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Surviving the Winter

It's been cold in Iowa. Really cold. The so called 'polar vortex' has been turning the Midwest into a winter wasteland. The snow, ice, and wind have been relentless. I love the outdoors and I hate staying inside for too long at once, which has made this a particularly cold winter for me.

I still try to ride my bike 6 miles to work. It's usually a fun adventure, but it can get awful when the wind starts blowing. My coldest day it was 0 Fahrenheit with gusty winds. Peddling my bike felt almost impossible. My beard froze solid and I couldn't feel my fingers.


I like a challenge so I force my self out unless the snow is piled up too high. I made the mistake once of trying to bike after it snowed 6 inches that night and they hadn't had time to plow, and I ended up walking my bike almost the entire way. That was a rough morning! I was the only person outside - people in their cars kept slowing down and giving me this look like I was out of my mind. But in a way it keeps me sane by staving off the all too common seasonal depression, an unfortunate sickness that many Iowans self medicate with alcohol.

When I told one of the company owners that I have been biking to work, he invited me to go winter camping. I have never camped in the snow before, but it sounded like a good experience. I wanted to see if I would be able to survive in this climate without my heated apartment. I don't have any winter camping gear, but I figured if I brought all of my blankets and jackets I might be okay. I brought the following:

When I arrived to the camping site we built a shelter out of two tarps and two ski poles. One tarp for the ground, one for the roof, and the poles to hold it up.


Winter camping is much different than normal camping. The best part of it is that no one else was out there, so we had the park to ourselves. But the activities are limited. We melted snow on the fire for hot drinks, and cooked a pot roast in a dutch oven. The warm broth was delicious. I enjoyed the desolate, almost eerie atmosphere. Coyote howls rolled over the barren moonlit landscape. Dormant trees stood as sentinels over the frozen earth.

The sereneness was interrupted by a constant cold that pierced through my layers. Everyone kept asking me if I was cold. Of course I was cold. I guess the other guys were better at hiding their misery. I went to bed curled in the fetal position with all my layers on. The shelter helped to keep the light breeze off which made all the difference. I woke up twice in the night, but otherwise slept okay. When I woke it was -2f.

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