Camping in the Cold

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Frigid temperatures doesn’t keep father, sons from enjoying Frozen Head

By Goose Lindsay

Last week’s weather was frightful for some, but for Tom McCanna and his sons, Jack and Joe, the frigid temperatures made for a great camping trip at Frozen Head State Park.

The McCannas made the trip to Morgan County from Birmingham, Ala. last Tuesday and stayed until Thursday.

“This is my fifth time here,” father Tom said. “This park was introduced to me by a Boy Scout troop and I just love this place. I love coming in the cold weather and seeing the frozen waterfalls, DeBord and Emory Gap.

“We love it here. There are not a lot of people here this time of year. I love the peace and quiet, the views, and the waterfalls.”

The McCannas are actually a family of seven with the remaining family members on separate adventures.

“These are experiences we like to give the boys each year,” Tom said. “We’re a family of seven and we have five boys.

My wife and two of my sons are in Wisconsin at a speech and debated tournament, and my eldest son is an Eagle Scout who is down in Florida with the Civil Air Patrol.”

While most people think camping at Frozen Head with temperatures in the single digits is borderline crazy, the McCannas say it’s all about being prepared.

“If you’re well prepared it’s not a big deal,” Tom said. “We have Scout troops up north that go out in minus 30 degrees. It’s obviously not that extreme here, but it’s just a lesson in being prepared.”

Being prepared means having gear designed for cold weather. The McCannas brought a total of 12 blankets for the trip.

“We had blankets in our bags and underneath us,” Tom said. “It’s critical that you don’t let that heat escape down into the ground. We had good air mattresses that are insulated as well. Then we put two blankets on top of us, we wear two hats, and we have long johns underneath. I was really hot in my rig.”

Tom McCanna did say there is a limit to what he would do by himself with his sons when it comes to cold weather.

“When it gets subzero I would start to get concerned,” he said. “You get into that temperature and the margin for error is very narrow and you really need more than one adult. I’m a single adult up here with two young boys. We spent an hour going over the park map so they know how to get to the ranger’s residence in case something happened.”

The McCannas will be going on more trips this year that will be part of the Boy Scouts. One trip might be back to Frozen Head. 

“We’re going to Northern Tier, which is a canoe base in Ely, Minn. this summer with our Scout troop,” Tom said. “We have another cold weather adventure coming up with our Scout troop this month. We’ll either come here or go to the Smokies.”

Tom McCanna also had high praise for the staff at Frozen Head, saying they do their best to make sure people are prepared for an adventure such as theirs.

“The staff here is also really nice,” he said. “I always call ahead and talk to the rangers to get park information. You want to find out about the trails, get park conditions, and find out if there is ice on the roads before you head here.

“Ranger Joe was super friendly when I talked with him on the phone. He then met us here Tuesday evening to make sure we were ready. They’ve had to pull people out of here who were not properly prepared.”