Sleep In The Dirt

Surviving the Backcountry in Baxter State Park

The Campfire Chronicles

My nose hairs froze with every inhale. Breath condensed into a frozen mass around my jacket zipper, zipped snug to the top trying its best to keep the elements out. Snow swirled in the last of the daylight. We worked deliberately yet hurriedly to set up our tent, looking to find refuge from the coming storm. Nylon flapping in the wind, poles clicking together, the tent went taught and we battened down the hatches.

Once inside we quickly forgot about the wind and snow blowing around us. Sighs of relief emanated as the biting cold subsided and a long, hard day was left outside. With sleeping pads inflated, sleeping bags coming to life after being stuffed in bags and the stove screwed into the fuel canister, we got ready to make our house our home for the evening. The warmth of packets of rehydrating food tucked in our down coats helped our core temps rise and brought the feeling back to our extremities.

After dinner was made and enjoyed, we transitioned to melting snow and doing the typical chores at the end of a day out in the depths of a winter in Maine. We were five days into a nine-day trip around Baxter State Park and a long way from anywhere. Greg and I watched as snow turned to water, picking out the sticks and pine needles floating to the surface of the pot. We recounted the day and studied the map for where we were heading tomorrow.

Our Big Agnes Copper Spur Expedition was everything it was cracked up to be. It had become more than just a shelter, but refuge from the winter and truly provided the protection we needed to not freeze to death. As the winds howled outside, we had plenty of room for a game of cards and pockets all around to keep everything organized. Condensation wasn’t an issue overnight as the options for ventilation were phenomenal. After twenty years of winter camping, it was so nice to have a tent that handled all the things the way we needed.

After a sound night of sleep, we woke at first light and once again got to work. Snow melting, water boiling, coffee drinking and bag stuffing as we joked about how this whole circumnavigation seemed uphill. We dismantled our tent, laced up our boots, loaded up our sleds, clicked into skis and pushed off for another day in the park. Eight inches of fresh snow had accumulated over the night which made what was already a glorious winter wonderland even more spectacular. The sun glistened off the snow-covered pine boughs as we broke trail around Dwelly Pond, deep in the rarely visited northwest corner of the park. Looking back every once in a while brought a smile to my face as I pondered the fact we’d gotten here on our own and everything we needed to survive was packed neatly in our duffel bags. Completely self-sufficient and human-powered. It just doesn’t get much better than that!

Brian Threlkeld and friends spent nine days circumnavigating Baxter State Park  in the winter. They traveled over 75 miles pulling sleds and sleeping outside through -15°  nights. Their expedition certainly wasn’t the first of its kind, but helped bring attention to the adventure that is out there waiting to be discovered.


Comments (1)

One response

  1. Julie

    Thanks for this wonderfully descriptive story. Vicarious, is the only way I’ll make the trek!

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