Friday, December 10, 2010

Ferrum Students Camp in the Snow

By Aaron Conover
Adventure Programmer
Ferrum Outdoors

The only sounds that came to my ears when I woke up during the night were those of snowflakes hitting the side of the tent and the wind roaring through the trees on the ridge above. As I drifted back to sleep, it occurred to me that there were probably not too many people out there backpacking on this cold and snowy weekend except for maybe Dan Caston (Instructor of Recreation and Ferrum Outdoors Coordinator), thirteen students from Ferrum College and Roxy the trail dog. This was because Dan was leading the experiential portion of the Winter Camping 105 class and invited me to join them.

The original plan was to hike in and stay overnight in the backcountry at the Mount Rogers Recreational Area which offers unique terrain consisting of open slopes, red spruce and Fraser fir, massive rock outcroppings and free roaming ponies. The forecast called for Mount Rogers called for multiple inches of snow and low temperatures in combination with gusting winds. That prompted a location change.

We opted to stay closer to home and moved our adventure to the lower elevations of McAfee’s Knob instead of an epic atop the 5,729ft high Mount Rogers.

The goal of the course was (and is) to teach the necessary skills to safely and successfully camp overnight during the winter. The students took this knowledge and put it to a real test by developing their own food and personal equipment lists, packing a backpack with all the gear, hiking in 3.5 miles, setting up a tent, cooking meals on a lightweight stove and making a fire to help keep them warm. Although the keeping warm part of the program was met with varying degrees of success, everyone had smiles, all of their fingers, toes and paws at the end of the trip.

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