Winter Camping Solitude

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to go camping overnight with close friends.  We didn’t encounter other vehicles at the trail head parking lot, see footprints in mud or snow on the trail or see / hear other hikers during the weekend.  I enjoyed the solitude that is part of the winter camping experience.

We spent several evening hours watching a campfire.  It is occasions like this that  cause me to speculate on how many people were engaged in an activity similar to ours;  sleeping overnight in freezing temperatures by choice.  Right or wrong I estimate was that there were less than 50-100 campers similarly engaged  within the 6 million acres of the Adirondack Park.

The Aspen Times is ran a five part series entitled “Land of Opportunity” focused on how the U.S. Forest Service manages the White River National Forest.  Part Three included an interesting discussion of  changing backcountry trends which I believe is relevant to this topic.   As reported by Scott Condon, Martha Moran the recreation staff officer for the Aspen and Sopris Forest Districts, has watched back-country and wilderness use patterns evolve for more than a decade since she joined the office. Among her observations:

  • Hunting has declined significantly,
  • Forest visitors are taking shorter-duration trips with travelers participating in long weekends rather than week-long trips,
  • People are willing to sacrifice solitude to visit the most scenic areas. They are determined to see hot-spots on their brief outing, regardless of crowds. That concentrates more visitors into fewer sites. “People are attached to special areas,” Moran said. “They aren’t going to the deep, dark woods.” When they do venture further into the back country, it tends to be concentrated on routes made popular by coverage in magazines like Backpacker, Outside and National Geographic Traveler, Moran noted.

The article served to reinforce two of the reasons why I enjoy winter camping so much – the solitude and the ease at which one can travel off-trail to places not normally visited.

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