Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Snow Caving

This past weekend was our Scout Troop’s annual snow caving trip. Each January the troop goes up North somewhere, usually Wyoming, to build Quinzee huts. Delaney hasn’t wanted to winter camp, and I’ve certainly not wanted to, so I haven’t pushed him. This year, when I asked him in December, he said he wanted to go. I didn’t sign us up, thinking he’d change his mind, but two weeks ago when he said he did, I signed us up, volunteered to cook, and started to prep (with trepidation).

There was a list of gear, with plenty of parents noting that you want to have extra in case it’s cold. As a result, I spent part of last week checking our clothing and buying a few things from Goodwill. Since we don’t usually outdoor camp, I didn’t have much that wasn’t cotton and I didn’t want either of us to be cold.

Our plan was to leave Friday afternoon, but because of scheduling issues with our cabin, we didn’t leave until Sat morning. Up at 5:00, I got Delaney up and in the truck, and we headed out to meet everyone at 6. I’d packed Friday night, double checking gear, and ensuring we had everything I could think of. It worked out well as the few things I’d wished we had I hadn’t ever considered. We were tightly packed, though most Scouts had their gear in the Scout trailer, so we didn’t feel pressured for space.

Photo Jan 18, 7 19 35 PM

We met everyone and drove up to Wyoming, going SW of Laramie to a small Scout camp. We got there at a reasonable time and started to unload. Not a lot of snow, but the 1/4 mile walk from the parking lot to the camp meant we needed sleds.

Photo Jan 19, 10 39 24 AM

Delaney and his buddy, Colin who rode with us, took turns pulling sleds and riding. Not the most efficient, but it was fun.

Photo Jan 19, 10 47 50 AM

The Baldwin Scout lodge is a two room cabin, a large bunkhouse and a real kitchen, sans sinks. No running water, but electricity and propane with real stoves, an oven, and a microwave. No cell service, which was fine. Good to be unwired.

Photo Jan 19, 10 25 06 AM

It’s right on a lake, and I was playing with the panorama pictures a bit on the iPhone.

PPPhoto Jan 19, 10 26 21 AM

Once we unpacked a bit, it was time to build Quinzee Huts. I’d never done one and was curious to see how it works. The boys walked out with some leaders and our guide across the lake to the far edge. There, on the ice, they started piling up snow.

Photo Jan 19, 11 47 06 AM

It was slow going at first, but with about 20 people, they started to get piles of snow. Delaney was working hard out there.

Photo Jan 19, 11 52 33 AM

He started out with his coat, gloves, knit hat, and Buff, but soon stripped down. The trees cut down the wind and the sun made it warm.

Photo Jan 19, 11 47 35 AM

An hour or two later, there were six piles of snow on the ice. The kids came in for lunch and to relax a bit.

Photo Jan 19, 12 48 08 PM

I helped cook and the kids ate well. Afterwards, they got to chill out a bit and relax before going out in the late afternoon.

Photo Jan 19, 12 30 48 PM

The cabin was nice, with two stoves and it stayed pretty warm. Kids played cards and hung out for a couple hours before heading back out. The huts had settled into hard piles of snow, and it was time to slowly dig out a hole and a domed inside. Again, with 2 kids inside, and always 2-3 outside, they dug in. They built pretty good sized interiors, enough for 4-6 people.


Delaney was working hard, coat on this time, removing snow. A couple hours of work and there were six huts.

Photo Jan 19, 4 01 02 PM

Dinner was relaxing, kids tired, and bed came early. The kids got setup with tarps on the ground and then sleeping bags. Supposedly with 4-6 people inside, the hut will stay around 32F. I didn’t go in, not wanting to crawl on knees, but Delaney went out and I didn’t hear from him until the morning. I slept OK, a little fitfully but warm. When the stoves are stoked, I could lay with my liner and sleeping bag open, in shorts and a t-shirt. When they died down, I needed to close the sleeping bag, but probably didn’t need the liner.

In the morning Delaney’s friend came in and said he needed help. His boots had frozen and he couldn’t get them on, so I went out to help. It was cold, but not frigid and we got him going. Breakfast was nice and hot, and then the kids needed to get their gear inside to dry out.

Being Sunday, we had a small worship service. Delaney did the introductions and opening prayer and then other kids took over.


The morning had a mini-project, kids learning how to make snow goggles out of anything. We did cardboard, but they could use leather, bark, whatever would fit.

Photo Jan 20, 9 24 08 AM

Then it was snow bowling on the ice. Lots of fun, and Delaney got a strike on one of his turns.

SnowCave2012_nPhoto Jan 20, 11 02 10 AM

The afternoon had kids out for snowshoeing on a 5 mile hike. They were back at dusk, leaving a few kids and adults to stay in the woods, making snow trenches for an outpost. Delaney played cards.


And hung out before and after dinner. He got set for the night, putting his gear out, and was happy to do so. Not worried about going back into the hut, which was good to see. I knew he’d worked hard, however, since he came back in for dessert. He must have gotten enough because he and Colin didn’t g out to their hut. They left and 30 minutes later as I walked to the outhouse, they were out there sledding down the hill onto the lake.

Monday morning we got up and broke down gear, loading up the trucks. Our outposters were late, and we were getting worried, so the guide and I loaded up a pack and sled and went out in search of them. We were hoping nobody was hurt, and started on a 3mi loop where they were supposed to camp. We were about 2mi in when they got back to camp and we heard on the radio they were safe. It ended up being a nice hike and chat with the guide and me, and some good exercise.

Loaded up, drove home, and back here as dusk was falling. A long weekend, but fun. Delaney said it was one of his favorite Scout campouts and wants to go next year. Tia wants to go and we might see if there is a female contingent that wants to join us next year.

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