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Dave Story: Frozen Camping Trip
Dave Carlson - October 21, 2005

If I ever write an auto-biography, this story most likely will be there. It is a story about my life I thought you might find interesting. Many times when I tell my stories, people say, “You should write a book about that.” So, here’s a start…

1966 Minnesota -- One winter our Boy Scout troupe went camping. That’s one of the things boy scouts do, so we did it. That morning the weather seemed perfect for a winter campout. It was cold, a little below zero, but not bad for February in Minnesota.

We had completed all our cold-weather classes and several members of the group had earned merit badges in winter survival. My Dad and our Scoutmaster would be with us. We were prepared. The weather forecast showed everything staying about the same for the weekend, but back then the meteorologists did not have the tools to predict the weather like they do now.

We arrived at our camping area location early on a Friday afternoon. Our plan was to hike to our campsite and spend Friday and Saturday nights in the woods. On Friday, we had a few minor problems, but we arrived at our destination and pitched camp in award-winning form. There was 3-4 feet of snow on the ground, so we dug down to the ground for our tents and covered them back over with snow. Our custom igloos were ready to be called home.

We set up our fire pit and started a toasty fire to keep us warm. We had lanterns, hand warmers and extra socks ready when needed. The Scoutmaster announced the fire watch schedule and everyone helped prepare our evening meal. After one of the most delicious meals we could create over an open fire in the middle of a forest clearing, we began our preparations for the night.

The night went as our scout manuals had predicted. We awoke Saturday morning refreshed and ready for the carefully prepared daily tasks and training sessions. About mid-morning, something very unusual happened.

Tents in Snow

The frigid wind seemed to come from no-where and within two hours, it was COLD! (We found out when we finally returned to civilization that the temperature had fallen to -60 degrees with wind chill.) The Scoutmaster said is was too cold to spend the night, so we started taking down the camp while my Dad and two scouts went to start the cars (we had two vehicles) and warm them for our trip back home.

Surprise! Neither car would start! It was so cold the oil was almost frozen. Not to worry, we’re from Minnesota and we’ve dealt with this before. The advance team pulled out pipes and propane torches. They put the pipes under the car, turned on the torches and fired the heat into the pipes, which in turn heated the underside of the car.

No luck! It was so cold the cars still would not start by the time the torch fuel ran out. We were 30 miles from the nearest farmhouse with no way to communicate with the outside world. Nothing left to do, but to apply all our collective winter survival skills -- for real! We set camp back up, started a large fire, dug out all the spare socks, sweaters and blankets, then hunkered down for the night.

Early Sunday morning a large 4-wheel drive truck pulled up to our campsite. The man hopped out of his truck wearing a big grin and quipped, “Anyone want a ride home?” Fortunately, our Scoutmaster had made arrangement for the father of one of our scouts to help us break camp and head home.

It was a miracle that no one was injured. We all survived without even one case of frostbite. I credit the excellent Boy Scout training and our cool-under-pressure adult leaders. I always will remember the great Minnesota winter campout as a significant accomplishment in my life.


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