DAY 2: It is that time again! We were Denali bound for the night to test out our new Arctic Oven! We ended up leaving later than originally planned. Josh was just explaining how he only had one more stop before coming home when his truck he ran out of gas…
While Josh was running his final errand, I made us our lunches! Whenever we are planning an adventure or just a day out, our go-to lunch has been bagel sandwiches! I typically like to use an herb or seasoned cream cheese but all we had was regular. What’s so great about bagel sandwiches are that they don’t get soggy, they fit in a ziplock back, and are delicious!
He did eventually get home and we finally did leave! It was a mostly sunny day with periods of clouds here and there. We were packed the car to its ceiling with all of our supplies, tent, and food! Little Elias was a little weary about the drive. We even got to see two moose right near where we saw the moose on the last trip down to Denali!
When we pulled into the park we went straight into Riley Creek Campground to start getting the tent set up. All of the loops were blocked with snow except for the Bear loop. There were only about 8 sites available and plowed out. We chose one of our favorites in the way back part of the loop. We were late coming in so we didn’t have a lot of time before dark. With this being the first time we were setting up our new tent, we wanted to make sure we had natural light to help us see what we were doing!
It took us over 40 minutes to get everything set up and going! The sun was setting fast and we were starving! Josh began working on a campfire. The fire rings provided by the park and campground were covered in snow. We didn’t bring a shovel so Josh had to use Elias’ food bowl to scoop out as much snow as possible. He got the fire started but it pretty quickly went out. It took our final few logs before the bottom coals were hot enough to catch any size log on fire. We now know we need 2 bundles of woods to get the coals hot in the winter and then another 2 more for enjoyment! With the wood burning out we decided to eat our “fire foods” first! I made quite a few S’Mores and Josh had a few hot dogs! There is nothing like a perfectly toasted S’More! It can be hard to eat the S’Mores though when it is so cold you need gloves and yet you don’t want to get melted marshmallows all over your gloves. I opted to take off my gloves to consume my sticky S’Mores! I tried to de-stick my hands before getting my hands back into my gloves but I didn’t do a very great job and now my gloves are all sticky.
Little Elias’ paws got cold and he had to be bundled in a towel on my lap. He was so tired and cold! After the fire was starting to die down we decided to warm the car. The dogs needed to warm up and turns out I did too! Josh was making our Mountain House Meals while I photographed a little of the Aurora and the tent. The clouds settled in quickly but I was happy to get a few shots of the stars! It is truly incredible to be out in the wilderness and looking up at all the million/trillion stars!
After I was done photographing I cuddled with the dogs for a little. It was getting late and I hadn’t heard much from Josh. We quickly learned that the Jet Boil takes MUCH longer to boiling water when it is very cold outside. Josh had accidentally knocked the Jet Boil over and had to restart making my dinner. We ended up eating dinner around 10pm!
There is a learning curve with having a stove inside a tent. Josh had to run the stove before we left but it turned out he didn’t quite run it long enough. When he blasted the heat in the tent, the whole tent ended up smelling like paint from the stove. The dogs and I hung out in the car while the tent aired out! Josh picked up the campsite and got things ready for bed. We all crawled in the tent at about 11pm. The night was cold! We were pretty warm in the tent but the heat had to be turned up in the middle of the night.
DAY 3: We woke up to SNOW! Lots of beautiful, white, powdery snow!
Josh made us Mountain House Biscuits and Gravy for breakfast! I would eat the Biscuits and Gravy from Mountain House any day! It is SO delicious! On prolonged camping trips I eat that Mountain House for breakfast and dinner! Nali and I cuddled on my cot after breakfast. It was warm and toasty and none of us wanted to get up and take down the tent. After an hour of contemplating what was the best way to start the deconstruction process of the tent, we got off our lazy bums and started.
Since we didn’t really have time to drive into the park the first day, we drove up into the park on Day 3. We drove in expecting to be turned around at mile 3 BUT, surprisingly, the road was open to mile 12! We were able to drive up the forested hill and into the tundra above the trees.
The snow poured down, and the large foot hills near the road were barely noticeable. We didn’t have much time to spend in the park because Josh had a class in Fairbanks later that day. We did get to see a big bull moose though! He did not seem phased by the snow and just kept munching along! After the great moose photo op we left the park and headed home on the snow dusted road back to Fairbanks!
Looking back on the last two days of winter camping, I realized how COLD it can be! With Winter camping everything is COLD! You save money on ice but everything freezes! Josh put a beer and his water bottles out in the snow and they froze solid in less than an hour. Without the appropriate gear and supplies I could easily see people freeze out there. I had a constant chill until I got home. It was a great weekend, and I plan on going out again soon! From this experience I appreciate the warmth, modern day houses with baseboard heating, stoves, and layers, lots of clothing layers.
2 more days closer to my 100 day goal!