Chris, Sierra Trading Post's videographer, and I met Heather, Lynne and Heidi and their significant others at the trail head. The road over Medicine Bow Pass is closed through the winter months so we drove as far as we could then parked on the side of the road. This area is extremely popular with snowmobiles. We expected some snowmobiles but there seemed to be miles of snowmobile trailers which added a little distance to our hike.
Watch the trip video!
When we reached the actual trail head we stopped and put on our snowshoes. The sky was clear and the sun was beating down on us. It was clear that I had overdressed. Once we started moving I was down to just a base layer and a fleece long sleeve shirt. All of my extra layers including a shell and down jacket hung off my overstuffed backpack.
Learn about the gear we took winter camping: Planning for Winter Camping
We wandered off the trail to avoid the snowmobiles and cut through deep snow in large open meadows. Our group of nine heard the snow shifting under our feet a few times but we were on pretty flat terrain and took precautions to keep ourselves out of danger.
The snowshoe up to Brooklyn Lake was beautiful. With deep blue skies, snow-covered pine trees, and a sparkling ground covered in snow, even the occasional wind gust that this area is famous for couldn't damper how wonderful this afternoon was. Various conversations and plenty to laugh about made the relatively easy snowshoe go really fast.
Before we knew it, it was getting pretty late in the afternoon. We spotted a huge open meadow that was plenty large for our five tents. We tracked out an area for our tents, set up camp then quickly headed out for a short snowshoe adventure before dark.
We stumbled upon a large treeless hill. It looked like a run on a ski resort. We climbed up it to get a better view. Some people tried (unsuccessfully) to run down the hill in snowshoes. The split boarders enjoyed some turns. We all laughed, cheered for each other and nearly forgot that it was getting cold.
Back at camp, we watched the sky change colors as the sun disappeared. I quickly added all the layers I would need to stay warm, boiled some water for my freeze-dried backpacking meal and tried to keep moving so my feet wouldn't get cold. The stars began to appear in the wide open sky. I enjoyed the views of the sky and the company of those around me but the warmth that my -15 degree sleeping bag promised kept sounding better and better.
At 6:30 pm, I crawled into my tent and cuddled up in my bag. I had been really worried about whether I'd be able to sleep in the cold and going to bed so early definitely was going to help. Somehow I was very relaxed and just happy to be warm.
Later in the night, a nearly full moon tricked me into thinking the sun was rising. A quick peak outside rewarded me with a moonlit campsite covered in snow, a scene I'll likely not forget. The experience and chance to see the outdoors in a new light really had me feeling good about my first winter camping trip.
Finally, morning arrived. I heard no other sounds from my fellow campers so I laid quietly waiting for the sun to warm up the air. Finally at 8:30 am (yes 14 hours in the tent) I crawled out of the tent and fired up the stove. Nothing would greet this beautiful morning like some instant coffee.
Within a short period of time everyone was mulling around. Surprisingly, we had made it through the night and everyone was still smiling. We shot some video footage and hung around camp for a few hours before it was time to head back toward our vehicles.
A relatively easy downhill snowshoe brought us back to the cars and the real world waiting for us. Although winter camping was something I never really wanted to try, winter camping in Wyoming's Snowy Range was spectacular. I reached outside my comfort zone, saw some amazing views and I learned a few things to sharpen my outdoor skills.
I knew camping in winter conditions would be fun but I underestimated the beauty of watching the sun set behind snow covered pines, the nearly full moon, a light pollution-free star-filled sky, icicles on the branches. Seeing a familiar environment in totally different conditions was eye opening and fun. I'm not actively planning another winter camping trip but I definitely will be less likely to turn down a winter camping experience in the future.
What do you think about winter camping? Have you done it? Would you try it?
Learn more about this trip:
What I learned from winter camping
Winter Camping Trip Video
5 Tips for Winter Camping
10 Essentials of Winter Camping (Video)