In honor of our Valentine's Day photo shoot, I decided to answer some questions prepared by Zack, my boyfriend and master navigator, concerning our time in the woods, so that you can read over them as you peruse my photographs from Bass River State Forest.
Where did you spend your Valentine’s Day?
Zack and I decided to go to Bass River State Forest in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey to rent a cabin-like structure called a Lean-To to spend a “snuggly” Valentine’s Day.
How were you convinced to spend Valentine’s Day in freezing conditions in a Lean-To heated only by a small wood stove?
I think the phrases “cozy” and “it won’t be that bad” were used. I also couldn’t fathom how cold it was going to be. The thing I hate most about camping are bugs and I thought, “This is going to be great. All the bugs are dead, no worries.”
How cold was it?
It was record lows all weekend, single digits. It was frigid and numbing. There were other people that decided to brave the elements that weekend. We weren’t the only crazy ones.
What did you think of the Lean-To when you first saw it?
Well, to start, I had envisioned a cute, cozy cabin. The lean-to was neither of these things. It’s one room with a wood-stove and our inflatable bed (the kind that needs a pump, which naturally, I forgot) took up most of the space.
How was spending the night in the Lean-To? Did the wood-stove work?
There was minimal insulation in the walls, not much between you and the elements. It was definitely cold, like see your own breath cold. I stuck my hands in the stove, almost in the fire itself, but it was not enough. The stove did work to an extent. There was one night where we had a hard time starting the fire, which made it hard to do anything else except think of how to get warm. The lean-to, as small as they were, did not get as warm as I thought.
What did you eat for your V-Day dinner?
We brought red wine, which got so cold that we had to store them in front of the fire. We cooked some turkey chili in a pot on top of the wood stove. We brought some cheeses, crackers, and olives, our favorite snack. We definitely did not have to worry about chilling the food.
What were your impressions of the Pine Barrens and the BATONA Trail?
The Pine Barrens are creepy. It was only heightened by the fact that we didn’t see or hear any wildlife, even the animals seemed to know it was too cold. I could only hear the occasional sounds of the trees. The wind didn’t blow much, so everything was so still. It was unreal, but the lighting and the eerie stillness made for some great photos. The Pine Barrens are very flat, so it made for easy walking along the well maintained trail. Everything looks the same in the Pine Barrens, if you venture of the trail its easy to get lost.
What wildlife did you see?
Nothing. It was weird.
How was hiking in the freezing conditions?
It was difficult, but I’m glad that I did it. I didn’t have great gloves. My hands would be really stiff when I would try to take a photo. We wore facemasks because it was just too cold to have your face uncovered. My eyeballs even felt cold. With all my layers I looked like a creature from Lord of the Rings.
Any advice for braving the elements?
Invest in the gear. Having a great jacket really makes a difference. Pack many layers. Don’t forget to keep drinking water, even if it partially freezes, you can still get dehydrated. This was the first trip that I used my new MindShift backpack. This bag made it easy, especially in these elements, to access different lenses with the rotational pack that swings around your waist.