Sunday, March 16, 2014

-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...  



  1. Very interesting to read about your observations on this journey, keep up the good work.

  2. What insightfull comments about the third day. Great to see the menu and food choices. They look good!! Aw the warmth of a woman. Not likely to find one on the trail at those temperatures, but certainly in a tipi or yurt!! Too bad you didn't see the otter, you could have taken his fish for lunch.