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January 31, 2014

It can be too cold sometimes

The Daily Star

---- — With freezing temperatures and the Winter Olympics just a week or so away, I was reminded of a winter camping adventure many years ago.

It was 1979, a year before the Olympics were held in Lake Placid for the second time. A friend of mine asked if I was interested in trapping beavers in the north country. He explained that a group of guys had a nice cabin near Star Lake and much of their land had been flooded by the beavers. They hoped to rent their cabin to Olympic guests the next winter and make a nice profit.

Roy and I had trapped beavers in under the ice a couple winters before, removing a bunch of nuisance animals for both land owners and towns alike. Chopping holes in the ice and setting Conibears was nothing new to us.

So in mid-January with everything ready, I made a trip north and met Roy near Watertown. With a good tent and a heavy tarp for additional cover, along with stoves and fuel, we started out. We turned off of Route 3 and loaded snow machines for the mile trip back in. But even with careful planning, we neglected to remember one thing. The snow gets really deep off Lake Ontario.

Finding the flooded beaver meadows was easy. The top foot of several beaver houses were easily seen, but finding the ice wasn’t. There three to four feet of heavy snow covering everything.

We set up camp in a small grove of trees. With the tent erected between two larger trees, we strung a rope above it and stretched the tarp over everything to give us more cover. Nightfall came early and with it was more snow and a sudden drop in temperature. Our little heater worked well but was not that efficient at 20-some below. Besides, you know it’s cold when you have every bit of clothing on that you own and you’re still chilly while huddling in your sleeping bag.

We spent most of the night playing gin rummy by the light of a Coleman Lantern. It passed the time as the winds howled and snow blew outside. We snacked on pepperoni and cheese and washed it down with a couple of beers to keep them from freezing solid.

Morning came and another foot of snow covered everything. One thing I remember was that breakfast we fixed at daybreak. But when it’s that cold anything warm sure hits the spot. We heated up cans of Dinty Moore Stew that we had kept in our sleeping bags to keep from freezing during the night.

We made a gallant effort but finally decided that we were wasting our time. Besides, more snow was expected that night with frigid temperatures well below zero. So defeated by winter, we packed up and headed home.

I wasn’t disappointed. We marked it off as another great adventure. I know many of you think antics such as those are totally crazy. Rightfully so, but I’ve always believed that insanity helps you cope with life.

So chalk one up for Mother Nature. She always has the upper hand.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at