Winter Camping in Manistee National Forest

Winter….

It pretty much sucks. I live on the west side of Michigan not 10 miles from the lake, so you can imagine the kind of snowy weather I see throughout the winter. In years past I have pretty much gone into hibernation whenever the snow hits, I get home from work and cozy up to my computer and put away the camera until spring. This year I have decided to push through and persevere. After all, one of my New Years resolutions was to be more adventurous and deliberately put myself into uncomfortable situations.

New year new me right?

I find myself always trying to be comfortable and shying away from the slightest discomfort, which has made me less outgoing. So what did I do? I decided to go hiking overnight in the middle of winter at Manistee National Forest with some friends.

I woke up early on Saturday morning at 7, frantically making sure I had all my gear ready. I had spent the entire night prior packing and repacking my pack to make sure everything fit in perfect. We had planned to rendezvous at my parents house at 10:30 am, where we were borrowing some of my dads equipment and then setting off on our hour drive up to Manistee National Forest.

When we arrived we started packing up everything, making sure we had our food packed away. Because I was the only one with a sleeping pad, we grabbed a piece of foam from my parents camper and tied it to Freddy’s pack in the least ridiculous looking way possible. (Still looked hilarious though). At this point I wasn’t sure how 3 grown men were going to share 2 sleeping pads, but I figured we would improvise once we got to that point. At 12:30 we set off into the woods to start our ~2 mile hike to the Bowman Bridge campsite.

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Freddy and Mark unpacking the car

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Mark looking psyched up for the hike

 

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I don’t even know

 

The hike in itself was pretty uneventful, it was just an hour and a half of trudging through the snow. When we got to the campsite, we decided to not set up at one of the actual camping spots, but instead set up in the woods where we felt it would be a little more rough camping.

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Our campsite

Once we arrived we rested for a couple minutes, and we began to gather sticks for the fire. I wanted to try a new firestarter which was wine corks soaked in alcohol but they were either too frozen or it just doesnt work. Freddy took over fire duties and had a real hot fire going within 10 minutes.

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It didn’t take long before Mark noticed we had no way to sit around the fire without sitting directly in a snow pile, so he went on hunt for some stumps, of which he somehow found exactly 3.

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Freddy likes to help

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Mark was kind of cold

Freddy brought his fishing pole and decided to walk down to the river and try to catch dinner (don’t worry we brought back up food!). After about a half hour he decided to stop since he had no bites and his line kept freezing up. So instead we threw the steak and potatoes on the fire and let them cook for a while. If you are wondering, I use an old aluminum cook set which i think is army surplus. I am in need of a new one because I am pretty sure aluminum is not good to cook and eat off of.

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We seasoned the steak with just garlic and salt.

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As night fell we stoked up the fire and tried to stay as warm as possible. I definitely underestimated just how cold it would get, as we did not get any sleep at all since we were all in the fetal position trying to stay alive. But somehow night passed and morning came. We ate oatmeal in our tent since we were too cold to go outside, and unfortunately I was so cold and focused on oatmeal I forgot to get my camera out!

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Freddy started another fire so we wouldn’t freeze to death

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Our messy tent after sleeping

After breakfast Freddy made another fire so we could stay warm while packing up. We packed up fairly fast and were able to start hiking out  by 10:30. As we were hiking out, Freddy realized that since our hiking trail crossed 56th street twice, that must mean that we could skip the 2 mile hike and just walk straight up the road to our car. Tired as I was, I was all for it. We hiked about 3/4 of a mile up the road and found the trail head where our car was parked. It sure beat walking 2 miles up and down hills in the cold morning.

All in all this was actually one of the most fun trips I have ever had. I was with good friends and unlike summer camping, this was actually a real challenge to us. Sometimes summer camping can feel like its just too relaxing, you just go out and cook food and relax in the sun. Winter camping however, is much more of a struggle, and somehow there is a lot of enjoyment in the struggle. I will definitely be going winter camping again very soon, if only it didn’t cost so much to buy a whole other set of camping gear for the cold!

 

 

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