Rain – not snow – was the backdrop for last weekend’s 12th Annual Winter Camping Symposium. But it didn’t dampen the spirits of anyone there. Not the campers. Not the mushers. Not even Bryce the snow-kiting dude, who donned a wetsuit to demo his sport in the frigid depths of Sturgeon Lake.
If you missed our first report of this awesome event, head back and read that first. To all others, read on for more – Yukon ho!
Keeping warm in subzero temps is a science, and who better to speak on this than Don Kevilus of Four Dog Stoves. His seminar on “Care and Feeding of Wood Burning Trail Stoves” was truly an education. Beyond simply sharing ‘best practices’ for products such as his, Kevilus outlined simple, memorable principles for starting and keeping good fires. Our personal, self-assigned homework: Try the Swedish Fire Log.
Appetites for winter were further stoked by the Snowshoe Dip. For five bucks, campers could give their traditional snowshoes a professional poly job. To see those dull frames return to a glowing bright gold; to see the poly slowly drip like honey from a jar… Mmmm.
But just in case that sounds as exciting as watching paint dry, there was plenty elsewhere to stir the adrenaline.
Take, for example, gear maker Brian Maruska. In “Wood Stoves Made Simple,” he challenged himself to assemble a portable trail stove in the mere 55 minutes allotted for his course. What ensued was a sometimes-frantic, sometimes-comedic battle against time, material, and a couple of stubborn hinges. With a few quick assists from brother Michael Maruska, not only was the thing completed on time; he had it up and running with a fire. Nice.
This spirit of ingenuity was celebrated in the Winter Tent Camp Tour. Duane Lottig of Snowtrekker Tents led the well-attended walkaround.
Observed: Lottig could have stuck to a script of only showcasing his product. This would’ve been justified; most of the tents on site were made with his own hands, all of which have new design modifications this year. Plenty to dwell upon. Much to his credit, however, Lottig seemed to prefer giving the limelight to the individual owners. Each pointed out their own customizations and tweaks, and everyone benefitted. Kumbaya anyone?
Equally admirable were the gentlemen of MNAdventure.com. When other people look at windy weather and call it “inclement,” these guys say “Inclement, Shlinclement!”. Undeterred by a lack of snow and a surplus of rain, one of their ranks hit the waves for a kiting demo. While we weren’t able to get a decent shot of him mastering the elements, we salute him nonetheless. Bryce, you are as awesome as you are crazy!
Outdoor adventurer/writer/speaker Rob Kesselring shared details of his recent 750-mile trip through the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. There, he and a paddling partner observed first-hand the diminished numbers of the barren-ground caribou. Sobering. Inspiring. Enriching. Classic Kesselring.
And Lonnie Dupre was this year’s keynote speaker. The arctic explorer brought images, stories and lasting impressions of his many expeditions to the North Pole. Hearing about the great risks and greater rewards of his ice-bound journeys made us want to sign up for his next one.
A-a-actually, that last part was a lie. Not true at all. Nope… we’re good to just hear about Lonnie going there, sans Us. We’ll stick around here and stay warm in YMCA Camp Miller’s sauna.
Or maybe test out Brian Maruska’s wood-fired hot-tub (note the barbecue grill atop the multi-functional stove.) Yeahhh, this feels good… Whut whut? We missed the Cook-Off contest? Can you bring a plate to the hot tub for us?
After dinner, as the merciful angels of sauna steam and woodsmoke bid us hither to the Land of Nod, we stayed up just a little longer for the music. Among the talented acts was the satisfyingly crunchy acoustic duo, Rail Yard Ghosts. Ah, the spirited guitar, the rousing fiddle, the unfettered vocals! Better turn out an album soon, Abby and Riley, or we’ll be haunting you.
Sunday morning brought a warm breakfast and warm farewells, as this year’s Symposium drew to a close. Everyone seemed very heartened that Bridgit and the Camp Miller crew have so ably taken on the torch of organizing this rendezvous. All signs point to ‘same time, same place’ for next year. Which suits us just fine.
Cheers to all the presenters and participants of the Winter Camping Symposium. While we can’t cover every one of the weekend’s happenings, these are the moments we caught this time around. Don’t worry, we’ll be back next year. Probably see you on the trail even sooner still.