Winter camping doesn’t need to be ambitious to be adventurous. Our trips are all 3 to 4 nights and are never very far from civilization. Yet we’ve had seven memorable years of winter shenanigans.
In all these previous years we did two things that make it significantly easier. 1) We did an out-and-back. It means on our way out we follow our own trail making it twice as fast. 2) Had a layover day. Which means staying at the same campsite for two nights. Considering the hours of work that goes into making a winter campsite, using the same one twice greatly eases the burden.
This year we didn’t do either of these things.
2019 turned out to be our most adventurous year yet.
These days we don’t plan our route in advance. So we got up to the cabin and pulled out the maps to decide where we would go the next day.
Will said “From the cabin, if we go west on the Kawishiwi…”
“Maybe we could get through this marsh.”
“And then we’d take this portage.”
And I said. “It could be like Angleworm. It could screw us.”
Will continued “But then we could take this road, which might not be maintained…”
“And on Google satellite, it looks like there might be a road or trail here…”
“And then we could close the loop and ski right back to the cabin!”
And I was like, “Or we could get screwed like the time we couldn’t close the loop in the summer and ended up having to run/hike/hitchhike ten miles in the heat with no water.”
But we went for it anyway. If we had to backtrack the whole loop in one day it would be painful, but probably possible.
Day one, everything went smoothly.
Day two felt long and tiring but we arrived at the marsh. We were cautiously optimistic. We discussed several options for tackling this unknown. While drying our feet that night I reviewed our game plan.
“We’ll drop the pulks at the last place we broke ground. Then you’ll break trail, but stay within sight of our pulks. Then we’ll go get the pulks and I’ll lead, giving you a rest. We’ll just inchworm our way through. If we get through, we have to start the next portage no later than 1pm to have a chance to make it through before dark so we don’t have to make camp on the portage like we did with Angleworm.”
Day three we were prepared to be disappointed. As we started Will said “Ok, into the fire swamp!”
At one point we thought we might have hit a wall and would be thwarted in our ambition. Not only did we survive the marsh but the portage turned out to be a piece of cake. We were now one day ahead of schedule!
Day four we were excited to close the loop! Everything was going well, until we couldn’t find the mystery trail that would bring us back to our home lake. Sadly we resolved to travel on Fernberg Road. It was only going to be a mile or so. We started trudging up a long slope. After what seemed like forever I complained,
“How are we still going up?”
Will replied “Yeah, I don’t remember driving on a hill this long.”
More forever passed…
“Who knew there was a 9,000 foot mountain to get to Lake Ojibway?”
Will – “14,000 feet… the air is getting thin…”
I whined “I think I’m dying. If it comes to it, who get’s to eat who to survive?”
Will – “I don’t know, you could probably live off of me for a long time.”
Fortunately, it didn’t come to cannibalism. Exhausted, we did get to the unplowed road back to our home lake. We did make it back to the cabin, although not without some cursing and frustration. We rewarded ourselves by driving into Ely for beer and burgers.
We took a day of rest.
And then like the crazy fools we are, did the whole loop in one day. Which was it’s own adventure.