Having frozen and been revived by my wife at the end of snow-drenched May, I refused to be deterred. I would take this camping experience to the next level. I would bring out the big guns.
Two years ago, on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, I had gone to Dick's Sporting Goods to get a sleeping bag and tent because I was going to backpack into Rocky Mountain National Park with a pair of my teacher friends. They were going for the fly fishing. I would write and hike--I did end up writing a few chapters to Radical Equations, my latest Bonnie Pinkwater mystery. The tent was a piece of cake, a one and a half pound backpacking tent that was little bigger than a coffin. The sleeping bag was another story. Dick's had a number of spiffy bags on sale but the one that finally caught my eye was rated for forty below. That's right campers, forty degrees below zero. With this mother puppy I could conceivably sleep in a snow drift. Truth was I had no intention of camping anywhere near a snow drift. I was heading into the mountains in the dead of summer, first Rocky Mountain National park then a campground just outside of Leadville. In both cases, the bag would prove to be just too damn hot. I ended up just laying it across myself and even then the darn thing was an oven.
But with the winds blowing 50 mph in my back yard and three inches of snow on the ground, AS GOD AS MY WITNESS, I WOULD NEVER BE FROZEN AGAIN.
Now the accouterments were waiting - a four-man cabin tent with an eighteen inch thick air mattress, and a big hunker flashlight - when I boldly walked ten paces out my back door. It was cold, sure, and got colder as I took off my warm clothes and wiggled into my snug sleeping bag. Except for my nose, I got warm in a hurry. After finding a way to bury my chilly nose in the bag, it was time to get comfortable and settle down for a long winter's nap. That's when things got complicated.
You will never get me to admit to being chubby but I had gotten bigger than when I last used the rated-forty-below sleeping bag - things were a bit snug. I sleep on my side and I just couldn't come to an understanding with this bag to allow me to turn sideways and still have my nose not turn into an icicle. First I tried to turn in the bag. It is a mummy, so the feet portion is considerably smaller than the rest. The overall effect was that my body only turned with great difficulty. and then I discovered that the flap would no longer reach my nose and it was growing frigid. With an equal amount of difficulty, I returned to my original position. I halfway convinced myself that I would just sleep on my back. I lay there waiting to sleep. Minutes past that felt like hours.
Then an idea came to me. Why not turn everything, me the bag, the necessary flap, the whole kit and caboodle. Easier said than done. Before I go into the grim details of this next escapade, there are two things that need to be said. Thing 1: I wear glasses. Trifocals that allow me not to be blind as a naked mole rat. These were laying on the floor of the tent next to the flashlight. Thing 2: The air mattress, thick as it was, was only a single, not as wide as the bed in my bedroom only thirty paces away. Me and my sleeping cocoon filled this surface area quite nicely but there wasn't much room left over for doing the tango. Keeping the necessary flap in place I tried to turn. The slicky bag wanted to stay in place - I believe this is called inertia. This would never do. Idea number two. From the inside, I would grab hold of the bag and kind of hop/roll onto my side. Believe it or not this worked marvelously - for about a second. I launched myself off the mattress into free fall. Still twisting sideways, I tumbled onto the flashlight turning it on, which was handy because I was in kind of a fix. I had gotten myself tangled up in the bag, kind of half turned but not all of me. My feet in the smaller section of back were going one way while the rest of me was turned ninety degrees. And I was face down on the cabin floor, the flashlight shining into my eyes. Then an awful thought presented itself to my bedazed mind.
Where were my glasses?
After an eternity, I disengaged myself from my captor sleeping bag and tried to gingerly roll. I found my glasses. At first glance they seemed relatively unscathed. They fit my face - mostly. Then I looked around the flashlight lit tent. Something wasn't right. The big red writing on the tag that told of how to care for the tent fabric was indecipherable. And now the glasses weren't feeling so right on my now cold nose. My hands crept to my face and I realized the awful truth. One of the lenses was missing. And I was maybe too blind to find it. Oh my God, did I shatter it when I fell? Was I, even now, walking on the broken shards of my trifocals? Like a madman I tossed aside my rated-forty-below sleeping bag and felt around the edges of the air-mattress.
I found the lens. It wasn't broken. But I was. In my underwear, holding my lens I stumbled back to my house. My wife was waiting. She took one look at my glasses, part on my face and part in my hand, and gave me a tender hug. Have I ever mentioned that I have the best wife in the world? She took me to my bed, tucked me in and crawled in beside me. She even helped get my nose warm.