"I camp to see the world as it is. The world is different in the winter," he says. "It's a challenge, but to get out there and not only survive but enjoy yourself is pretty cool." On his winter camp-outs in this region, he's seen wildlife such as great blue herons and wild turkeys (not the kind that comes in a bottle). The blue heron, he says, "looks like a dinosaur. It's the most amazing thing."
Hoober leads campers backpacking in a circuitous route so they end up pitching their tents near their cars. "That way," he explains, "if it starts freezing rain or something, they can bail out." But that precaution tends to be unnecessary. "If it's really cold, you're either walking or you're in the tent. But otherwise, you start a campfire and you sit around and talk. It's really a lot of fun."
Since Sierra Club members are more than willing to lend tents and other basics, a lack of camping gear shouldn't be a deterrent. "It's not whether you can do it, but whether you like it," Hoober says. "If you can walk, you can camp." Campers need to pay attention to how they dress, though. "You want to dress exactly the opposite of how you think a camper should dress," he says. Jeans, sweats and cotton lose all ability to keep you warm if they get wet. Hoober recommends wool, nylon, fleece and silk long underwear.
Most of the time, however, campers aren't worrying about hypothermia; they're out hiking or sitting around camp, trapping body heat in sleeping bags. "That's when we tell those stories about the hard times we've had, when we almost died -- at least in the retelling," Hoober says with a chuckle. Once, a friend of Hoober's approached a moose standing in front of her calf. "You don't get near a mother moose protecting her young," he says. "We discussed who would stay with his remains and who would get help, but as it turns out, she kind of ambled away and nobody had to tell his wife he'd been eaten by a moose."
This trip isn't the easiest introduction to camping, but people with enough experience to know that they like to camp should fare well. And the Sierra Club offers enough trips throughout the year that campers with cold feet can give the whole outdoorsy thing a try under less hostile weather conditions. Hoober, for one, knows what it feels like to have cold feet -- but only when his sleeping bag isn't zipped at the bottom.