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Meteors, Clouds, and Cold by Captain Mouse

Geminds Meteor Shower
Geminds Meteor Shower

I went for the meteors, but stayed through the clouds and the cold. Somehow I loved the experience anyway and want to do it again. I hadn’t seen a meteor shower recently and really wanted to see the 2012 Geminids, which were supposed to be spectacular. There was a new moon so the sky would be extra dark and a surprise bonus meteor shower from the comet Wirtanen was also expected somewhat earlier in the evening. I was surprised to find out that Earlylite, despite all that backpacking had never seen shooting stars and wanted to share that with him.

We went to a four season state forest campground just outside Lincoln, New Hampshire. We had planned to camp there and go to a viewpoint for the actual watching. But the trees were bare and looking up the view was quite good. So, we decided to stay and watch from the camp site. I also really liked being able to hear the brook nearby, though Earylite later blamed it for the extra moisture which made condensation snow in the tent over night. After setting up the tent we went into town for dinner in the warmth and the light. (I’m more likely to get into outdoor cooking in the summer when it doesn’t get dark at 4:00 pm.)

We came back around 8:00 pm, used the Whisperlite stove to make a big thermos of Ginger Drink and sat out in our chairs to watch for shooting stars. Though we did not use the ginger drink that night the preheated thermos–left outside of the tent in the cold–worked really well and the drink was still nicely warm when we enjoyed it in the morning.

We watched and began to see some meteors. I was amazed at how crowded the sky was with all the stars. So many that I had trouble finding the two constellations I can usually identify, the Big Dipper, and Orion’s belt. (While I have seen meteors before I’ve never been someplace so dark at night. The lawn of a country hotel, or a friend’s secluded back yard on Cape Cod are much darker than home, but do not compare to the profound darkness of the New Hampshire woods.) I began to get cold and put a handwarmer down the back of my shirt.

We got into our sleeping bags to stay warmer and continued to watch the amazing stars along with a steady flow of meteors. I got colder and added a warmer to my front as well as one in the foot of my (actually Earlylite’s) 20 degree bag. I discovered that lying flat on my back, as I usually sleep at home was very uncomfortable as my arms kept falling off the edge of the sleeping pad. So, I tried to be a side sleeper which had its own discomforts! We were getting cold and sleepy so we decided to take a nap and wake up around 1:00 am to see the peak of the Geminids.

We awoke to a blank sky. No stars, no meteors, just cloud cover.

I was very cold for the rest of the night. Women tend to sleep colder, so the 20 degree bag, plus bivy was not really enough even though I was wearing fleece pants with Capilene 2 or 3 underneath, along with a warm baselayer on top with a fleece vest over, as well as a scarf, mittens, and hat.

Of course in the morning it was bright and clear. Despite the cold and the clouds there was something wondrous about sleeping outdoors with the stars and without all my stuff and distractions. We saw meteors together and that was good.

I want to do this again–even in the winter–but I need a wider thicker pad. And if that means a bigger tent so be it.

About Captain Mouse

Captain Mouse is a professional writer and editor who knows an enormous amount about hiking and backpacking gear, despite the fact that she hates to sweat. She is looking for new clients, so if you need an outdoor literate editor for a magazine article, book, or online publication, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with her. Captain Mouse is the spouse of Earlylite. Neither of us chose to change our names when we married.

5 comments

  1. Thanks Captain Mouse. So nice you enjoy together, too many of us are ‘outdoor widows’. I look forward to reading more of your adventures. A hint from another gal – put hand warmers on a your bum checks and you will sleep warmer :-) I have found that helps me more than hand warms in my socks. Happy New Year!

    • Glad to see that you two have ‘connected’.

      Captain – I’m surprised you didn’t put the handwarmer between your legs. over your femoral arteries. You’re the one who reminded *me* that I should do that when cold. And next time I say “wake me up”, really wake me up.

    • Mostly I am an outdoor widow, but there are a few things I like to do outdoors so this car camping is an experiment. I’m even willing to climb mountains to see the view as long as they are completely flat mountains, like the ones in Kansas!

      I had hand warmers down the front and back of my shirt. When I’ve tried them in my undies I find that they move around or fall out.

  2. Captain Mouse – by all means get yourself a better pad. Earlylite mentions in his post that he is considering an Exped Downmat for you .. which (as the owner of one) I can heartily second. I got my Downmat 2yrs ago after a winter backpacking trip in the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, where (a) I never really slept well on my Thermarest and (b) I always melted a perceived 1ft lower into the snow underneath than my friend on her Downmat did. The Downmat is heavy and bulky and all, but pure bliss for Winter camping. Just appeal to Earlylite’s chivalry and make him carry it for you, while you carry his 0.5″ thick 3/4 length super ultralight tinfoil pad that is geeky and cool and all, but keeps you shivering at night :-D

    • I want a pad with a bit of give, but mostly I want a bit more width. If I can keep my arms on the pad I can sleep on my back and I won’t need something super thick–I think! I might even be happy with a 3/4 pad if only it were 25 inches wide!

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