It was Friday night. My friend and I were out, trudging through the snow to a party downtown, bickering over a good time to pull the plug on the fun and head back up to campus.
Instead of waking up leisurely, feasting on waffles and omelets and starting some work before it was officially nighttime and the evening’s festivities began, we were due at the Outing Club house at 7:30 in the morning.
We had signed up for winter snow shelter building, and, not really sure what that ensued, we were both excited and nervous for the weekend outdoors. With our packs loaded with trail mix, extra wool socks and a sleeping bag fit for below thirty degree weather, among other things, we felt more than prepared to brave the Northeast winter head on.
This was the first time I had been winter camping, and no three layers of fleece, thinsulate gloves or balaclave could have prepared me for the day and night spent outdoors in Vermont’s February. One night out in Vermont’s natural landscape was more fun and more fulfilling than most weekend nights spent in Burlington. Don’t get me wrong, Burlingon weekends are nothing short of great, but there is something refreshing about getting away from cam-pus for even just one night. To take a break from Sodexho, your roommate, Facebook and crappy beer among many other things that can drive you crazy if exposed to for too long, can renew and restore you.
The cold did become a nuisance at times, such as trying to employ any fine motor skills with gloves on, or reaching for your Nalgene to find it is a block of ice. When the sun set, and the cold was no longer eased by the sun’s rays, I was sure I wasn’t going to regain feeling in my toes. After a quick dinner of Annie’s mac and cheese, we all hurried into our sleeping bags with a hot water bottle to (try) to keep us warm.
Sleeping outside was an experience to say the least. It was before 10 p.m. when we had all crawled into our sleeping bags. To keep them from freezing, we were advised to keep everything in our sleeping bag, including our heavy winter boots, our jacket, snow pants, water bottles and any food that we may want to eat in the night.
I ended up having 4 Nalgenes in the bottom of my bag, some filled with hot water and some filled with ice water that would hopefully melt through the night. With all this stuff in the bottom of my bag, I could only comfortably sleep curled up in a ball, which wasn’t as comfortable as it sounds. I woke up a few times in the night gasping for air, after crawling so far into my sleeping bag that I had cut off my air supply.
I woke up a few more times to shake the feeling back into my toes, and a couple more times because well, it was February in Vermont. I’m just happy I survived the night.
Getting away from it all and immersing yourself in the outdoors, even for just a night can be a much needed break in our fast paced, high stress college lives. We all need a bit of fresh air from time to time, don’t we?