February 15, 2004

Winter Survival & Tracking

(Photos and report by Walter Muma)

Five people turned out on this cold but very sunny day. We hiked in a short distance from the road and headed off-trail to a sunny site overlooking a frozen marsh. Here we built a snow shelter (not in the marsh, but in the adjoining woods!).

The type of snow shelter we constructed is made by piling up a big pile of snow.

Here is the start of that task.

Finished piling the snow. This snowpile is then left to sit for an hour or two. During this time the snow hardens up.

Here's two of the group sunbathing, winter-style!

We also went exploring and ate lunch while the snowpile hardened.


After lunch we hollowed out the snow pile to create the shelter. Here's Ben starting the job.

Digging deeper....

Except for a door, which we didn't make. One could make one by placing some sort of insulating material in between two layers of sticks, and tying the whole thing together.


A view from inside.

We figured this shelter could sleep three people fairly easily; four if they really liked each other.

It's nice and quiet inside the shelter -- the snow walls effectively block out much of the sound from outside.

While we were letting the snowpile "cure", we went exploring.

Here's a nice set of rabbit tracks.

And some very clear and fresh red fox tracks!
Mike showed us how to make a fire from flint and steel, using steel wool to catch the sparks! Very interesting!

Here's three of us enjoying the result.

Daniel was kind enough to share some of his polish sausage with us, which we roasted over the fire. We also enjoyed a little bit of a roast buffalo sandwich!

Later on we went for a walk into a denser part of the woods. Here we discovered signs of pileated woodpecker (big holes in a tree), ruffed grouse (scat), very old beaver sign (chewed tree stumps) and red squirrel tracks. We also did some winter tree identification, which is always a challenge.

We returned via the snow-covered marsh, where the snow was extra-deep. We had some difficulty walking across this marsh, and some of us resorted to crawling from time to time! Too bad we forgot to bring snowshoes (we never got around to making any during the day).




Thanks to everyone who came out on this great winter day!
All who attended said they had an awesome day and learned a lot!

For more info on winter snow shelters, please visit the Wildwood Survival website,
Wilderness Survival - Shelter section.



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