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."