SNOW DOG 2005: OPERATION LUMBERJACK
Above: Bishop watches the morning mist roll across Camp Stasa at dawn, Saturday.
WE CAME. WE SAW. WE CHOPPED SOME WOOD.
Friday, 04 Feb, 2005: Advanced team of five deployed to Camp Stasa. This went very much according to our schedule. As Chuckwagon and I arrived, we established radio commo with an element that was already on site. We geared up the sleds (but not with any skis or snowshoes, as there wasn't that much snow...) and headed back toward the range area. This was going to be our staging area for a later recon.
The ground was very hard to travel upon, as it was semi-frozen and full of ruts. Falling down into a rut or though a frozen spot was not the hard part. The hard part was getting back up, especially with gear on. Here, ski poles or even a decent walking stick would have been very valuable. Bishop came out to meet us and carried Chuckwagon's pack. Chuckwagon had the burden of puling what we now call "the heavy support sled", much like Thumper's sled from last year... This was the THIRD pack that Bishop had carried in...
At the staging area, we settled on a plan to send myself and Surefire out to recon for a camp area, away from the big tent...Which we did. We found what seemed to be a decent area, back near where the old tent used to be. It was fairly away from much of anything, especially the Griffin's Den tent.
We headed back to the rest of the crew, gathered up our sleds and headed out to our camping area. Oops. Tinman discovered that the area was all ice underneath. Can't sleep there, especially when temperatures are supposed to climb over freezing the next day. The vote was then overwhelmingly in favor of rolling back to the standard bivouac area. It was getting late, and this was agreed upon. One person headed for The Tent, and another set up his Eureka tent. Chuckwagon "hooched up" with a tarp, and the remainder of us set up our tarps, bags, and whatnot on the ground. It is important to clear the snow away so you don't wake up in an icy puddle.
|Left: Nice tarp shelter. Note power supply.||Trusty Eureka tent. Note sled.|
|Tarp, pad, bag.||Tarp, poncho liner, pad, bag. Note booties.|
There are several important things to consider when sleeping outside in the winter. The first is to keep the ground clear of snow, ice, and water before you set up. Your body heat and weight will compress and melt any snow, which can then freeze. The second thing is to add some kind of extra insulation between yourself and the ground. In most cases, this can be done with a sleeping pad, but as above, right, an extra poncho liner can help a lot. Besides, keeping extra insulating material between your bag and your ground tarp will help prevent your body's moisture from collecting/condensing in or upon your bag. Thirdly, do not "trap" your body's moisture in your bag with you. Impermeable water barriers, such as ponchos or plastic will guarantee a wet, and possibly dangerous night. If you are worried about precipitation, set up a tarp hooch or a tent. The waterproof shell on the right was left open both nights, and would have been zipped up only if it had rained or snowed. Even then, I would have been better off rigging a quick shelter with either a poncho or another tarp, both of which I had handy...Please note also the booties on top of the bag on the right. In addition to two pairs of wool socks, these booties kept my feet completely warm. Add this to the US extreme cold weather bag, and I was not cold at all. If you can't find booties like this, inserts or liners for "pac" or snowmobile type boots can also serve this function. It is also possible, if necessary, to walk around in the snow with these booties on. Just shake or wipe them off before getting back into your bag...
Saturday, Feb5th: I had expected that we would be probed at around 0400, and was awake at that time to listen for anyone coming up on us. We were in the regular bivouac area, and not where we had indicated we should have been. Anyone looking for us would have been looking for us in the abandoned icy camping spot, and we would have heard them sneaking in.
At around 0600, I heard the unmistakable spinning of tires upon frozen ground. "Gear up, guys, we have company. Vehicle inbound!!" Up front, Chuckwagon (who had moved into a more forward watch position between 0130 and 0200) was guiding in a new arrival.
Time to get ready for a good day...The folks, and there was a good handful of new persons showing up, came in, one at a time, or two at a time, but they came in. Some were pulling sleds, some had a total winter camo package going....
Roadkill "goes all ghost".
Good winter camo.
|Gear check. (Need Call Sign).||Hunter and Mad Hatter during gear check.|
As Chuckwagon heated up some water for hot oatmeal along with peanut butter sandwiches, we started checking gear, especially of the two or three that were going to shoot for Level One. I commented that we were, for a change, well ahead of schedule for the weekend...
|We got the guys headed out for the two mile walk. Their time was impressive for the road conditions. 27 minutes was the fastest...Some of the guys commented that they were wearing too much snivel gear, and heated up quite a bit.|
Frank needed some wood cut, as his propane was running kind of low. He's let us, and other like us, shoot and camp at his farm for more than ten years now. The least we could do to help out a fellow patriot, and a WW2 combat infantry veteran was to help split some wood. I had no clue what this entailed, or how to go about splitting any wood. Mr Frank Stasa probably found a good measure of amusement at this fact, but was kind enough to give us a class on running his 35 ton, 10 horsepower, gas powered mega log splitting thingamajig. The guys, even the new guys, all jumped in and helped split some major logs for a big chunk of the day. Lotta guys busted their tails, but I gotta mention Tinman especially. He was a log chopping and loading machine, and a good inspiration to those around him....
|The beast at work, splitting logs.||If you can drive a tank, you can drive a tractor...|
Thanks to Doc and Militiamedic, who were there whilst the chopping was going on. Matt had pneumonia this day, but still brought his sick self out there. This is good because militia guys plus 35 ton power equipment possibly equals serious medical emergency. Luckily for us, the worst we encountered were several aching backs.
While this was going on, we had the new guys downrange sighting in. This is sometimes frustrating, but these guys stuck with it, and took the time and effort to roughly get their rifles, two or three at least, sighted in. Mad Hatter had actually carried two rifles on his walk (yes, he had enough ammo for each one) to increase his chance of qualifying. That is some hard charging gun toting, if you ask me....
Here is the important part: It is critical that you do not give up. This applies to most other things besides qualifying with a militia unit, but it is very important here. It's okay to feel frustrated. It's okay to be disappointed. It's understandable even if you become a little angry. It is NOT okay to quit. Ever. Shake it off and try again. Hell, camp overnight and get up and shoot when the light is better (Hunter did that).
Anyway, while the log splitting fun was going on, I gotta mention that Mouse qualified Level 2. Here is a young guy, who sometimes gets picked at and rode a little bit, but damn he came out and qualified Level 2 in the snow. His gear check was fine, and his abilities all checked out. His walk time for the three mile (yeah, the miles get mo' longer) was well within the allotted time.
Gear check, camo self and equipment, and a series of rushes. Just a TASTE of Level 2 fun...GO MOUSE!!!
Saturday night, a good ten people or so stayed overnight, some for the second night in a row. A few stayed in the Griffin's Den, while several stayed out. (One nut-case, who shall remain nameless, stayed outside, in the snow, both nights...)
Overnight, Thumper stayed in his chair with just his gear and a blanket. He was warm, partly because of his homemade boots, which were fashioned from boot liners and rubber over boots, along with other material. This was one way of keeping himself from contacting the cold ground. This chair was placed at the entrance to the range.
Thumper, with cool home-made camo cape. The chair where he slept is on the right.
A quick lesson was learned about putting your poncho directly over your sleeping bag, as one gentleman's bag ended up kind of damp from his body's condensation. Hooch up if you have to, or get a Gore-Tex shell for your bag, but don't keep any kind of waterproof barrier directly next to your sleeping bag. This is my fault for not checking this set-up more closely.
After a dandy militia breakfast (note to everyone: Bring more hot cocoa mix....), Super Six, being the inspirational and motivational kind of guy that he is, got Hunter on the range and soon had him as another new Level One Militia guy...
Above: Hunter has no time to pose for pictures, he was using corrosive 8mm, and MUST clean his rifle.
In this obligatory shooting pic, you can compare camouflage...
After a bit more range time (everyone seemed to love Scopemaster5's new M1A), we rolled up and headed home in time to watch THE PATRIOTS win another Super Bowl. Not all militia people are sports fans. In fact, most of them are probably not (I am), but it is kinda cool to see Patriots Triumphant.....
Big, big thanks and admiration are in order for WW2 veteran Mr Frank Stasa.
He kicked Hitler's ass. What are YOU doing for Freedom?
See you out there soon. Keep your helmet handy and your powder dry...