A Walk in the Valley in -18c Weather

Our little fellow woke up at about 4:25 this morning, and wouldn't go back to sleep, despite Spring and my best efforts.

So by 5:30 I was feeding him breakfast. Shortly after that we played in the playroom for a bit while I worked my eyebrows up and down to get my face working for the day.

He eventually fell back asleep and slept for about an hour or so.

When he woke up Spring took James out for a few chores and some shopping around 9:00 into the -18 Celcius windy winter weather.

I quickly gathered a bag full of supplies, dressed in wool pants, wool socks, a cotton t-shirt, 2 sweaters, a wool scarf, my shearling wool cap, and my big huge super warm outdoors jacket (BHSWOJ).

My knapsack, which I had picked up for $8 at the Army Surplus Store nearby was a perfect size for what I needed for a morning hike.

The first thing I prepared was a wool blanket. I tied it up using what I call a butcher's knot - a jamming knot that I used to tie up roasts when I worked as a butcher, all those years ago...

Then I wrapped up the rest of it and tied off the end with a simple knot.

It's a good way to bring some cord along with you also.

The wool blanket was a $5 Value Village cheapy - great quality, all wool. It was to be the sitting mat.

I threw my Trangia Kit, a spoon, a Nalgene full of water, an army surplus Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) package, some hot chocolate powder, an MRE heater pad (water activated), a couple of Mora knives, some backup cord, a ferrocerium rod (with a homemade handle made from wood), and my trusty slingshot with heavy steel shot ammo.

I got going, and the air was cold in my lungs.

If the tops of my gloves slipped off (I used those wool gloves that have a top that flips up to allow you use of your finger tips), my fingers got painfully cold within a couple of seconds. It was cold...

By the time I was down into the valley, I took an alternate route through the valley over what is normally wetlands.

It is all frozen solid, and I was hoping to see some deer sign. I didn't, but a saw a couple of birds flap out of their ground nests, trying to distract me.

I went into the pine woods, opened up and lay down the blanket - folded over twice to give me some insulation from the cold ground. The woods gave me some protection from the super cold wind blowing.

I was warm as toast, except for my legs. I'll either go out and buy some thermal underwear, or just pick up another pair of cheap woolen pants from Value Village for a few dollars. I'd also wear two pairs of woolen socks next time to be extra warm.

I can always take off a pair. And if for some reason I find myself having to cross ice or slippery rocks in the water, I can wear a pair of wool socks over my shoes for excellent grip (that little tip was brought to you by Monty, the Beagle).

I opened up the MRE package and removed the Cherry Cobbler and formed chicken breast (formed from shredded chicken breast pieces, I guess) envelopes. After pouring about 4 tablespoons worth of water into the heater pack to activate it, slid the food envelopes into the heater envelope. I leaned it up against a tree and waited. When I tried it out last week at home, it took nearly 10 minutes for the reaction to begin.

In the end, the reaction probably took nearly 15 to 20 minutes to begin (I didn't have a watch to time it though) - and by that time I had to be on my way back home through the woods. I think more practise is needed - I want to feel confident in these heater packs. I pick 4 of them for $5 at the local army surplus store. At home when I tested it, it got too hot to hold, and heated up a bag of food to excruciatingly hot. Think I'll read up on them and see if there are any tips I can get.

Next step was to set up the stove to get the water boiling. I cast a spark using my Mora 510 which I was wearing around my neck in a sheath, on my ferrocerium rod. This got the methanol burning instantly, and in a moment I had half my Nalgene bottle emptied into the pot, the pot covered and my knapsack setup as a windbreak.

I should list what is in the MRE pack - just so you can decided if you'd like to pick some up at an Army Surplus Shop or online... This package contained:
  • Smoked chicken breast
  • Cherry cobbler
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Grape Jelly
  • A little package of Gatoraide like instant drink powder - to bring up your potassium levels
  • Package of cutlery

While everything heated up, the first thing I did was drink the remaining cup and a half of water from the Nalgene bottle.

Dehydration is a major enemy in the cold, and it is really easy to forget to drink. You always figure that summer time and sweating are the right time to drink.

But the dry winter air, combined with strenous activity and sweating - although it evaporates quickly - is a great reason to keep your water stores up. Remember the old saying - store your water in your stomach and not your bottle (i.e. don't ration your water).

I ate the bread with the grape jelly (yum!) and then the oatmeal cookie. Ingredients of the cookie begin with sugar, then hydrogenated vegetable oil, then flour etc...

Those food wonks sure know how to make tasty food last for years in plastic bags.

While I waited for my meal, I tried a couple of shots with my slingshot. I aimed for a stick about 30 feet away.

I hit it exactly where I had aimed both times (within a centimeter), and was sufficiently impressed with my skills, and sufficiently cold because I'd had to take my gloves off , that I packed up my slingshot and steel shot and put it back in my bag.

I suppose I could bag a bird or a squirrel etc... in case of emergency.

I had an appointment in the afternon, and had to leave before the MRE had heated up.

So I packed everything up, after letting the alcohol in the stove burn away, and headed out.

I'd had an amazing walk in the valley.

I had recharged my batteries for another week or so.

Hope you are enjoying your New Year - I have got to make up my list of New Year resolutions.

One of mine is to make time to do hikes like these when I can make the time.

This is a quick video I made on my return through the woods to get home.



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