Winter Shakedown

It’s time for a shakedown! With only a little over a month before I leave to Delaware, I have gear I need to break in and break down to see just how tough it all really is. First order of business, a bivy shakedown.

North eastern Colorado received its first snowfall for the coming winter and I was ecstatic! I finally had the opportunity to whip out my winter gear but more importantly, my sleep system: bivy sack, inflatable air pad, and a -40oF sleeping bag. Yes, you read right, negative forty. I love the winter but I hate being cold. In fact, I refuse to be cold! With that being said, I decided I was going to sleep outside in the 17oF temperature. I grabbed my gear and started to head toward the door when my grandmother spotted me and inquired, “You’re not really going to sleep outside are you?” I looked at her with a child-like smile knowing she didn’t approve of what I was doing and said, “I told you earlier I was sleeping outside.” My grandparents allowed me to continue with my business but only after I promised I’d come inside if I got cold. I wandered out into the chilly darkness and began unrolling the bivy and air pad. I stood in the darkness, only illuminated by my dim headlamp, and began inflating the air pad. It would take roughly twenty long breaths before I would finish but I had to be careful. If I tried to breath hard and fast into the tube of plastic I’d get light headed and potentially send myself into a hyperventilating fit. Slow and steady wins the race. With the air pad inflated, I wiggled it into the bivy sack. Next, I had to wrestle with the sleeping bag. I became engulfed in its fluffiness and had to balance between shoving it into the bivy sack and not letting it get in the snow. At last, my little home for the night was ready. There was just one problem, was there enough room for me? There really was no question; I was going to make myself fit. As I shimmied into the sleeping system, I slowly transformed into a waterproof burrito. I breathed purposefully through the openings to the outside world and quickly fell asleep.

Sleep System

“How did I end up inside?” I wondered in a groggy state of mind. I rolled to my other side dismissing the strange thought. “Should I go back outside,” I questioned. “Nah,” I replied to myself. I slipped back into my unconsciousness, enjoying the warmth that surrounded me.

I opened my eyes again but this time I was welcomed by rays of sun. I was still outside, tucked away in my burrito, but questioned my wild mind from the night before. My theory, I was so incredibly cozy and warm that I tricked my mind into thinking I was inside. I call that a win. My cousin’s dog, Sophie spotted me through the fence or spotted something. She wasn’t sure what the blob in the yard was and went into a howling and barking fit. I wasn’t worried about her but it did make me aware of how hard it would be to escape my burrito if I needed to in a hurry. Maybe I should practice escape bivy drills..?

Winter Boots

Next on the agenda: winter boots. I walked to the town cemetery a mile away and felt the seams of the unbroken boots tear at my heels.These boots weren’t going to go without a fight. I walked the mile back, feeling them bite even harder. They rubbed my left heel raw and the right wasn’t far behind. My solution, thicker socks and lots of band aids. Over the course of the next several days, I routinely walked to the cemetery and listened to my body as it whispered in the form of aches and pains. This was ridiculous, it couldn’t merely be the boots that were giving me such a hard time. I pondered all the external factors that could contribute to my previous foot and knee injuries suddenly rising up against me. Was it the cold weather? Do I need foot inserts? Maybe my feet need more adjustment to the boots or the other way around? Then I began to question the integrity of my body. Am I just falling apart? Am I not made to walk long distances? I forced myself to cut that crap out real quick. Something had changed and it was an external factor, not internal. Then I thought, “The surface! I actively avoid concrete when running or walking long distances.” Logically, the next day, I decided I’d walk to the next town fourteen miles east. I could get mileage in and decide once and for all if my boots were going to fit the part. As it turned out, there was only a small shoulder next to the highway and that forced me to walk on uneven terrain in the grass. A couple miles in and I was still doing alright. I’d look ahead and see if cars were coming at me. When they weren’t, I moseyed to the concrete shoulder and noticed a shift in my gait and my joints. “Ah ha!” I thought. Unfortunately, that means I’ll have to start training on concrete to force my body to adapt. Fourteen miles later, I made it to the next town. I had been offered three rides, talked to a police officer, avoided stepping on road kill, sang a song I didn’t know the words to to a field of cattle, questioned the resemblance between the stares the cattle gave me and the people driving by, and ran across a bridge to avoid a semi-truck but it felt like a game of chicken instead. All in all, a good days work.