put up my space blanket as a vestibule, turning the red side out towards the road for visibility. I cut ropes for the tarp, checking my feet, balance and the knife blade before every cut. It may seem silly reading this, but it sure didn't feel silly at that place and time.

I shovelled out my tent site at least 3 times, as the snow just kept a'comin', then dug out the firepit and a path to the road. This done, I boiled up some tea and a snack and headed back to the beach for some reflection. I had everything done that I wanted during daylight and just had supper and hopefully a little comfort fire left on my list.

I spent a lot of time thinking about heat management. I never took of the poly liners unless absolutely necessary. When I sat still, I had everything covered up and all my non-emergency layers on. I drank warm tea or hot chocolate at every opportunity.

While supper was cooking, I started a fire and fought the little s.o.b. for more than it was worth. I kept it going for a few hours, but only with constant vivgilance. The wood was just too wet to get a good ember bed going. I cracked out the cheese and salami for fat and flavor and watched the fire and lake from my little vestibule. All in all, an extremely satisfying meal. As the stories have come in, it looks like the homeward bound crew were shovelling themselves and others out of ditches while I enjoyed my gourment meal. Even fellow runner Rosco spent this same time fighting the road elements, while I enjoyed the comfort of the homefires.

After boiling up the nightly termos water and another round of tea, it was time to turn in. I only made it to 7:00 thanks to the lack of fire, but it had been a long day and the time was good. I placed the red, reflecto shovel out at the end of my site and retired. I slept quite well, listening to wind blow those big pines over my head. I had to move the down vest from feet to back around 3:00 and noticed that it was even colder than the night before (probably -12 to -15), but it was a nice evening all around.

I wanted to head out by sunrise, so got up at 6:00, had some tea and brekkie and packed in the dark. Man, everything was really frozen. My mitts/scarf were like wood and I had to break out the backups. I couldn't get my boots on, they were so stiff, even after 20 minutes in my sleeping bag liner. I contemplated cutting the tongue to get my feet in. You can't walk out without boots and I couldn't get mine on.

Realistically, there always multiple options when something doesn't work. I could have used the stove to thaw them a little, or climbed back into the sleeping bag with them for awhile, switched to 2 light socks...lots of options yet to be considered. The trick is to keep your mind open to the options available.

One mistake that I made was to only melt out the one Thermos for the morning. I made breakfast with it and drank the rest after 1/2 hour of hiking, but that left me another hour without anymore liquid. Of course, I could just stop and get the stove going, but really should have made another bottle and thawed it out a bit in the morning with my Thermos water (which was actually tea, another little mistake)

I was taking the tent down as the sun came up and by the time I hit the trail, it was a glorious, sunny morning, sort of like a reward for staying over. The feeling can't be described although I know some reading this know what it is. Duddy and I stayed over after a very rainy Liberty run a few years back and the following day was just stunning. I'm slogging through snow up to my knees, but I'm surrounded by this pristine whiteness, with sun shining off of everything. When I stop to rest, the tracks behind me are the only change in the environment. The view, and the feeling was worth every penny.

In past Gonzo conversations, we talk about the buzz you get from the contrasts. A nice hot Timmies coffee after a hard, wet, cold run, a nap after a tough day of hiking, a shower after 2-3 days without one. We don't just chase fitness and adventure and comradeship, we chase that contrast of highs and lows, hard and soft, cold and warm. Hiking my winter gear down that sunny road will be a memory to keep me warm when the knees, eyes and back give out. I guarantee you I won't be revelling in office memories in my eighties

The hike back to the car is tough enough that I rest every 50 left steps and set a time limit to stop and make more water. As it turns out, the car comes into sight (at least it's' outline) at my 9:00 cutoff. Back to civilization. I can't drive anywhere, have to wait for the plow, but i"m back. I call Rnager jackie and let her know where I am, then call Duffy to say that I'm out. The rest of the day is just a warm, fuzzy memory. Lots of sun, big body and brain buzz and nice, slow drive home.


- Sleds need to be compact and tight

- Poly liners are the best thing

- Food freezes in the winter

- Keep hot water with you at all times

- Simpler is better

- Snowshovels are essential

- Mukluks get wet too

- Internal frames packs soak your back

- Where were my sunglasses

- Don't make tea, make water, add tea later

- Keep a general bearing going all the time

- Use your watch for a sense of distance

- You only have 1 pair of boots

- Winter camping is high maintenance

- Wool is great


Winter Hike and Jerky Recipe - SPiG

Well, I was going to do a write up on the winter trip of January 19-22 but events have since passed me by. Many of the details of that trip were well documented in previous postings so this message is more of an opportunity to pass on some of my food knowledge to those members of the group who requested it.

But first let me point out how much I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the trail. I cannot think of a finer group of individuals I could have done this with and I came away with some good memories to keep and some good lessons learned (or relearned) about camping in the winter.

Lessons remembered:

1. About sleds

- Keep the loads well distributed and low to prevent the sled from toppling.

- Put most of the weight in the back of the sled to allow the front to ride higher.

- Sleds work better on well groomed trails or across open terrain. They tend to snag on thick brush.

- Keep items on sled wrapped in a tarp (or in a large kit bag) lashed securely to the sled.

- A rigid type of harness is preferrable to loose ropes.

2. About fire building.

- You really need a good dry platform to build your fire upon. Split logs work great if you can find them.

- Wood will likely have lots of moisture in it. Keep wood close to the fire to allow it to dry/thaw before putting it directly on the flames.

- Take LOTs of dry firestarter and kindling.

3. Miscelleneous lessons.

- Thermos bottles are worth twice their weight in gold on winter trips.

- A fatty snack before bedtime keeps you warm.

- You will use MUCH more fuel than normal if you are melting snow for drinking water.

Thats about it I guess, I had fun but I was glad to eventually make it home in one piece (I think the road trip back was the only time in the whole adventure when I was concerned about my personal well being.)

Anyway on to the recipes. Here are some of the recipes I used for making the Beef Jerky that Bruce Murphy and I had on the trip. I also will include my recipe for instant hot chocolate. I have the recipe for Logan Bread but not with me today so I will pass that on to Bruce when I get it.

Jerky Recipes.

I use an American Harvest food dehydrator so you may have to adjust your recipes according to your own dehydrator. You can also racks in your oven (with a pan to catch juices and the door propped open slightly) on a low setting for 8- 12 hours.

Honey Garlic:

1+1/2 Cups of soy sauce

3-6 cloves of fresh garlic

1/4 cup of brown sugar

2 Tblspns of Honey.

1/2 tsp of Sesame oil (optional)

1 2-3 pound roast (get the leanest cheapest cut possible. It will become jerky so tenderness does not matter. Ask the butcher at the grocery store)

Put the roast in the freezer for about 1 hour to stiffen the meat. This will make it easier to carve. Put all the marinade ingredients into a blender and puree it until the mixture is uniform and smooth.

Once the meat is stiff, slice it across the grain (for tender) or with the grain (for chewy) into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Put the meat into a large Ziplock bag and pour the marinade over it. Squeeze all the air out of the bag and knead well. Let it marinade at 1hour at room temperature or overnight in the fridge. Knead frequently to allow the marinade to penetrate the meat.

When it is ready, put the meat strips in the dehydrator and dry for about 10 hours. When cool the strips should be dry and pliable but not brittle. Pat any excess oil off with paper towels. Store in cool dry place. It should keep for about 6-8 weeks at room temperature (indefinitely in freezer).

Hot and Spicy Marinade variation:

1 cup of soy sauce.

1/2 cup of Worchestshire sauce.

1/4 cup of brown sugar

2 Tblspns of barbecue sauce

2 dried Chipolte peppers (smoked Jalepnos.) I get them at Jose's house of peppers on Barrington st. (in the Delta Barrington building)

Same as above but rehydrate the Chipoltes with boiling water for 15 minutes first before adding to mix. Puree in blender.

Extra Rich Hot Chocolate.

1 cup instant Hot chocolate mix.

1 cup instant dry milk powder

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp ground Cinnamon

Mix ingredients. Put 1/4 cup of mixture into mug add hot water and stir. Mmmm.

Sean Gaultois