I arrived at the trailhead parking lot on Friday the 6th at around 3:30 pm and it was 14F when I arrived.
It was decided to stay in the campsite near the trailhead Friday night, instead of going up to Bell Mountain, as some more were joining in the morning and we would go as a group.
Then two down underquilts, a 40 degree full length (black) under the 0 degree full length underquilt (green) Both by Hammock Gear
That took 30 minutes, now what to do for another few hours until it gets dark?
Fortunately "TwentyBelow" was an excellent bushcrafter and brought a load of firewood making it easy to sit by the fire and still stay comfortable. it was also good that I had brought plenty of warm drink mixes to have and I made one of many hot chocolates that afternoon. I also had a excellent beans and rice dish that has been a staple of mine since Andrew Skurka posted it on his website.
The sun set about 6 pm and we stayed by the fire for awhile but the temperatures were going down and speaking of down, you have to be careful warming yourself around an open fire when you are wearing all down!
Crawling into the hammock around 8 pm. I had brought the Ipad knowing I would be in the hammock a long time, so I watched a bit of Embrace the Brutality a great CDT documentary by Shane "jester" O'Donnell
Easier to put up with your own brutality when you are watching the suffering of others! :-)
Morning view from the hammock- Got down to -2F (-19C)
"TwentyBelow" was well prepared for cooking over the campfire and had himself real eggs and sausage for breakfast. I just had oatmeal!
As the sun go higher, I broke camp and made everything like I was never there.
We didn't actual hit the trail to the top of Bell Mountain until 10:30 am. A few people had some issues last night, being this was the first time they had ever camped in temperatures this low. In these conditions it is not the time to test out gear you don't have confidence in, but fortunately they could just walk to their car and turn the heater on to get warmed up.
The low light and the little dusting of snow made the 6 mile walk up a great day. When the sun came up it got to about 10F (-12C)
The one spring that is reliable was still flowing dispite the cold temperatures and you could have gotten water from it, but everywhere else the water was frozen, sometimes in spectacular ways with ice crystals on the surface
The first few miles of the trail is on the Ozark Trail, then you reach the turn off for the last 3.5 miles to the top of Bell Mountain.
Some how I ended up in front today, which very rarely happens, but it made my day to be able to know I was human to be up this way since the snow and that the trail had been used by so many animals in the past few days.
making it to the top of Bell Mountain is always a treat, but today was just beautiful. Cold, clear and with no wind, very still and quiet.
Selfie at the top- I had about 30 minutes alone, before Disco was next to show up.
The is still always something green if you look for it. In this case the color really "pops" in the light blanket of snow.
The air was so clear, I count 10 ridge/valleys I can see in the distance. Reminded me of the view in the Smoky Mountains
Everyone made it to the top and it was good to get a group shot
(Left to right) Disco, Skygzr, Loaner, TwentyBelow, JeremyC, Gideon
We all relaxed at the top for awhile and then the guys started getting their hammocks set up. I have had gotten a second cortisone shot just yesterday, a particularly deep one and my shoulder was not enjoying the cold. JeremyC did not have the set up to stay the night at the top, and his knees were also hurting him, so I decided to accompany him down the hill
Along the way the light was again low and the woods looked great.
Sunrise on Sunday morning from the top of Bell Mountain, courtesy of Disco.
It only got down to 10F (-12C) so everyone survived and had an excellent time.
Thanks Gideon for the planning and company.