Dr. E’s Latest Winter Camping Adventure


Chiropractor Vernon BC Elliot Lysyk Winter

By Dr. Elliot Lysyk, DC ~ Vernon Chiropractor

I’ve never built a “quinzhee” before (a snow cave) to be used as a shelter for winter camping, so that was my vision this year. After two hours of shoveling, deep in the forest with my eight-year-old daughter, far away from people, we had a six-foot pile of snow to burrow into. More accurately, I did the heavy lifting while Shay created winter fairy gardens for the sky, water, and fire fairies in the forest all around us!

Once the snow sintered and set, and I spent another hour or so chipping away at it, it was done—a cozy snow fortress fit for two. (And yes, my shoveling technique was nothing short of perfectly ergonomic). I now had a shelter that I would revisit for a night of solo camping. Shay wanted me to test it out myself first, to make sure it didn’t collapse. Smart kid.

Now, winter camping has a lot of perks if you’re keen to see them. For instance, the forest seems more ghostly and quiet, which is nice if you’re a closet introvert wishing to refuel your soul. Also, the experience is devoid of pests, like mosquitoes, wasps, or more ferocious animals like bears. Mind you, I did hear of a black bear rummaging around in Middleton Mountain a few weeks back, roused from winter hibernation, which does happen. And the glow of cougar eyes at night would be chilling for sure. Alas, a formidable layer of cedar boughs thatched my cave entrance, making access all but impossible for these beasts.

On this trip, however, I ran into a few other challenges. First, every piece of deadfall for my fire was soaked, so the flames only lasted a couple of hours—lots of wood collecting, very little flame. Second, the temperature warmed up considerably and I got to enjoy a light rain. After all, the only thing better than being cold is also being wet. My snow cave began to sag and become saturated. What was initially a shelter in which I could sit upright was now something I could only slide into like a worm, testing my meditative powers against claustrophobia and the nagging feeling that at any moment through the night, a heavy two-foot wall of snow would envelop my carcass like concrete and snuff out my life. And then my ceiling began to drip. Having no mattress is already uncomfortable, but now I had a wet sleeping bag and the incessant, metronomic sound of dripping water on my tarp.

I always seem to forget one useful item on every adventure. This time, it was a light source! I did have a survival candle that I was excited to lie next to while reading—you got it—a survival book, but within 30 minutes, at about 7:00 PM, it burned out. So, there you have it—Elliot’s stiff body in a bag on a hard snow mattress under a wall of dripping, saturated snow with zero light for the next 12 hours.

As repulsive as it all sounds, for some reason, it really is quite satisfying to me, and I view these experiences as a way to feel greater gratitude for the many blessings and comforts I do enjoy in daily life.

But most amusing of all is the look on Alana’s face when I describe my latest adventure and she remarks incredulously: “You and I are VERY different people!”


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