Friday, May 23, 2014

Insight Of A Sober Mind... (My Year With NO Beer)

September 18, 2013:

*Affirmation & Intentions-  Today is my 29th birthday.. I Ryan Holt (Yukon) will not consume or alter my conscious state by the use of alcohol or substance for one year. For the challenge, for clarity, for focus, for the will of my own mind, why not & because I said I would. I will not fail myself.  

Nearing the end of what I consider to be the most enlightening two years of this 29 year journey, my entire being has rediscovered its purpose and place. Over the course of this transformation I have reached levels of peace and happiness which I never fathomed to be obtainable. 

So why was I still numbing periods of my existence? Why was I robbing myself of my highest potential? Why was I continuing to dull my experience with foggy memories, hangovers and pulling myself together? Not to mention the toll it takes on ones physical being..

My choice to become sober for a year had nothing to do with a drinking "problem" per say. My consumption as of late is far more under control than it was when I returned from war but I still consume my fair share on weekends. Recently I found myself asking why? Why do we begin drinking from a fairly young age until the day we die without ever stopping long enough to experience who we truly are? I honestly couldn't come up with an answer.. Just because? It's my routine on many occasions and a weekly/daily routine for most. The only "problem" now, was there seemed to be something yet which I had not learned, even at these levels I discovered. Something was holding me back from a greater understanding, I could just feel it. I wanted to experience this existence, this newly ascertained peace and happiness, free from anything that would bring me down even the slightest. life in it's purest form. So, I made a vow to myself giving up all substances for one year until my 30th birthday. 

Today is May 23, 2014 - I am currently 9 months into this year of sobriety and I wanted to share some of the valuable wisdom I have attained thus far. 


Only a month or so into my cleanse and the very first notable change happened from within. The overcast which I felt before had been lifted. There was a sense of brightness and certainty in everything I was seeing and feeling. Not only did the world around me have a crisp likeness, my thoughts were sharp and true. My mind was clear and free to fully embrace living in each moment. I could articulate and visualize the exactness of my life's purpose with zero doubt as to how it will all come together. This is also the time when I began writing, when I felt ready to share my journey with the online world.. I bet I was 8 years old the last time I experienced this level of clarity. It was so refreshing as a light shed itself on everything and I mean EVERYTHING.

     5 Senses       

 My senses seemed to have enhanced 10 fold! There was a heightened awareness in all areas but most noticeably my sense of sight, taste and smell. My vision has always been 20/15, I've never worn glasses or contacts but here I'm speaking of a different kind of "seeing." My observed surroundings became exceptionally vivid. There was a flawless, unaltered beauty in all things, all the time. The flavors in foods; saltiness, bitterness, sweets, spices, each so very distinguished. I especially enjoyed succulent fruits, the texture, smell, juiciness and a deep appreciation of where it came from. I became much more cautious and aware of what I was putting into my body from the outside world, where it came from and what it contained. How was it going to benefit my body or if it would harm me in any way. I noticed I began lifting my nose up in the air, sniffing a few times as I picked up on the tiniest hints of unquestionable odors; pungent, fragrant, chemical, earthy, sweet and alluring aromas. 


My body followed my mind into a permanent state of happiness. I stopped becoming bloated and puffy as my body no longer retained water from dehydration and too much sodium after indulging in "the munchies." I started maintaining a steady weight with little effort, I felt strong and rejuvenated all the time! Without me willfully poisoning it, my body was functioning properly, how the human body was perfectly designed to operate. If you drink (any amount of alcohol) say, twice a week, you are spending 1/3 of your life intoxicated at some level, under an altered state of being. You are also spending another 1/3 of your life feeling its effects and recovering from the days you drank "working off those pounds." The other 1/3 of your life is spent planning, preparing and looking forward to beginning this cycle all over again. After we make the choice to consume alcohol as part of our weekly routine, we cheat ourselves out of our ultimate potential. The sad truth is most will never experience what their pure state of being feels like, what it can offer and bring to light. 


This was undoubtedly a wonderful positive to cutting alcohol out of my routine. Going out to dinner, a $15 meal used to cost me $30 - $40 with drinks and the tip (adds up quick). I instantly had more money to save. The money I have spent over the last nine months has been on priceless experiences, quality gear or tools and on things that will only benefit myself and others for the greater good. My wallet had become as happy as my body and mind haha. All too often we pay for this meaningless experience of drinking in many forms; with our money, our relationships, our families, our dignity, our self-worth and even with our lives.   

Why can't I & Why not?

Before I made the choice to fully embrace this challenge, I was often asking myself "Why can't I have self-courage without liquid courage?" "Why can't I sing karaoke sober?" "Why can't I go out for a night on the town sober?" "Why can't I celebrate birthdays and holidays sober?" Why can't I go to concerts and music festivals sober and dance my heart out sober?" "Why can't I just be me in all the things I do and see?" So, in the last nine months I have done ALL these things completely sober! And I've had so much fun being me, experiencing these joys in life without altering anything for what it is. The average life span is somewhere between the ages of 70 & 80 years old. Relatively, looking at the BIG picture we are here for such an incredibly short amount of time. We are nothing more than a blink of an eye as this universe goes round. Why not give up poisoning yourself for a small portion of your existence and just see what happens. Try it for a year or six months or 100 days. Just say, "Why can't I?" "Why not?" See what it feels like, find out if there is more to you than you ever knew.   


I cannot express to you enough these truths, this insight I have attained by making the choice to find deeper meaning within myself and within the world around me at its purest level. This is absolutely something you must experience for yourself to truly understand what I have shared. I'm not sharing this for people with a "drinking problem", this is for everyone who consumes alcohol, substances or anyone who has anything negative which takes up too much space in their lives. Only you can make the decision to break your routine, give it a chance. I guarantee 100% that only good can come from exploring this choice. If anyone should choose to test the will of their own minds and take on a similar challenge, my advice is this. Don't say you're going to "try" to give it up. The moment you use the word "try" you are setting yourself up for failure. "Try", puts doubt into what you are ultimately wanting to achieve. Set your goal, set your intentions and do it because you said you would, do it for yourself so you may do more for others. This is one challenge that has zero negative effects and can only make you stronger. How wicked awesome it that!! 

Here are a few experiences from others who have shared their story and the enlightenment which followed. Notice the common insights and messages received in each persons process :)

~100 days. No Alcohol. 30 Lessons   By: Rebecca Watson
~A year without alcohol. 7 things I learned   By: Kelly Fitzgerald   

I hope this message find you well and if anyone should have any questions about what I have shared please do not hesitate to message me. I would happily expand more on my experience.

Much Love, Yukon :)  




Wednesday, April 23, 2014

-Boundary Water Expedition Day #9

*The Best/Worst Day*

February 26, 2014:

         To put it nicely, lets just say today was a personal challenge at its best...

          For the first time since my Marine Corps. years of experience, I was tested physically and mentally throughout today's events which certainly pushed my limits. Far beyond the capabilities of my inadequate snowshoes I trudged through the deepest snow yet, easily expending 3x the amount of energy as the rest of the group. For the better part of today I struggled through more than a foot and a half of overflow along multiple stretches across Lake Annie, Lake Eddy and Lake Jenny making for one frustrating, cursing day. My feet would punch right through the top layer of snow and I found myself stuck up to my knees again and again in this soupy mess. Every step forward was dreadful and discouraging so I had to dig deep in order to lift each foot out of these slush pits. Air temperatures were well below -25 degrees causing more than twenty pounds of this mess to nearly freeze to my legs and snowshoes instantly. I'd have to wait a few moments for it to become completely frozen so I could break it off as solid ice. My toboggan would then sink into the path I had just created, stopping me dead in my tracks. The icy slop would immediately freeze to the bottom, making it impossible for one person to budge. Three of us had to harness ourselves to my sled and give it everything we had to pull it from the swampy terrain. The one hundred twenty pound sled would then have to be turned over on its side each time, allowing the slush to freeze completely so I could chip it all off and it could once again glide freely on top of the snow. I was in shambles and may have let it be known once or twice through my actions however I did not let it get the best of me. At times I wanted so badly to just say, "Screw it I'm done!" but that thought was clearly not an option out here in the middle of sub-zero nowhere.. Every so often I would just sit down and stop what I was doing. I would breath deep and exhale slowly, remembering my place and purpose out here among this vast wilderness. I'd begin to admire the wind whipping up whirls of fine snow and the sound it made across the landscape. I'd notice the contours of evergreens climbing the rocky slopes that surrounded me, getting lost in the connection to it all and surrendering myself to the silence. I would then close my eyes, take another deep breath, smile and give thanks for everything this experience is teaching me before pushing forward another 50ft. This is exactly the challenge I was looking for, with a reward greater than any material offering. I honestly believe the foundation and wisdom attained in all previous years of my life directly reflected on accomplishing the inward struggle of today's obstacles. I live in each moment, for it's the only thing we can truly be sure of and I'm forever grateful for this opportunity we call living. 

      For dinner I made a garlic & butter and a pesto & butter bannock which melted in our mouths. After all, a hot, savory meal will lift anyone spirits following such a challenging day. Then put them immediately to sleep.. Zzzzzzz....       


Monday, April 14, 2014

-Boundary Waters Expedition Day #8

*It's Not Delivery*

February 25, 2014:

  The Sun will always rise  
      With a full week of this journey behind us, our rhythm and routine has definitely become well established. Like clockwork each of us knows exactly what must get done in the mornings and in the evenings to keep things flowing smooth and efficient. My body is really beginning to feel the effects of this strenuous expedition. With zero days of rest up to this point, aches and pains are shooting through my back, thighs, knees, all over actually. Although tolerable, it's a challenge to block it out of my mind.. A day of rest soon is much needed, I think we all could benefit mentally and physically from some down time to relax and sleep a day away. 

       Today was our coldest day to date with wind chill temperatures nearing -35 degrees.The head wind was fierce as we hiked the length of Ogishkemuncie Lake and strolled over our shortest portage through the woods to Lake Annie.
Icicle Beard
A series of smaller lakes lay ahead, meaning deeper snow and possible overflow but less wind. The size of each lake definitely has it's pros and cons. Overflow: Is when there is so much snow on a lake that the weight of it all is pushing the ice down, forcing the water below the ice to flood on top (usually near the shoreline). This makes for a foot or more of icy cold, wet slush that settles between the ice and the multiple feet of snow above it. The snow above it acts as an insulator so this "overflow" does not freeze even in the sub-zero temps. Today seemed to go by quickly and we made our home on the ice close to the shores of Lake Annie (most often we live on the ice as it's too difficult to find space in the woods each night to camp on land). The ice hole we chiseled was gushing like an open fire hydrant all night (too much pressure from the tons of snow). This was causing the snow to settle again and again as the overflow made its way from the ice hole to our camp, whuump... whump.. each time we would drop down a few inches with the snow pack and look at one another wide eyed, I did my best to ignore it. For dinner I made bannock pizzas! One was made with tomato paste, Wisconsin cheese and crumbled bacon; Second one was made with, melted butter, garlic paste, cheese and bacon. All it took was a little creativity and it truly was perfection when we all indulged. In these moments, this pizza outdoes any other I have ever had. Seriously, what more do we need...? I "need" nothing more out here for this experience of ultimate freedom, peace and happiness.

Cooking with Yukon
Cheese & Bacon Pizza!!

Thursday, April 10, 2014


"If I could ask you to remember one thing about me when I come to die... It's, that I lived."


Monday, April 7, 2014

-Boundary Water Expedition Day #7


February 24, 2014:

      Tucked away along the shores of Lake Jasper we continued our trek West into the cold and blistery winds of another day with temperatures around -20. It wasn't long before we came to yet another portage connecting us to the smallest body of frozen water we have encountered, Kingfisher Lake. Thankfully this one would not take our entire day to navigate. The Boundary Waters consists of more than 1,000 lakes and another 1,500 lakes to our North as the wilderness flows into Canada. Tens of thousands of islands, big and small accompany these lakes spread over three thousand square miles. Kingfisher Lake had only one island and it was tiny, fitting for a lake of its size. The inlet of this lake was fed by a fairly large river and poured into the most serene pool of open waters before greeting the rest of Kingfisher. We kind of stumbled upon this hidden cove, completely secluded with zero wind due to greater elevation on all sides and the suns beaming rays settled over everything it touched. Almost like a Winter mirage, a paradise that seemed to have magic in its presence
and had been waiting for us to surrender in its warm stillness. It's been days since I have felt the suns warmth on my face like I did in those few moments. To add to the beauty of this space, a family of chickadees were dancing about above us, perched on the ice in front of us at the open waters edge and clearly soaking up the suns glimmer just as we were. Nothing like a bird song to break some of this silence out here and they surly weren't holding back. "It's the little things in life, there's nothing bigger." 

            We packed a quarter mile trail over the next portage and hauled our gear through the woods to Ogishkemuncie Lake. It's was a pleasant stroll compared to our five hour bushwhack yesterday and enjoyed one of the most gorgeous lunch spots yet. We sat high up on the banking of the connecting river and nibbled on some fruit cake, peanuts and cheese getting lost once again in the sights that surrounded us. Our 7th camp site "home" was established about one mile down Ogishkemuncie on the North shore. For dinner one of the guys made rice and lentils with re-hydrated veggies and venison. I shoveled it down and am anxious to close up this sleeping bag...         
"If you wish to know the divine, feel the wind on your face and the warm sun on your hand."

Saturday, March 29, 2014

-Boundary Waters Expedition Day #6

*The One Mile Day*

February 23, 2014:

            My biological clock has now taken effect after almost a week out here. 0600 give or take a minute or two and I'm wide awake. For at least another 15 minutes or so I lay there preparing myself for the sound my sleeping bags zipper makes, exposing my warm body to the bite of -20 degrees. 
My bed & Fire food
It doesn't take long to come to full consciousness.. Quickly I begin snapping sticks for a decent bundle to place in the stove and with a small piece of birch bark I've got instant flames. Within minutes as the tent warms I can no longer see my breath and it's a comfortable 70+ degrees. It's great not having to "pick out what your going to wear ." Every morning, in order: top base layer,  wool socks, wool pants, wool long sleeve shirt, suspenders, wind break parka, mukluks, gators, wool gloves and rabbit fur hat. Before packing, my frosty mummy bag must be dried out beside the molten hot steel box stove, personal gear is then ready and staged beside my toboggan. Following a bowl of hot oats and the disassembling of group gear, I pack both tents, a box of food and personal gear onto my sled. Everything is double checked, nothings left behind, give the fastening straps one last hard pull and off we go to experience yet another beautiful day.

         We bushwhacked and traversed 1 mile through the forest, breaking our own trail up steep elevation, fighting 4+ feet of snow and clearing debris to make way for our toboggans. As we skirted the banks of this beautiful river connecting the two lakes, I would sit on my gear from time to time for a moments rest. The sound of a free stone flowing river and it's constant babble is like getting lost in the flames of a flickering fire or consumed in the view from high peaks. It's always changing, never losing its magic, no one moment is the same as the next and you're completely in it. Natures television at its finest..
"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it."
              We had thought we were free and clear of open waters and made our way back onto the ice to get around the last point of the inlet. Paul took lead with the ice chisel in hand, poking his way forward to make sure the ice was safe. No more than 100 yards along the narrow and just as Paul was rounding the point, he speared the ice to his left and the chisel broke through on impact. "Well, it's pretty thin here guys" he said. "No more than two inches." The shoreline was about six feet to his right so he turned and poked at the ice, once again busting right through. Shattering a good portion this time,
A very close call..
his right foot slowly began to sink.. "Paul, get out of there, back up towards us" I said. Almost in a whisper as if my voice would cause him to plunge in to the frigid waters. He inched his way backwards as the ice gave way. It was a tense moment for sure and an enormous sigh of relief when he was clear of the paper thin ice. "Better find another way" Paul said. We were all in agreement. Another hour went by as we packed yet another trail over land and onto the open terrain of Lake Jasper. We've only traveled one mile today and it's taken us a little over five hours (that's not a typo). Five hours to move A mile and we are too exhausted for this 20mph head wind, so the very first cove sheltered from the North would be our home for the night.

          To accompany our dinner, I made another cinnamon raisin bannock for the guys but this time it was topped with a heavy, melted chocolate drizzle. The drizz was created with hot water, whole powdered milk, chocolate bar chunks, cocoa mix and butter liquefied to perfection over the fire. Again, a complete experiment that turned out to be unbelievably tasty. What a delicious treat, we might as well be kings out here! The richest men in all the land... Goodnight.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

-Boundary Waters Expedition Day #5

*Point Man*

February 22, 2014:

           Temperatures had fallen into the negatives over night as a cold front moved in from the Northwest. My -20 degree mummy bag had a ring of frost around the opening where my face peaks out, created from the moisture in my breath while I slept. Setting out to cross Alpine Lake it was -5 degrees with a wind chill of -20 or more. The winds were a steady 30mph, never had I endured such conditions. This is the kind of stuff I've only read about or watched in documentaries as explorers venture to barren landscapes of the Arctic or Antarctic. Somehow I couldn't help but smile knowing I'm actually living it. On days like this I often question how I got here.. My thoughts drifted to my tours overseas, the challenges, the close calls, my brothers who paid the ultimate sacrifice so I could live in this very moment. I felt so fortunate having been given this opportunity and to become part of such a wicked experience not many others will ever witness.

A Very Heavy Head Wind
For a good portion of the day I took lead, packing the trail for those behind me. There was a decent snow pack in the center of Alpine so it was "easier" for my snowshoes to float closer to the surface. Being up front is the most wild place to be, just the landscape for your eyes to consume while pulling a hundred pound sled and navigating using only map & compass. At the age of 19, I was the point man through much of my tour in Afghanistan, traversing the mountains along the Pakistan border and paving the way for 100+ Marines behind me. A lot of confidence went into a kid choosing the best possible route for such a large group 
(either that or they just didn't like me very much) I suppose I would have been the first one to encounter numerous bad scenarios but I loved being point
man. Looking back, it was an enormous amount of responsibility and I felt it to be an honor having been placed in such a position... But here I don't have to look over my shoulder where the lake only resembles a wide spread of sand dunes, wind gusts piling up snow into large mounds and carving out sculptures in the hard packed formations.
Wind Carving
 The snow so dry, it even sounded like sand being carried and blown across a desert floor. Surely it was a tough day but my adrenaline was pumping, keeping one foot in front of the other for a nice rhythmic pace. Our day of fighting heavy winds and dodging crazy snow drifts came to an end at the mouth of a river connecting Alpine with Jasper Lake. This is where we must portage a half mile through the forest and looking like some steep elevation to navigate too, as we are losing daylight this obstacle will have to wait until morning. We've got our routine of setting up tents, stoves, chipping the ice hole, cutting and splitting wood down to just under 2 hours. Then of course we must boil water and cook dinner, so I'm exhausted at this point. With got a full belly I'm encapsulated in a thick layer of down feathers, my eyes are drifting and it's time for this guy to get some rest...


3 Year Beard

Nearing the end of my "Return of Saturn" I have come full circle. The transformation over these last few years has been enlightening to say the least...I'm feeling complete and whole, with a fresh sense of motivation and excitement for the beginning of my next decade in this life. Check out "The Human-Nature Hostel" tab to see where I'm going with all of this :)


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

-Boundary Waters Expedition Day #4


February 21, 2014:

Red Rock Lake
My Toboggan
       More than 10 inches of snow covered the ground as we continued our morning routine, firing up the wood stoves for a hot breakfast prior to packing and disassembling camp. The snow would continue to fall for the better part of our days hike in nearly whiteout conditions. The shorelines barely visible, a feeling of absolute wild came over me. In all the months prior to this expedition it never even occurred to me the magnitude of what we were actually setting out to do. I guess it's conditions dependent that really sets the level of difficulty and the conditions we're being tested with are easily the toughest out of all possibilities. I mean, we are out here! This is by far the deepest, most remote location I have ever been in the wilderness. More than 50 miles from any person, road or hint of civilization and unplugged from all material connections. This new feeling really sunk in throughout the day, paving our own path in deep, powdery snow. I trudged along, battling heavy, steady winds from the North making the snow fly almost directly horizontal. Where am I? The Arctic? Perhaps another Planet? I was letting myself get lost in these wild moments, how awesome! This experience brings "epic" to a whole other level in my life and the further we hike, the more connected and aware I become. Don't be mistaken. I am not out here "surviving", this is not reality television, there is no cash prize or reward, these are not "skills" I'm acquiring. It's a way of life and I'm out here living...I'm remembering a forgotten way, the basics of a living man and the relationship to his home. Once you remember, there is no forgetting and no going back.

Snow Blurr
     We made it to the end of Red Rock Lake where we had a quarter mile portage through the woods to the shores of Alpine Lake. The snow was at its deepest yet as we packed a trail prior to lugging our toboggans. Untouched by heavy winds the forest floor is drastically more challenging compared to lake crossings. Once on Alpine we ate lunch under a few grandfather pines, sheltered from the early afternoon winds and snowfall. Our energy level was collectively low after this mornings pull so an early day it is and our new home location was decided. It's pretty amazing how quickly each camp feels like home. Although it may take a few hours each day following a strenuous hike, once settled between the canvas walls with a stack of fire wood cut and split, there is no greater feeling of accomplishment and comfort. This evening I made dessert for the group, a cinnamon raisin bannock. Bannock is a quick bread with just a few simple ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, water and of course, your creative mind. I added LOTS of cinnamon and raisins, the tent smelled of a local bakery in the morning after dozens of fresh pastries have been displayed behind glass. To top it off, I melted down a quarter pound of butter and slowly added brown sugar forming the perfect drizzle topping consistency. Every bite summoned a smile with closed eyes and sounds of deliciousness filled our 9x11ft humble abode. Mmmm....mmm.. the universe is so good to us :)       

Good Morning


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Transcending The Beard...

(EXCLAIMER:  I do not watch "Duck Dynasty", I do not follow the Red Sox, I would never wait til November each year if I didn't want to shave for a month, I love the people I meet at beard competitions but I'm not there to win and I am not "cool" or "the man" because I made the choice not to shave)   

       A few years back when I was discharged from the Marines my intentions were not to grow a beard. I had shaved every single day, sometimes forced to shave twice a day for the previous 8 years. Simply put, I just didn't want to pick up or purchase another razor ever again and the beard began to leap from my face...

   You could say it was a rebellious act. I wanted to walk a path completely opposite from the unfathomable reality I had just endured for so long. I had an idea and pursued it with a sense of grandeur.  Not once did I looked back and as my beard grew, so did I. Never having been off the East coast I traveled 12k miles around country with no plan but to witness these lands I had been "protecting." Then came the Appalachian trail, hiking 2,184 miles over mountains from Georgia to Maine. My journey spiraled from there, volunteering at a tree house hostel in GA, making 64k pounds of honey in the orange groves of Florida, spending a summer in my tipi on 40 acres of land I just purchased deep in the Southwestern Maine mountains, living a wilderness education in Northern Maine and undertaking a truly wild snowshoe expedition on the border of Canada and Minnesota. These recent few years feel as if decades have passed...

 Upon my discharge I had no idea where I was going in life. Rather lost in this existence but I had a positive attitude, keeping my heart open and always smiling. Never did I say No to a new opportunity and I met thousands of wonderful, beautiful, inspiring beings along the way. Connecting with the natural world and all the people my path had crossed was astronomical to my physical, mental and spiritual growth in ways I never knew possible.


This is what my beard became a reminder of. A symbol of all the places, people, freedom, happiness, peace and enlightenment I had been awoken to. A new direction in truth and love discovered, budding from a time when I gave up the razor. I almost can't even comprehend my life before the beard.


I am not my beard. The beard does not define who I am. I know who I am, I am ME, I am aware and live by the natural order I know to be true. I no longer need this symbol on my face as a reminder, all I have discovered is within me.
I have transcended the beard...     

(Well, this beard anyhow)

Red Woods
Just Bee
AT 2012
Petrified Natl' Forest

Painted Desert
A living Education
Tipi Life
Winter Expedition
Rock Climbing Garden of the Gods
Sequoia Natl' Park
Grand canyon
First look at Pacific ocean


Niagara Falls

Salvation Mountain
RIP: Lenard Knight

Vegas! Eeek!

Crazy Horse
This Guy?
Grand Tetons

-Boundary Waters Expedition Day #3

*It Otter-Be*

February 20, 2014:

Wool, wool  & more wool
          We set out from camp this morning with a heavy tail wind. One of the more challenging daily battles we face out here is regulating our body temperature in such conditions. For 5 - 6 hours each day we pull more than a hundred pounds through deep snow fall and sweating can be very bad on the good/bad scale. You'll never be as cozy & warm as if you were laying upon pillows & quilts by the crackling fire in a log cabin sipping on something hot while reading an adventure memoir or cuddled with the soft company of a woman (even though my mind may often wander there), so the idea is to be "comfortably cold." Even when the temps are far below zero, I'm usually wearing only a pair of wool pants and a long 
sleeve wool shirt with a base layer. Always prepared for lunch or a moments rest I have extra layers on standby secured under the straps of my toboggan. My jackets, hats and gloves come on and off many times through out the day so I keep them easily accessible to regulate an ideal body temperature. The wind can be unforgiving with improper clothing so I also use a very light weight shell jacket that virtually cuts the wind completely. It's all part of the routine out here, never neglect the smallest detail with gear, body and mind, it can go from good to bad like water goes from a liquid to a solid at -50.        

Entering Red Rock Lake
       The day moved along briskly as we hiked 4 miles west, maneuvering over our first portage from Lake Saganaga to Red Rock Lake. A "portage" connects one lake to the next, usually by stream, river or simply a path through the woods. Some are 50 yards, others could be a mile or more and there's often the danger of open waters or thin ice in the Winter. These portions of our trek can be time consuming and difficult to navigate. With the lack of heavy winds in the forest we must break trail through snow twice as deep and traverse slopes of steep elevation. We leave our gear behind so we may navigate our way, pack the snow and clear debris. Having to walk back to retrieve our sleds makes each portage 3x the distance and energy expended, but there's a sense of wonder in the woods, so I find these passages to be visually stimulating and exciting. This particular portage was minor compared to some we will encounter, with open waters flowing into Saganaga we had to bushwhack through only a small stand of trees to get to Red Rock. An Otter hole greeted us just on the other side with tracks and marks of his belly glides coming and going. I was hoping to see Mr. Otter pop out onto the ice while we stood there admiring his path. The first sign of life among us brought a glow and chatter to the group, so simple, so awesome.
An Otters Creation

       A few hundred yards down the shores of Red Rock Lake we found a nice nook to construct our home. These tall trees and elevation in terrain should give us more shelter as an expected snow storm and high winds from the North closes in. It's not too late into the night as I lay here writing of today's events and the snow has already begun to flurry...  


Friday, March 14, 2014

-Boundary Waters Expedition Day #2

*Little Foot*

February 19, 2014:

           February 19th, today is my fathers birthday. Fortunately I was able to give him my best wishes a few days ago while in transit from Maine but it sure would be nice to spend time with him, share some of the day or maybe a few laughs. Many qualities in my father that I try to emulate, he'll always be a hero to me. Lots to celebrate when I return, sending warm thoughts your way. I love you Dad, Happy birthday.


        Started my day off with a hot bowl of oats, dried cranberries, whole powdered milk and butter. One of the best oatmeal breakfasts I've had on trail and I've been on many trails, I think it was the "whole" powdered milk that really tied it together. We've allotted roughly 4,000 calories each day per person, giving ourselves many options and combinations to be creative with. A tasty, hot meal can make or break an exhausting day. In  these conditions, our furnace is constantly running on high, even while sleeping our bodies will expend energy heating each breath we take in.

Dried fruits:  Bananas, apples, strawberries, cranberries, raisins, apricots and pineapple.

Dried veggies:  Green beans, sweet corn, broccoli, parsnips, carrots, green peppers, peas, onions, potatoes and squash.

Meats:  Venison jerky, eye-round jerky, pepperoni links and bacon.

Other:  Pasta, rice, lentils, cheese, nuts, fruit cake, cookie product, oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, spices, powders eggs, powdered milk, 1/2lb butter per day, tea, coffee, coco, brownie mix and 11 pounds of chocolate..

           Our camp consists of two canvas "snowtrekker" tents and two steal box stoves, all weighing roughly 20lbs a piece. After breakfast, camp was then disassembled and packed onto our Black River Sleds. I'm carrying both tents, a 25lb box of food and personal gear (axe, saw, sleeping system, clothes, miscellaneous items.) I like my gear to be squared away, organized, a tight sled, cinched down and wrapped up like a burrito. Attention to detail and taking pride in the smallest things is an acquired skill drilled into me from my years in the Marine Corp. which has proven to be very beneficial to my later years. Failure to pay attention could come at great cost in a place like this.

      It was oddly warm today at 20 degrees as we hiked 5 miles West on Lake Saganaga. Warm weather is unwelcome on an expedition such as this, too warm means snow melt, getting wet, harder pulling, sweating and then freezing as the sun goes down. Right around 5 degrees or less is ideal. Cold, dry air means exactly that, you're cold but dry (that's what layers are for.) I have no doubt the weather is soon to show us some extremes... Over the course of the day I quickly realized my choice of snowshoes was going to be a huge burden on me. The only one among the group with "modern" snowshoes, size 930 and fitting for me on the sizing scale but I do believe that is the recommendation for backyard, look at me, packed trail recreation. We are not out here for recreation, packing our own trail through 3-4 feet of snow and looking to cover some wild terrain over many miles, this is going to be quite the obstacle for me. The other fellas, using a traditional style snowshoe (2x the size of my bear paws) float much higher on the snow pack making the exertion of energy far less than mine. There is not nearly enough float in each of my steps causing me to sink way too deep when breaking trail and even breaking my own trail when walking in their trail.. Ahh, this is frustrating, exhausting and a bit disappointing for day two. I'm a leader by nature but there is no leading this pack when I can't contribute to packing a trail for any measurable distance. No sense in getting too wrapped up on the delema because there is nothing I can do about the situation besides make the best of it. Looks like I'll have to harness my inner Marine and suck it up. I've pushed myself and been pushed through some pretty tough times, definitely not going to let a little extra hard work get me down. It's going to be a physical/mental challenge at its best and I love challenging myself, so this should keep things interesting. Here's a good comparison photo of one of my shoes to Pauls traditional---

         Before nightfall we constructed our home for the second night, this time just off the shore of "Long Island" on Saganaga. I'm really looking forward to some restful sleep upon my snow bed...