Lori Carey Photography

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"I didn't know the desert got that cold" - Cuddeback 2

Water tank on its side at Cuddeback Dry Lake in the Mojave desert, California, USA

That's what my Dad said when I was telling him about our plans for the weekend. It's a common misconception with people who haven't spent a winter night in the desert, but the desert is a land of extremes and when the sun goes down the temperature drops like a rock. The warmer, lower Colorado desert in the far southern end of California never seems as bad, but the high desert of the Mojave can be brutal at night.

I forgot to mention in my last post about the new trick I learned Friday night in camp - the hot butt! I cannot believe that in all the years I've been camping and all of the friends I've camped with I have never learned about a hot butt before. A hot butt consists of a guy taking a small (very small!) shovelful of embers from the campfire, walking up to a girl sitting on a chair and telling her to "Spread 'em!" so he can place the hot embers on the ground beneath her chair. Oooooh, is that warm and cozy! It only takes a tiny bit of embers and it completely eliminates the need to play rotisserie. Okay, so gender doesn't really matter but I think the guys have so much fun telling girls to spread their legs that they are willing to keep our butts warm all night!

Since the forecast was calling for temperatures in the low 20s and that would be the coldest we had ever spent in a tent (27 was the lowest temp we noted so far), we had braved the Black Friday crowds to pick up a catalytic tent heater at a sporting goods store on the way to camp in the morning and that night we were really glad we finally wussed out and got one. Set atop the wooden block we keep in the jeep for a jack stand so it wouldn't accidentally come in contact with our sleeping bags and running on low all night (I need to note that you should NEVER run a heater in your tent while you're sleeping. We are foolish idiots, don't do what I do!), while the temperature inside our tent never got above freezing (my baby wipes inside my backpack were a frozen solid block the next morning) I can honestly say we were comfortable and had spent many nights when we were much more miserable.

It was 14 degrees when we woke up just before daybreak and the only thing on our minds was coffee and fire. Our jerry can of water was frozen solid so we checked the cooler and found two bottles of plain water (the rest was flavored vitamin water). Bill started pouring one into the coffee pot and the water froze the instant it hit the air, creating a solid waterfall. It was hysterical and I wish I had the presence of mind to take a photo but my brain doesn't function without coffee, especially in 14 degree weather! It finally clicked that we should have the pot sitting on a flame on the camp stove as we poured the water. There must've been ice in the line for the stove because after a few minutes flames starting shooting out the dial on the front. Without blinking an eye Bill extinguished the fire, checked the lines, and restarted the stove. Minor crisis averted and soon enough a life-saving cup of hot coffee was in my hands and a fire was blazing thanks to a duraflame log (essential for morning camp fires if your brain doesn't function well enough to build a real fire). Bill put the jerry can practically in the fire to melt the water. How cold is fourteen degrees? Two hours later the chunks of ice he had blown out of the siphon hose that landed six inches from the fire were still solid and had not shown any signs of melting. We were laughing hysterically about how crazy we were to camp out in this weather but we both agreed that it wasn't too bad and we were going to spend another night. The difference between an adventure and an ordeal is all in your attitude and I love that my husband has finally become comfortable enough in the outdoor to have a great attitude no matter what the obstacle we face.

For the first time ever we were in no rush to break camp and we spent a leisurely morning socializing with our friends and pouring over trail maps planning our day. One of the guys told us that the trail we wanted to take across the lake was closed at the gate and recommended another route over the mountains that he said was some great wheeling and would take us to where we wanted to go. "Just head that way," he said as he pointed "and when you get near the base of the mountains stay right until you find the trail that goes up and over". And we threw the cooler, backpacks and camera gear in the jeep and 'head that way'.

...I'm learning that if I don't hit "Publish" when I need to stop writing it may be days before I get back to a post, so I'm going to hit "Publish" now and get back to the story as soon as I can.

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