Since we have been snowshoeing a bit lately, Dylan and I thought that we should include an overnight camping trip with a snowshoe hike. After reading a couple of online trip reports I picked Hell Roaring Lake in the Sawtooths as the destination.
The plan was to hike up the designated trail about 5 miles to the lake, pitch a tent, and enjoy ourselves. After a slow start (due to many issues) we started up the snow covered road at 1:00PM with packs on and trailing a sled with our large winter sleeping bags. Upon reaching the trail head we discovered that the snow wasn't set up enough to allow us to go forward without sinking in a couple of feet. Way too much work.
Fortunately the snow on the narrow road was packed due to a couple of snowmobiles traveling up it some time before. This road would eventually take us close to where we wished to be. So we followed the road up and around and around and around. After 3 hours we reached the Sawtooth wilderness boundary and the end of the snowmobile trail. At this point we were still approximately 1.5 miles from the lake, but with sunlight fading we decided to make camp.
We stomped down a tent area and then Dylan proceeded to create an area for us to hang out and cook in. After the snow had set up for the tent, we pitched it and got everything ready inside. Did I mention that it was cold? When we started out from the road it was in the teens, and actually felt warm with the sun shining on us while we hiked in. But by now the sun had gone down behind the mountains and we were starting to get a little chilly. So we cooked up some Chili Mac, had some fruit cocktail, and drank a couple of warm beverages before it turned dark around 7PM.
What to do in the snow and dark at 7PM? Well, head to the tent of course! I had planned ahead and brought a book to keep myself entertained for a bit. Dylan didn't bring anything so he just tried to sleep, which didn't work out so well. After about an hour of reading and alternating hands outside the sleeping bag to alleviate the frozen fingers, I had enough and closed up for sleep. We spent the next 12 hours in our bags!
During the course of these twelve hours Dylan must have asked me for the time on at least 10 occasions. "Dad, what time is it?" Ten O'clock. "Dad, what time is it?" Ten thirty. "Dad, what time is it?" Eleven thirty. You get the gist. A long night.
Sometime in the early morning we were awakend with the sounds of gunfire. It was sporadic, probably occurring every 10 to 15 minutes. We both laid there thinking it can't be something moving around breaking branches, there was too much snow on the ground. Turns out is was the pine trees popping. I'm not too sure if it was sap or bark freezing, but it was definitely popping, and sounded a lot like gunshots.
Finally, a little after 8AM, the sun had risen enough to bring some sunshine into the tent and it was time to get out and fix something hot to eat and drink. Figuring that our water would freeze we had planned on getting water from the nearby creek that was flowing the previous afternoon. Well, now it was frozen over and we couldn't break through. So on to melting snow.
It was a beautiful sunny morning, but just a little cold. The tears on my eyelashes froze and after a short time our feet were extremely cold. No amount of walking, jumping jacks or stomping up and down would warm them up. Dylan retreated back into the tent while I continued to melt some snow for hot chocolate.
After some hot chocolate and a frozen pop tart he warmed up enough to come out and gobble down a couple of packages of hot oatmeal. Once we finished eating we packed up and got the hell out of Dodge. Another three hour trek brought us back to the car where is was a balmy 11 degrees at 1:00PM.
One the way home we stopped in Stanley for a bite to eat before the three hour drive home. I casually asked the waitress how cold it was that morning and our jaws hit the floor when she told us -20 degrees.