Winter Camping

I still find it difficult to believe that we’re camping when it’s 25 degrees out, in January.


We cranked up the water stove for the first time this winter. Yes, mark your calendars: Jack made it to January before he had to light off the water stove.
But here we are. The morning we left home it was snowing, and in the low twenties. Said goodbye to the doggies and housesitter, and hopped in Blue Roomba to head east. The thinking traveled this route: heading southeast, we have to get warmer, right?

Not so fast.

It threw snow showers at us the entire 7-hour trip to Pettigrew State Park in North Carolina. Our friends and fellow bird-lovers, Mike and Barbara, who are soon-to-be-Alto-owners (but now are tent campers), were to meet us for some migratory bird sightings in and around Phelps and Mattamuskeet Lakes.

It was 40 degrees, overcast, and windy when we arrived. Mike and Barbara were already there and set up, so could watch us do the whole trailer position, level, unhitch, and setup routine for the model of Alto they have ordered.

We had arrived around 3:30: not much time to head out to any of the bird-sighting areas, so we just organized our separate dinners and they came over to Roomba for enjoying our meals. For the first time, Jack and I set up our table, normally in the “nook” at the front of the trailer (under the Big Front Window or BFW), back on the bench seats (where we sleep). All four of us were able to sit and nosh together, and conversation went into the early evening (and with heat!). The only challenge was getting all our big feet under the table in the floor space between the benches. Oh, and where to pack all the puffy jackets, hats and gloves.

During night #1, outside temps hovered between 20 and 25. Inside, we had the propane heater set for 58, which wasn’t quite warm enough for comfortable sleeping without piling on layers of clothes. Snuggling was good, though.

Jack got up to a set alarm at around 5A to see what he could could see of the Quadrantids Meteor Shower, and possibly the Catalina Comet. He forgot to take binoculars out with him for the comet, but he did see a couple of meteors, but the sliver of moon was so bright he couldn’t see many.

We awoke to the hooting call of what we came to discover to be Tundra Swans. They leave Lake Phelps at dawn to find some more appropriate feeding territory. Evidently, Phelps is too deep for grazing, but it is great for safety. We were told that they head over to Mattamuskeet, where the lake covers enormous territory, but is only about a foot and a half deep. So it’s great for wintering birds’ feeding area.

By the time I was headed over to the sole bathroom still operating, the bigger birds from Cherry Point Naval Air station (or Oceana) were aloft, jetting around above the clouds. 25 degrees and while we ate breakfast, the snow began falling again.

Happily, the sun is emerging so we can get some solar gain to charge our battery as there are no hookups at this campground. We’re headed over to the Mattamuskeet Visitor Center for maps and some guidance for bird-watching and appropriate hikes we might be able to take today. Roomba is still “winterized” so all the washing up has to be done outside with water heated on the stove. That’s my next task.

More later –


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