“Why would anyone do that!?”
That was the reply when I told a dinner companion that in 10 hours I’d be heading to the mountains of Manning Park, British Columbia, to go winter tent camping in record low temperatures, along with my long-time co-Guider Cindy, three very experienced Rangers and four very new Pathfinders.
I don’t expect people to understand why we do it, those of us who choose to bundle up, pre-cook meals and snacks, make multi-layered sleeping bags and bedding, purchase extra sets of long underwear, and head to the snow to spend a weekend outdoors. I can’t possibly explain that snow camps are truly the best camps ever, because there’s no mucky mud or rain to clean up, only dry snow to brush off tents and tarps, and no bugs or critters to crawl inside either. Because pre-made food and eating from a Ziploc bag means there are virtually no dishes to do. There are no bathrooms to clean. The chore list for the girls is much smaller, or even non-existent. That snowshoeing across a frozen lake that the girls were paddling a canoe on less than six months earlier leaves girls and adults alike filled with awe at the beauty of nature. And that snowshoeing in general is a whole lot more fun than walking.
I can’t explain how listening to the whoosh of a raven’s wings as it flies by in the morning and the shush that follows of the snow sliding off your tent from that force of air, is just the most beautiful sound you can hear. Because walking in the dark with a headlamp along a cross-country trail, and throwing oneself into nearby snow banks is surprisingly relaxing and freeing. And watching a group of inexperienced Pathfinders try to create a snow shelter they can sleep in using three tarps and rope alongside a giant tree stump and a few built-up walls of snow for four straight hours really shows their determination, teamwork, and spirit of creating something for themselves – even if they did choose to sleep in the conventional tent for the second night.
Not many people will be able to understand why we would choose to have an Easter egg hunt in the snow. Neither would they see how sitting around a campfire with a group of teenagers and listening to them talk about anything and everything because it’s a safe and non-judgmental environment is empowering them to be confident.
I could have said all these things and more to my dinner companion, but I don’t think it would really have done much to change her mind. I’ve received similar comments from others as well. All I know for sure is that winter camps really are amazing – only those who have been can relate – and that Cindy and I are already looking forward to next year’s return trip.
– By guest blogger Robyn McDonald, a Pathfinder and Ranger Guider in Telegraph Trail District, Fraser Skies Area, British Columbia. Check out Robyn’s other contributions to GirlGuidesCANblog: Ideas Worth Sharing, From Frustration to Compassion: A Guider’s Journey
Thank you for sharing this. It almost makes me want to go winter camping now. If I ever went I would need to go with a much more experienced Guider.
Love it!! can’t wait to do it with my daughter and her Guiding friends. we spent a day with 5 adults, 4 kids making a proper quinzee this winter, in the backyard, complete with coleman cook out, bacon and greasy fried hot cross buns. seeing how much snow it took to melt a whole pot of hot water for hot chocolate, they had a blast figuring it all out and listening to an ‘older’ Guide’s tales of adventure over the years. making memories and promoting creative/out of the box problem solving and life skills for later years! so awesome!
Winter camping is not always the easiest camp due to the preparation work that you have to do in order to prepare for the adventure, but when you’re on the trip, it is often way more fun with the fact that you don’t necessarily have the bugs, and small critters bothering you during your stay, but in some regards it is fun and interesting to see the wildlife, and the critters like squirrels scamper through your camp. Both summer and winter camping are truly amazing, and have their own advantages and disadvantages.
What a great article. I love Manning Park. I worked there in my early 20s. I winter camped in Banff back in grade 5, even though it was in cabins, i really enjoyed it and you reminded me of the emotions i felt back then and how freeing it was being out in nature and it is so beautifully tranquil. We plan on taking our Guides winter camping in February.