Cold Weekend Camping in Wisconsin

We will never forget this camping weekend.

Every year my wife and I can’t wait to start camping. Living in Wisconsin , camping season is only from Mid-April to Mid-October, if we’re lucky. Two years ago we were even more eager than usual to get camping. We scheduled to start camping in early April. We contacted a campground about 100 miles North of Milwaukee in December and requested a site for the first weekend in April. They said that they weren’t open that early in the season but we were welcome to camp that weekend with the understanding that none of the facilities would be open in the campground. Neither the office nor the bathrooms would be open. They said we would have a site with water, electric and sewer. That sounded perfect to us, our own little trailer in the woods. January thru March seemed longer than ever but April was finally upon us.

Friday after work we headed to the campground. Listening to the radio on the way up we heard we were in for a cold weekend, low 30’s with snow in the forecast. Sure enough half way up we encountered snow. Getting to the campground we quickly hooked up the water and electric turned on the furnace and left to get something to eat. We got to the restaurant just as it began to get dark. After having a fantastic meal we headed back to the campground. Unfortunately everything looks different in the pitch dark. I must have made some wrong turn and ended up lost. The campground was only 5 miles away from the restaurant but we drove for over 45 minutes on the dark country roads. We past the same farm houses many times to the point where my wife said “let’s just park on the side of the road and sleep in the truck for the night.” I didn’t want anything to do with that and kept driving and turning, driving and turning until finally we zoomed right past the campground entrance. Not risking making another wrong turn I backed up on the dark country road to the campground entrance.

The camper was warm and inviting. By then it was 9:45pm and both my wife and I were tired. We both work and get up at 5:30am so our bedtime is usually 10:00pm. It was time for bed. Getting into bed was cold for the first 5 minutes but it felt good to get to bed. We were camping and everything was right in the world, we laughed at ourselves for getting lost and drifted off.

The next morning my wife got up and discovered we didn’t have any running water. Yep, you guessed it, frozen water hose. No problem I said to my wife, I’ll just build a fire and place a hot log under the water hose and next to the pipe coming out of the ground. Once it thaws we will be back in business. After about an hour every faucet in the camper was flowing. My wife had turned on the radio while I was outside fighting the cold and found out it got down to 30 degrees overnight, thus frozen water.

The rest of the day we had a great time hiking the campground and the nearby woods. It warmed up to 40 degrees that day and was sunny. The fallen leaves were dry and crunchy and it seemed like fall, late fall. We spent most of the day outside, even cooking our meals over the campfire. What a beautiful day. Unfortunately, we heard the weather man say it was going down to 26 degrees that night. We needed to develop a plan or we weren’t going to have water in the morning.

Being a McGyver I came up with a plan. Seeing that our campfire was still going from our supper I gathered some grapefruit size rocks and placed them in the fire. My wife questioned what I was planning to do with them. I told her I was going to pile the rocks next to the water pipe, wrap the pipe and the rocks with a moving blanket I had in the truck. I figured that would heat up the pipe long enough into the night to keep it from freezing. I also figured we’d keep the water running from each faucet just slightly to keep the water from freezing. Worried that the rocks would set the blanket on fire I did a little experiment. I heated up some rocks and wrapped them in some rags I had. After a half hour I had warm rocks and warm rags, no fire. Perfect.

Just before bed I pile about 5 rocks around the pipe and wrapped it with the moving blanket. The blanket didn’t stay, so I duct taped the blanket around the pipe and the post the pipe was attached to, and went to bed. It was 32 degrees when we went to bed.

I was asleep for what seemed like hours when I thought I heard my wife scream my name from far away. I sleepily woke up and looked at the digital clock which read 10:14pm. I didn’t notice that my wife was not laying next to me, I told myself that I must have heard my wife call me in a dream and laid my head back down. Just then I heard her scream again, this time not my name but, “THE POST IS ON FIRE!” What? I shouted back at her as I sprung up in bed. “The @#$%@& Post is on Fire.” As I looked towards my wife who was looking out the slide out window I see the flames shooting past the window behind her. Now the bottom of the window is about 5 ft off the ground and the flames are flaring up past the top of the window like a Roman candle. I set the world land speed record pulling on my boxers and grabbing the fire extinguisher next to the door. Running down the steps and hitting the freezing gravel I start towards the fire. Getting to the blaze I pointed the nozzle at the base of the fire, pulled the pin and pressed the trigger, nothing. The fire extinguisher was new and I had never used it or read the instructions. Well you know when you try something and it doesn’t work you do the very same thing over and over again but much faster. After pressing what I thought was the trigger six or seven times with nothing happening I finally looked at the thing and discovered the trigger was actually on the top not on the back thing-a-ma-jig I was pressing. Aiming again at the base of the fire I pressed the top…poof, a huge puff of white powder hits the fire. Aiming and pressing several more times I put out the flames. I pulled the blanket off the post and dragged it to an open gravel area behind our camper and ran back to the post where flames had started shooting up again. Shoo…Shoo …Shoo the white powder extinguished the flames again. Examining the post and the hose leading to the camper I see the hose had a pin hole burnt into it. Just then I heard my wife pounding on the window. Looking up at her I see her pointing towards the back of the camper. I turn around to see the moving blanket ablaze on the gravel. I ran over to the blanket to start fighting the multiple flames with the extinguisher. After three spurts the extinguisher is out of powder and the blanket is still far from being out. I can’t stamp it out because I’m barefooted. Now what? I ran back to the camper and yelled into the camper get me some water and rushed back to the blanket. Pulling on the severed parts that aren’t on fire I try to beat the 10” flames out. What is taking her so long to get me water, I think to myself. I ran back to the door to find out. Just as I opened the door my wife was there handing me a big bowl of water, filled to the brim no less. Now I’m trying to walk back to the fire with a full bowl of cold water over cold gravel with my bare cold feet. Yes I got there and had water left in the bowl but it wasn’t enough to put out the entire blanket. So back to the camper I go for another bowl. In fact it took three additional bowls to finish then job.

Finishing the good fight I went back in to get dressed. Finding a roll of duct tape I headed back to the water hose. Taping it up the best I could the ordeal was over. The whole event must have taken 10 to 15 minutes. Now inside with the adrenaline leaving my body I started to feel the affects of the 30 degree weather on my nearly naked body. I crawled into bed and shivered for about a half hour.

The next morning we cleaned up the mess and thought about how lucky we were that the whole forest didn’t go up in flame with all the dry wood and leaves nearby. Buying a new blanket, hose and a new fire extinguisher was all that we were out along with our dignity.

By Jerry & Julie from Franklin, Wisconsin

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