So, I know I’m still behind on the trip reports. This last weekend however I stayed home, dealing with the closing, so with this post I will be up to date with the trip reports.
For this one I decided to try an area which had been mentioned to me by a friend of mine, but I had never visited before, the Taconic-Hereford Multiple Use Area. He had hunted there in the fall last year for squirrel with good success. I figured I would bring the rifle along and give it a try.
The morning was cold. When I started out it was just barely above 10F (-12C). The weather has been continuing to fluctuate wildly, going from single digits above 0F (-18C) to nearly 32F (0C) within the span of a week. This morning it was on the cold spectrum. I hadn’t brought my facemask, so my face suffered for it. My hands didn’t fare much better, but I hate shooting with gloves.
This Multiple Use Area (MUA) seems fairly well used, and is crisscrossed by a number of trail, which I understand are logging roads. The area is still used for timber. The terrain is largely comprised of hardwoods, so any squirrel in the area wouldn’t have much room to hide.
Even so, the forest seemed dead. I didn’t see or hear a single noise, to a degree that was a bit creepy. Not only did I not spot any squirrels, I didn’t see or hear any sign of life. This is the first time I’ve had this experience. It is not unusual for me not to see anything, but usually I can hear life around me. I spent the early hours of the morning hunting, with no success. At that point I decided to put the hunting on a backburner and do some exploring. I headed east, and bushwhacked for the rest of the day, nearly traveling through the whole width of the MUA, and reaching some private forests on the other side.
It is clear that this area was occupied at one time. The forest is littered with abandoned ruins of old houses. The long stone walls probably indicate it was used for farming. I wasn’t able to find any history of the area.
As I continued east, the forest became more dense and the remnants of old building diminished. Eventually I reached a series of small ponds.
They were all covered by a thin layer of ice. It wasn’t thick enough to walk on, I imagine because of the weather being all over the place, so I had to spend some time navigating around them.
The sky was overcast all day, and around 3:30pm it started to get dark. It was also starting to snow, although it was more like ice. It would come down for a few minutes and then stop, then repeat. I decided to call it a day and around 4:00pm set up the tent on a small patch of level ground.
I took some time to clean my rifle. I’ve “winterized” my guns, so I’ve removed most of the oil and lubricants. That makes them susceptible to moisture like this sporadic ice I was getting. I didn’t want to put the rifle in the tent while iced up, so I took the time to clean it. After that it was lights out. Temperature overnight was in the 5F (-15C), but I had my Western Mountaineering Antelope MF with me, so I was plenty warm.
The next day I woke up to a light snow cover. It was coming down relatively hard. It is a good thing I got up early, which saved me the trouble of cleaning too much snow from my tent. I packed up and started moving. I had a full day of bushwhacking to get back.
The snow kept coming down for the rest of the day. Unfortunately the weather had warmed up, which made for very sticky, wet snow. It makes gear maintenance very difficult.
As I was trying to make my way back, with most of the forest features gone, I stumbled into some more ruins.
It was an old fireplace and chimney. This one was clearly newer than the other ruins I had encountered. There was some concrete used, and the bricks were well made. There was even some metal sheeting remaining where the roof once met the chimney.
The snow kept falling, and I kept chugging along.
Late in the afternoon I reached a road, which I followed back to my car.
I dug the car out. Usually when people ask me about winter camping, the questions revolve around sleeping in the woods. For me, that is not the hard part. The hard part is getting to the forest and then getting back home, i.e. digging the car out and getting it to a plowed road. I carry all sorts of gear in my car to assist in that task, but even so, I have found myself stranded in the woods a number of times because I couldn’t get the car out. This time fortunately I had no problems, although I drove past several serious accidents on the way home.
Something to point out from this trip is that being lazy can get you in trouble. The way I handled the second day wasn’t too smart. To start off, I assumed that the temperature would be the same as the previous day. It wasn’t. I should have known that because while it is not unusual to be cold when you first get up, things like the fact that my nostrils weren’t freezing, and I didn’t feel any needle prickling on my face should have let me know that it was warmer. I didn’t bother to check. Even though it was warmer, I ended up wearing the same amount of insulation as the previous day. As a result I was overheated. I knew I was getting out that day, so I was too lazy to alter my layers, especially since the snow was coming down hard and I didn’t want to remove my shell in order to adjust the layers below. Forget all claims made by different manufacturers about their materials. It doesn’t matter how well something wicks moisture, or how breathable it is. If you are overheated you will sweat and you will get wet. Wicking and breathability are not a solution to overheating. This wasn’t an issue since I got out as planned, but if I had gotten stuck and had to spend another night in the woods, it would have been annoying to deal with all the damp clothing.