This year marked our fourth annual Birthgiving cold camping trip at Kettle Moraine State Forest in Wisconsin (celebrating Thomas’s birthday as well as Thanksgiving). After a few years of mild weather in the 50’s, our luck finally ran out and we had our coldest trip yet. Daytime highs were in the low 20’s, and overnight on Saturday we reached an all-time camping low of 1 degree. On Sunday morning as we packed up, the car’s thermostat registered at 8 degrees. This year’s group could definitely be considered the Polar Bear Club of camping.
As you can imagine, less drinking was done this year than on past trips (though the weather was a little less brutal on Friday night, enabling us to put a good dent in the apple cinnamon moonshine). After setting down a beer for just a few minutes, it would be slushy with ice crystals by the time you took your next sip. We were at our usual walk-up site atop a hill overlooking the lake, and by midday on Saturday the frigid wind (averaging 30 mph for most of the day) convinced us to move to a site with more tree coverage. One by one, we carried our tents down the path over to the new site. Kurt even carried the fire for us.
While most people thought we were crazy for going through with the trip (and they were probably right), all 8 of us made it through and still had a pretty good. As long as the fire was roaring, we stayed nice and warm (though coats and pants were melted in the process). The Thanksgiving-themed meal on Saturday night was delicious as always. At night, we piled up our sleeping pads, sleeping bags, extra blankets, and layers, and slept pretty soundly. The trip remains one of my favorites, though I wouldn’t mind slightly warmer weather next year. After those few days, a day in the 30’s feels like a sauna in comparison.
We went on the third annual Birthgiving cold camping trip (celebrating Thomas’s birthday), which always falls the weekend before Thanksgiving. The weather was a surprisingly mild 50 degrees during the day, dipping into the 30’s at night. Since I am still on crutches recovering from knee surgery, Kurt and I decided to drive up with River for just one night (as opposed to the typical 2 nights we usually spend at Kettle Moraine South). It turned out to be the perfect length of time, as my knee didn’t ache too badly and I was able to sit comfortably by the fire with everyone.
The Thanksgiving meal, as usual, was excellent, with an array of appetizers, entrees, and desserts. We enjoyed shepherd’s pie, vegetarian curry, sauerkraut with Neuske’s bacon, pumpkin cheesecake, and more, all washed down with plenty of New Glarus beer. As the sun set, we circled around the fire and played Cards Against Humanity until well after dark. The crisp air and warmth of the fire felt great on my knee, keeping it loose and limber while staving off soreness and swelling. River, always an enthusiastic camper, got to show off her new hoodie sweater and dig for tasty worms in the autumn leaves.
Sometimes I think I actually prefer the woods in late autumn, when the days are short and the bare tree branches are so stark against the sky. There’s something very peaceful and still about it. The animals are hibernating for the winter, the birds have all flown south. I like the feeling of transition as the world prepares for the winter months. Or maybe it just reminds me of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One. Either way, it’s one of my favorite trips of the year.
It has become a new tradition to go camping the weekend before Thanksgiving to celebrate our friend Thomas’s birthday. We usually head to Kettle Moraine State Forest South in Wisconsin. As long as you bundle up enough, it’s a lot of fun to camp in cold weather. For one, you don’t have to worry about bugs AT ALL. Also, you don’t need to worry about filling your cooler with ice; your beer will stay nice and cold on its own.
The annual cold camping trip includes a huge birthday feast. Since daylight hours are limited, the cooking begins as soon as everyone wakes up on Saturday morning. As we drink Bloody Marys and New Glarus beer, we prepare food all day long using the campfire, a smoker, Coleman grills, and even a hibachi. This past trip’s menu included a bacon-wrapped turducken, sauerkraut with Nueske’s bacon, yams, vegetarian curry, cranberries, stuffing, potatoes, dinner rolls, and plenty of beer and Jameson to wash it all down.
With plenty of layers bundling us up, we stayed warm by the fire and toasty in our sleeping bags.
As the indicator on the smoker shows, it was an ideal weekend.