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Misfit and the Sleeping Bag

One might think that reading about a guy freezing to death in the Yukon wouldn’t make for a great bed time story while sleeping on a frozen lake at 25 below zero. My husband questioned my judgement as I packed the copy of Jack London’s To Build a Fire into my bag, and I had to admit that he had a point. But, it had been years since I last read it, and I thought it might be fun to bring it with me to the yurt.

As I gathered up my mats and sleeping bags in the yurt that night, and prepared to drag them out onto the lake where I sleep, I grumbled at myself for my poor choice in reading material. I was feeling a little sorry for myself that I was away from my nice warm bed, and I wasn’t looking forward to reading about another person who was wishing he was somewhere warmer.

Then, I got out to the lake.

Zombie, Cookie and Misfit escorted me to my sled, where I draped my nest materials to keep them off the ground. Before I began making my  nest, the somewhat elaborate bed I put together when I sleep outside, I turned off my headlamp and looked up. The instant my eyes met the sky, my pity party was over. I always make a point of taking a few moments before I go to bed at the yurt to turn off my headlamp, be still and remember where I am. It never fails to lift my mood.

I’ve been winter camping since I was twelvish or so, and I still feel the same rush of amazement whenever I am in the woods at night in the winter, as I did on that very first trip up north with my dad and my buddy Princess (our canine partner in crime). As much as I really really like being warm, something about a frigid winter night in the wilderness makes me feel like I am right where I belong.

Now, my choice in reading material didn’t seem so bad. Bring it on! Just like that my attitude flipped, and now I couldn’t wait to hunker down in my bag and read about some green horn’s crummy day in the Yukon.

I’ve done a lot of reading out on that lake over the years, but I have to say that that night was by far my favorite. I actually smiled as I read, trying to turn the pages with my clumsy wool gloves, and occasionally pulling the top of my bag further down over my head to let in less cold. “Don’t breathe into your bag”, I heard my dad’s voice say. “Chill out, Dad”, I answered, “It’s just for one night, and it’s not like it’s 75 below zero.” Nothing makes you appreciate 25 below like reading about a guy screwing up in 75 below. Turns out it was the perfect bedtime story for the yurt.

By Heather Jeske Pharr