Winter is one of the most beautiful times of the year, but it can also be the hardest. Short days and long nights can ruin all sorts of weekend plans. If you're anything like me, being outdoors each week maintains your sanity and you'll stop at almost nothing to get to the mountains.
So what happens when you get off work, it's dark, cold, and you can't get out for the day hike you're hoping for? Go home and watch a movie? No. You need some fun! Drive downtown to meet up with friends? Nah, who wants to deal with traffic and parking. What does that leave? Seems to me the only option for the outdoor enthusiast is a nighttime mountain adventure!
Here's the easy part. Call your friends.
Once that's out of the way, grab your snowshoes (if you don't have any, REI rents them for $22), your ten essentials*, a couple presto logs, some home cooked chili, a metal garbage can lid (you know at least one person who has one), a compact snow shovel, and a few handfuls of Christmas twinkle lights. Next, check online to find hikes that have recent trail reports with an accessible trailhead and parking lot. Establish a meet time, head count, hike route, and head out.
Now, you might be wondering why I told you to bring a few items, including Christmas lights. Great question! As you gear up, run the lights through and around your pack. Not only does this make each member of your group visible at night in case of separation, but it's also really fun to watch the group ahead of you glow through the forest lighting up the snow covered trees around you!
As you make your way up the trail, or if you happen to be forging your own trail (hopefully with GPS and a compass) make sure you're paying attention to your surroundings and picking out items for reference (hiking next to a stream is always a good option). Once you've hiked far enough (that's up to you and your group), keep your eyes out for an open area to set up shop.
Finding a great spot is fairly easy, but a few things to keep in mind once you find it. If you're going to make a fire, make sure you're at least 200' from any water source (yes I realized the snow you're surrounded by is technically a water source) and grab that trusty metal garbage can lid! Dig a ring with your shovel and place the garbage tin open side up for your presto logs. The ring of snow around will prevent any stray sparks from wandering too far, be a perfect bench seat, and if you brought a beer, will be a perfect cup holder!
Once you've created your fort, string up the lights around the group by using your trekking poles. It creates a nice light, and let's be honest, it looks awesome!!
On a serious note, a few good tips to know. First, and my least favorite mistake, bring a pad to sit on. Snow gets really cold after a couple minutes, a Therm-a-Rest pad or foam roll will work wonders for staying warm. Second, headlamps are essential, especially if you get separated, and always have a few extra batteries, AAA and AA as it never hurts to be prepared. If you're in deeper snow, sometimes a good set of gaiters to keep the snow out of your boots is also a smart plan. Last but not least, bring a portable waterproof speaker to share some Christmas tunes. You never realize just how necessary some good tunes are to keep the fun alive.
After a fun night in the snow, always end with a snowball fight, followed by a thorough cleanup. Make sure to pack out everything you packed in. #leavenotrace goes for all adventures in our beloved back country. Once the fire is out, and you've packed your bags, it's time to head back to the trailhead.
Where will you go next?
Navigation (map and compass)
Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
Insulation (extra clothing)
Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
Repair kit and tools
Nutrition (extra food)
Hydration (extra water)
**If you have questions and/or comments, please feel free to message me directly through my contact page. All products with direct links are items I use personally on my snowy adventures, and in my humble opinion are awesome tools worth recommending.
***For more info about outdoor night photography, please contact me! I do private workshops as well as editing tutorials.