2009 01 11 Dead Vly2

Winter Camping at Dead Vly

Our initial plan was to camp on the shores of Buckhorn Lake, also known as Fiddler’s Lake, which is located in the southern Adirondacks.  It was a convenient meeting area for campers coming from Holland Patent, Barneveld, Sprakers, Carlisle and East Berne.  Skip and I arrived 1st with the intent of scouting for a diner that would serve breakfast (or 2nd breakfast as the Hobbits called it).

We found Casey’s Corners directly across from the trail head and settled in for a hot cup of coffee for Matt, Mark, Len and Rob,  the original WinterCampers.com crew, to arrive.


The trail to Buckhorn Lake is off NY 8 in the village of Piseco next to the Town of Arietta highway garage. The town permits parking next to garage for access to the  Northville-Placid Trail.  We headed southeast initially following the snowmobile trail  but quickly the NLP trail diverges into the woods.  After Everyone stopped to shed layers and/or adjust gear.  Len and Matt are looking happy because they don’t need to adjust anything.


Below Skip pauses so we can get a good look at the dual sleeping bags lashed to his pack.  He must be expecting cold temperatures or maybe he plans to just lay on the ground tonight.


Len, the FireMaster, pauses en route with his new gloves purchased at the Casey’s Corner Convenient Mart.


It took us about an hour to leisurely snowshoe the 1.2 miles to reach the outlet of Buckhorn Lake.  At the footbridge we made a decision to turn east and camp in the spruce trees sheltering the stream coming from Buckhorn Lake and flowing into Dead Vly.  It was a nice camping area: sheltered, with an open running water source and plenty of dead wood.

Upon reaching our campsite we prepared our tent sites.  Skip stomps an area for his bivy sack.  The large open area in the background is Dead Vly.


Now we can see that Skip deployed his two sleeping bags within the bivy.  It looks cozy, doesn’t it?


Matt & Mark shovel an area comparable to a small hockey rink to accommodate Matt’s Hilleberg Nallo 3 tent.


The Hilleberg Nallo 3 is a great winter camping tent.  It is extremely spacious and weighs only 5 lbs 5oz (packed).  The tent provides tons of room for tall dudes like Matt and Mark who are both 6’4″ plus.  It also has a huge vestibule for storing gear or cooking.   But it does require space to set up and stake out.  Hopefully, we can get Matt to write up something about it in the way of a gear review at some point.


Jim brought his Black Diamond Lighthouse – a 2 person tent under 4lbs that makes a great solo tent for a tall dude.  The tent walls are steep and shed snow well.  There are small awnings over the back window and over the full-size front door.  Unfortunately the awning over the door wasn’t large enough to keep the door completely open during the night and still keep the falling snow out – so I had to zip the tent door partially closed.


Rob & Len heard their share of humor after they set their Eureka tents up as adjoining units,- all that was missing was the tunnel between.   In the background is the outlet stream from Buckhorn Lake.


Once we were set up we began harvesting wood. Clockwise from the upper left: the resultant wood pile and fire; Jim takes a break from sawing to layer up with a down vest;  Skip snapping limbs,  Len surveys the fire and where to place his pad for sitting, Rob sawing wood, Mark dragging in firewood; and Len applying the saw.


We started our fire/bull session mid-afternoon. Below from the upper left: Mark is wearing his new Aunt Corrine-made primaloft pants while Rob stretches out in his Christmas gift camp chair; the fire; Mark transforming his Therm-a-rest into a camp chair while Skip looks on; Rob and Len pondering deep thoughts and Len – the Firemaster.

We generally have one rule around our fires – that is, only one person messes with the fire.  If someone wants the heat turned up or lessened or wood re-arranged they make the request of the Firemaster or ask permission to take action.  I have been on camping trips where the fire was done by committee with usually less than satisfactory results.  The role of Firemaster changes from trip to trip, but Len is acknowledged as being skilled and benevolent so he is usually nominated for the role.

Rob generously brought the winter camping food of choice: brats to be cooked over a fire on sticks.  We also heated water for hot cocoa and tea.  I was surprised at the length of time we were able to sit around and chat.  The temperature change was noticeable as one moved away from the fire to retrieve something from the tent or provide bladder relief.


About 8:30pm the snow began to fall and by 8:45 we were shaking snow off ourselves and decided it was time to head to the tents.  During the night the temperature dropped to 6 degrees and we got 4-6″ of snow.   Below Matt’s Hilleberg Nallo 3 tent sheds the snow during a midnight inspection.


We were all wondering how Skip would fare in his bivy sack overnight.  Mark expressed concern that since he didn’t hear Skip snoring he was concerned that he had been buried alive – but his concern didn’t move him to inspect during the night or dig him out.  Actually Skip reported being too warm and suffering from a mild attack of claustrophobia during the night.  The extra clothes and sleeping bags were too confining, but once he shed the extra layers of clothing he slept fine.  Below Skip wakes up and surveys the sky.


We packed up and hiked out for breakfast. Below from the upper left:  the return to the parking lot;  Rob packs up his tent; Mark and Jim load up their packs,  Matt ready to go and wearing his Outdoor Research fleece mittens and choppers;  Skip rolls up his parachute cord that he used to raise the hood of his bivy;  Skip is packed and ready to go, Mark looking dapper with his vest and WinterCampers patch.


I merged  pictures from our winter camping trip to Dead Vly with Walt Michael’s hammer dulcimer tune “Hawks and Eagles” using PhotoStory for Windows.  Matt did one of these last year and I liked the results.  I didn’t do as much panning in the photos and the photos move by fast (5 seconds or less) because I had a lot of pictures and the music was fast paced. The process was pretty straight forward and is another way to view the trip. Basically it shows us hiking in, setting up tents (and bivys), getting wood, sitting around the fire and the snow fall on the tents (and bivy) at night.

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