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On Friday night, my friend John and I headed off with fully loaded pulk sleds to snow camp at Devils Half Acre Meadow. We left my house at about 2:30 PM and set out from the Barlow Pass SnoPark at around 4 PM. Another friend, Matt, planned to meet us there just after dark. It's an easy 1.2 mile hike downhill to the campground, which was our destination. The campground sits right at the base of Barlow Butte. The weather was a comfortable 29°F with moderate to heavy snow fall.
Due to the large amount of new snow (up to a foot) we ended up breaking trail most of the way. Unfortunately the deep, wet snow caused problems with our pulk sleds. They flipped over numerous times, especially the Paris Expedition pulk that John was pulling. Finally I decided to try and help John steer his sled by attaching a rope to the back and gently pulling one side or the other. This helped and we finally made it to Devils Half Acre Meadow Campground at about 5:30 PM. Along the way we met a skier who had been out since the previous night. He told us it had been raining earlier in the day before changing to snow. It is amazing how fast the snow piled up.
The only feature we could identify at the campground was the outhouse. Everything else was completely buried in five to six feet of snow. We picked a spot at the North end of the campground near a trail head to set up camp. While I got to work digging out a pit for a campfire, John went off in search of firewood. After a couple of hours, I managed to dig out a pit approximately five feet deep and ten feet in diameter. John gathered a nice pile of dead wood from quite a distance away and quickly cut it up with a small chainsaw. Just about the time we got a nice fire started and dark was settling in, we spied Matt snowshoeing toward us through the meadow. A short time later, we were all enjoying a warm fire and cold beer in complete solitude.
Since I had worked on the fire pit and John had gathered the firewood, Matt offered to work on a snow shelter. We accepted and he went to work. In a short time, he dug out and created a three-sided structure. I helped with the finishing touches before we secured an 8' x 10' tarp over the top. It worked very well for the three of us and easily supported the light snowfall we had overnight. Finally around 10 PM we settled down and ate our dinner. In between light snow flurries, the moon came out and illuminated most of the meadow we were camped in. We almost didn't need the lantern or our headlamps. We stayed up another couple hours before turning in for the night.
I woke up just before 8 AM Saturday morning to a fresh dusting of snow and 20°F temperature. John and Matt weren't up yet, so I restarted the fire and ate breakfast. Most of the clouds from the night before had vanished and the sun was shining. It was a gorgeous morning. After everyone was up, we began to break camp. Before heading back Matt and I went on a short hike up to Barlow Butte. John decided to relax at camp before getting a head start pulling his pulk sled back to the SnoPark. The uphill return trip was much more difficult then coming in the previous afternoon. On the positive side, the trail was more defined and the pulks did not tip over. Back at the SnoPark, we enjoyed lunch before heading home. Soon Spring will be upon us and the solitude of snow camping will remain a memory until next year.