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Kayak Dave’s Snowpocalypse 2013 Experience

Posted by on February 13, 2013

Some of our regular readers may have noticed that things have been rather quiet at for the past week or so. The reason for this is because Alex and I both reside at the epicenter of the recent “Snowpocalypse” that hit New England…

Our home town of Plymouth, MA was walloped with high winds, snow lightening, and over 2ft of heavy, wet snow and ice. It seems that just about every tree limb that was threatening to come down before the storm managed to find its way onto some power lines leaving us without electricity for 4-5 days. We’re happy to report that we are well and that things are finally starting to get back to normal around here.

The headline of this Sunday’s Boston Globe described the storm as an “Awesome Power.” There’s no doubt that Snowpocalypse 2013 was the most intense Nor-easter that I’ve yet to experience in my 27 years as a New Englander! In celebration of our return to civilized society, I’ve decided to share some of my thoughts and experiences from the past few days off the grid…

Toasty warm thanks to my winter camping gear!

Toasty warm thanks to my winter camping gear!

What was it like to be snowed in without power?

The first couple of days were much like a luxurious fall camping trip. The outside temperature fluctuated from 18 to 35 degrees but the temperature inside of our house hovered between 45 and 55 degrees. We had running water, a gas stove, and a fire in the fireplace so things were pretty comfortable. A lot of the winter camping gear came in rather handy. This is especially true of the down jackets and sleeping bags which made sitting around nice and toasty. I’ve certainly experienced much more extreme conditions in the mountains and we were never close to being in any sort of trouble. There’s no doubt that we could have kept it up for a lot longer had we needed to but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the whole thing started to get old on the 4th day. That’s when we decided to abandon ship and head over to grandma’s house because she got her power back…

Which modern convenience did I miss the most?

The answer to this question may surprise some of you. Of all the electric appliances and gadgets in my home I definitely missed the microwave the most. It’s just so much more convenient to pop something in the microwave to heat it up than to have to warm it on the stove-top. Maybe I’m just lazy or something but I’ll appreciate my microwave much more now.

Microwaves...more convenient than I previously appreciated!

Microwaves…more convenient than I previously appreciated!

Which modern convenience did I miss the least?

This dang computer, that’s what!!! It was kind of nice not having access to things like the internet and email for a few days! I sure did get a whole lot of reading and painting done!!! I even managed to do some writing with pen and paper for a change!

What pieces of outdoor gear did I find the most useful?

These outdoor gear items are my Snowpocalypse All-Stars:

  • Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus Battery Pack: This small-electronic charger kept my cell phone alive and well for days. I was really impressed with the capacity of the rechargeable batteries that it came with once the sun came out and I was able to charge them via my Nomad 7 solar panel. Life saver.

Goal Zero solar panels kept my cell phone alive while the power was out!

Goal Zero solar panels kept my cell phone alive while the power was out!

  • Sierra Designs Zissou 15 Sleeping Bag: This dry-down sleeping bag was oh-so-comfortable and toasty warm. I basically spent 3 days living in the thing; slept in it at night and sat around in it during the day. It’s an awesome sleeping bag!
  • Petzl Tikiana Headlamp: This is the best “around camp” headlamp that I have ever used period. I’ve put dozens of hours (at least 40-50 on low power) on that thing and never had to change the batteries once. Not only that but I think that I only paid something like $10-15 for it. Unbelievable product!

What piece of outdoor gear did I wish I had but didn’t?

This would have been the perfect time to make use of the Biolite Campstove to charge our cell phones and small electronics. I was really impressed with how well the charging function works when I tested and reviewed the stove for BioLite this past fall. It certainly would have come in handy on those first few days when the sun didn’t come out for my solar charger. Unfortunately, I had to return the test model to Biolite when I was done with it and haven’t had the funds to procure my own Campstove yet. You can bet that I’ll be saving my pennies for one this spring!

The Biolite Camp Stove would have been perfect for keeping our small electronics charged...

The Biolite Camp Stove would have been perfect for keeping our small electronics charged…

What other outdoor skills did I put to the test?

Believe it or not, surviving Snowpocalypse required more than just knowing how to stay warm. A huge pine tree fell down in my neighbor’s yard. The top of the tree landed gently against our wood shed but prevented us from accessing our pile of firewood. This required me to harness my inner lumberjack to limb the top of this tree and free our firewood! We also decided to break out some of the cast iron cookware and try our hand at cooking over the fire. The buttered popcorn was the best that I ever had! It’s a safe bet that the cast iron popcorn popper will be aboard for my next kayak camping trip!

Who am I kidding?? was all about staying warm!

Who am I kidding??…it was all about staying warm!

What is the craziest thing that I witnessed?

Hands down, the craziest thing that I saw occurred on my way to check on my grandmother during the second day of the storm. My sister and I got into the Jeep and somehow made it up to North Plymouth on barely-plowed roads without a tree or power lines falling on us. Along the way we saw a family sitting around a mini bonfire set directly on their second-story wooden porch. This, my friends, is the perfect recipe for burning your entire house down. There’s no way the fire department would have been able to get there very quickly with the roads in that shape. Thankfully, their house was still there the next day…

Setting a campfire on a wooden porch is a very bad idea. Thankfully this didn't happen to them...

Setting a campfire on a wooden porch is a very bad idea. Thankfully this didn’t happen to them…

What is the most troubling thing that I heard about?

My mother is a nurse at the local hospital and she had some pretty sad stories to share but this one really bothered me. Apparently, the emergency room was blitzed with all sorts of elderly folks looking for help and a place to stay warm. Many of them had called 911 because they started to get cold and had nowhere to go or no other way to get to a shelter.  Most were cold and hungry and some were out of critical medications and oxygen. It’s just sad. I assume that most of these people have neighbors or some sort of family that could have at least checked in on them periodically or offered to take them in for a few days. The fact that they had to get carted off to the hospital because they didn’t have a better place to go is straight-up neglectful, really. I’m just glad that they were able to find some warmth and compassion at the hospital.

What was the most inspirational thing that I witnessed?

My mother and I decided to go do some hunting and gathering for some staples on the morning of our third day without power. The store parking lot was a staging area for emergency crews and it was packed full of utility trucks from all over the place. I walked past a Hydro Quebec truck with two utility workers sleeping in the cab. A lot of people in the store were bitching and complaining about how long the power had been out. All you had to do was look at the faces of those utility workers to know how tired they were from traveling 100s of miles from home and busting their asses in terrible conditions for days on end to help us out. I wish that I had done something do show my appreciation for their hard work and, frankly, I’m ashamed that I didn’t.

Thanks to all of the utility workers for getting the power back on! (This photo was taken during Hurricane Sandy but the scene was the same.)

Thanks to all of the utility workers for getting the power back on! This photo was taken during Hurricane Sandy but the scene was the same during Snowpocalypse (plus some snow.)

What was I most surprised about?

I was most surprised about the outpouring of support and concern from neighbors and friends. It seems to me that the once strong sense of community around here has faded since my childhood with all of the new faces and changes in town. That’s why I was surprised to get so many phone calls from friends near and far who wanted to check up on us. Some even invited us over to their place for a warm shower or an evening with generator-supplied heat. Thanks, everyone, for caring so much and helping to reaffirm my faith in humanity…

-Kayak Dave

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