hike6

2019 #hike6 - Northern Minnesota (#52hikechallenge)

“I lost my snowshoe!” - Me


Quick Stats

Date: Sunday, February 8-10, 2019

Location: Cook County Minnesota

Distance: 3.5 miles (there and back)

Trails: McFarland Lake

Miles from Home: 1,284

Weather: Sunny, windy, below zero

Equipment: Apple Watch, iPhone, Google Pixel, Olympus TG-5, Redfeather Snowshoes (most of the way)


Trail from the truck to the lake

McFarland Lake

McFarland Lake

Highlights

  • Not a soul for miles

  • No cell service

  • Plenty of fresh air

  • Miles from civilization

  • Blue sky and fresh snow

The hill up to the cabin

Low Points

  • Lost my snowshoe

  • Had to go the last 1/2 mile frozen

  • Could have brought more beer

This hike is an annual favorite because it is necessary to get to my favorite place - a remote cabin only accessible by lake or woods. This is the third annual trek across the lake to spend a weekend at the cabin during the winter. In previous years, see THIS and THIS, it was a good time but mostly an uneventful snowshoe or walk.

Third time’s the charm, as they say, for surprises in this case. According to the locals, and us, it was a real Minnesota winter for once and there was a lot of snow and ice to prove it. The week prior to the trip a fresh foot or more was dumped and for weeks before the temp hovered at 0 or below. We knew we’d have solid ice to trek across and probably need our snowshoes because there would be a lot more snow than we’re used to. We were right. there was a lot of snow on the lake. There was a lot of snow everywhere. The day before we made our journey, even more fresh snow fell on the already fresher than fresh snow. The weather in Minnesota was so wintry that our flight was delayed until the storm passed.

All that snow led to a fluffy snowshoe across the lake, post storm and with plenty of sun. We were not even a third of the way across the lake to the cabin landing and I broke through the crusty upper snow and hit nearly knee deep slush. It was as if I broke through ice, but thankfully it was just a ton of slush on the ice. We were on one of the deepest areas of the lake, where we were warned of slush, but we figured this year would be FINE with all the cold and snow. Well, we were wrong. I was wet. Both legs in knee deep slush, hands trying to get the sled back and also find my snowshoe and then my friend Kevin tried and also got wet. We had to basically army crawl to more solid snow and make our way toward the shoreline instead of directly across. We were now literally frozen and the wind was whipping making it a negative something or other real-feel temperature. We had two options - carry on and get up to the cabin to build a fire or go back to the truck and call the weekend off. I was pissy, sweaty, and very cold. BUT, my wool socks and boot liners were doing their best and my snowpants kept my baselayer from getting wet so we pushed on. It was solid ground and only minor postholing the rest of the way. Once to the where the landing is, we had to hike up a hill to the cabin. This hill, on a non-winter day, can be tough with all your gear and whatever but today it was covered in about three feet of snow. The climb up was a challenge, but honestly seemed much funnier to me than falling into slush on the ice. We took a break, regrouped, and got everything up the hardest part oft he hill and then on to the cabin.

When we entered the cabin, it was 5 degrees Fahrenheit, and we quickly built a fire and brought all the goods in. We changed out of our wet clothes and put on dry socks and normal shoes and planted our feet right by that woodstove for a couple of hours. Beers were had, dinner was stewed on the stove, and board games were played. This went on for the next 24 hours as did the drying of our wet boots and clothes. All in all, we had the cabin up to 70-80 degrees by bed time on the first night and kept it there most of the time. By the second night, well into the darkness, my boots were FINALLY dry after being near the fire for over 24 hours. By the third day, we were not quite ready to leave but did before dark just in case we ran into more slush. We stuck to the edge of the lake and had no real issues other than me NOT having snowshoes anymore. It was okay, for most of it, until the drifts near the trail back to the truck. I was in waist deep snow for about 100 yards, not the worst thing that happened all weekend. We had three sunny days, beautiful scenery, and plenty of beer and board games.

I can’t wait to get back next year - with new snowshoes and sticking close to the known path along the edge.

View of the cabin

View from the cabin down the path back to the lake, at sunrise


Before & After

#hike6 - Cedar Ridge Preserve

Date: February 10, 2018

Location: Cedar Ridge Preserve - Dallas, Texas

Distance: 6 miles

Trails: Cattail Pond to Cedar Brake to Cattail Pond to Fossil Valley to Trout Lily to Fossil Valley to Cattail Pond to Cedar Brake (here's a map)

It was a surprisingly cold morning and I was running way later than I would have liked, but it turned out just fine.  I didn't quite expect it to be under 40 degrees when I left the house, but that's why I keep gloves in my daypack.  Chewy the dog prefers cooler temps, and I could tell bringing him wasn't going to be a mistake.

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We arrived, deposited the $3 in the tube (always support your local parks if they ask for donations) and went to the trailhead sign.  Chewy, as usual, had to do his business right away which is fine because then I don't have to carry it.  If you're the type of person that doesn't pick up after your dog, or leaves bags tied to trees or on the side of the trail for later, you're not a nice person.  If you can't double bag it and put it in an outside mesh backpack pocket, inside your bag, or on your dog's harness, then don't bring your dog.  Please pick up, leave no trace that your dog did their business, and move along.

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We took the main path down to the Cedar Brake trail and the first part is downhill, but almost immediately you go back up.  The first hill is a long, tall one, but not nearly as challenging as other along the way.  I've been doing pretty mild, yet long, hikes so the hills were a welcome change of pace.  The temps had dropped even more since starting, the wind was whipping through the bare trees, and I swear I saw a single snowflake hit my glasses.  We made our way back to the Cattail Pond, and I was debating if we were going to stick to the original plan of doubling back on the Cedar Brake trail or taking the easy, shorter way back to the car.  I ended up choosing the more challenging way back and I'm glad I did.  I was getting that "high" feeling from hills and those last two miles were all goofy smiles while my head emptied thoughts on the trail behind me.  Hills are good for the brain, too.

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Things to Know about Cedar Ridge Preserve:

  • There are plenty of hills to tackle, but there are ways to go through without encountering any of the really strenuous ones - so if you're not up for the hills, you can still enjoy this lovely place.
  • Trail runners love this place, so be on the lookout for them.  We can all work together to share the trail, just use common sense.
  • The only trash can is at the main trailhead, so plan accordingly.  ALWAYS pack out your trash - including your dog's.
  • Getting there early is in your best interest on a normal day with normal temperatures.  There is a big parking area and several overflow areas.  I usually like to get there between 6:45-7:45.
  • The Cedar Brake trail will have the least road noise from neighboring freeways.
  • Check out the park website here and the trail profiles here for more planning resources.

This place has been one of my go-to locations when I can't get away from the metro area.  The trail vary in difficulty, the trees are a nice touch, and it's well maintained.  I highly recommend this to anyone - whether you're in town for a minute or live here - it's a great place to escape the concrete for a bit.  Happy hiking, see you on hike 7!