On the trail: The cold temp diet
SAN RAFAEL SWELL, Utah – I survived the windstorm of spring 2010 in the desert last weekend. I whimpered, but survived nonetheless.
The wind wasn’t too much of an issue. Instead I was a victim of the cold and my own stupidity.
I was a day behind some friends who headed out Friday to the San Rafael Swell. There was a question whether we would rendezvous in the Swell or close to Moab, so I packed light, acting on a hunch we might go to Moab. The forecast there called for warm temperatures, even for nighttime lows. While I pride myself on always being prepared, for some reason, I packed no pants for this trip – no sweats, no jeans, no hikers. Big mistake.
My friends liked the Swell well enough that they decided to stay put. They picked a strategic place to camp, protected somewhat from prevailing winds from the south and west and – most importantly – far removed from other people.
We took two fabulous bicycle rides over the weekend. We powered through sand traps to check out some pictographs, arches and deep canyons on Saturday. We climbed rough old mining roads and enjoyed thrilling descents while checking out old uranium mines on Sunday.
We dealt with swirling winds both days, but never to the point where it made riding miserable.
Back at camp, we enjoyed the obligatory beers with chips and salsa both afternoons. It was breezy and sometimes downright gusty, but never to the point where it drove us into tents or cars. No sand invaded our beer.
We were lucky. A couple of guys camping elsewhere in the vast Swell told us Sunday the wind blew so strong where they were at Saturday night that they couldn’t keep a camp stove lit. We didn’t feel safe lighting a campfire, but we could cook.
Cold was a bigger issue for us than wind. The temperature plunged into the 30s under a clear sky Saturday night. Sunday night started off warmer, but the temp plunged early the next morning as some snow squalls blew through.
I sat around during evenings in shorts and up to four upper layers, including an old Patagonia wind breaker with a worn-out zipper. I used chips clips to keep my jacket closed. My camping mates professed their sympathy, but I think they secretly were thinking, “You dope.”
The cold had a benefit. I hit the hay at about 8:30 p.m. both nights rather than drinking beer all night and howling at the moon.
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