In almost every instance the motivation can be traced back to friends and FOMO, the only possible incentives strong enough to get me tent camping in sub-freezing temperatures. I'm not particularly hardy or experienced in cold-weather camping, but I can't stand the thought of missing out on a good time with my teammates.
Last year's Team Virtus MLK weekend Berryman ride was the first time we'd camped for the weekend, and despite the moderate (for Missouri in January) temperatures I spent my first night shivering in a bag rated for 32 (not 31.5) degrees. This year's forecast was decidedly not moderate (lows in the 20's for Friday night and the teens for Saturday night), which necessitated a trip to REI to beef up my winter gear.
|The new jacket, which has already seen a ton of use.|
Leaving straight from work on Friday, I met the guys at the campground around 5:30. Chuck, Luke, and Steve had already been there for a while, so once I traded my dress boots for winter boots and set up my tent we had plenty of time to hang out around the fire they had going, enjoying the warmth and Chuck's homemade whiskey. Bob and Phil got there before long, the latter bringing Luke a birthday bottle of Fireball that he was kind enough to share.
|Not the Fireball, but Luke looked this happy when he got it.|
I'd brought a bunch of clothes to sleep in, but since I'm new to winter camping I wanted to experiment to find out what worked best. I started out in two pair of socks, a hat, and a base layer top and pants. It was quickly evident that this wasn't enough, so I added a pair of fleece-lined tights and a fleece sweatshirt. Now only my feet were chilly, a situation resolved when I thought to shove my hot water bottle down into the bottom of my bag. Ahhhh.
All of this arranging and tossing and turning and shivering meant that I didn't fall asleep until some time after 3 a.m, but the first tent zippers had me wide awake and changing into my bike clothes in the comfort of my now-cozy sleeping bag. The jug of water I'd left on the picnic table was solid ice, but another perk of using a hot water bottle to warm your bed is that you wake up with something unfrozen to drink.
I warmed up with hot chocolate and some Mountain House biscuits and gravy courtesy of the JetBoil that I'm almost able to use without adult supervision (this is a mark of my own outdoor ineptitude rather than the stove being complicated). Our campsite filled up with punctual friends while we ate breakfast and got our things together.
|My cousin Bob making his second appearance at the MLK ride.|
|Regrouping at the spring. With such a large group we had plenty such stops to make sure no one was left too far behind. It's not much fun to do a group ride alone.|
Mitch caught us near the descent to Brazil Creek, so between riding a bit with him and then running into Peat at the road crossing, I had some nice visits with people I don't see often enough. We took a short break at Brazil Creek for snacks and then started back uphill. In vast contrast to my BT Epic implosion, I felt good climbing, and the reroutes on the back half of the loop have made the trail so much more fun. I still had to do more walking than I'd like on some of the rougher sections, but I guess that comes with only riding once a week at best.
|I love the Berryman trail. Such a beautiful place to ride!|
I filled my sleeping bag with three hot water bottles (maybe a little overkill), wore two hats, and started out in my warm layers from the previous night. Other than being woken up at one point when someone decided to chop wood in the middle of the night, I slept much better. I think I might have overdone it a little since I woke up with ice covering my outer hat, but I had a cozy night's sleep.
|Drinking coffee as the snow falls.|