Date: February 17-20, 2017 Place: Northern Minnesota
Distance: 6+ miles
This "hike" was more than a hike - it was a vacation to the wilderness during winter. My good friend and I left Texas, drove to Duluth, MN. His aunt lives there, so we stayed there for the night, caught up, and got some rest. She has a cabin she lets us use near the Canadian border, close to Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness, that is off the grid and secluded. A couple of our Michigan friends met us in Duluth and we set off for this wonderfully disconnected cabin. This was my fifth trip to the cabin, and the first in the winter. It was the most adventurous trip yet.
Day 1: We hiked the 1.25 miles down an unused road, across a frozen lake, and up the side of a tall hill to the cabin. The lake required snowshoes, though once at the hill it was quite difficult as the snow was knee high so it was more climbing. We each pulled a sled with supplies for the 4 day adventure, some more heavy than others. It was nearly dark once we reached the cabin, so that was all the adventure for one day. Along the way, we saw wolf tracks and scat as well as moose tracks.
Day 2: Awoke, trekked down the hill to see our path and scope out the morning. Fixed breakfast and then hiked to the top of the peak behind the cabin. The snow was mostly hip-deep in the woods, and it required a few trail beers once at the top. This hike is normally moderate in the summer, so it was a bit more challenging with the snow. Following the hike back, we dug out the fire pit and benches used in summer and made a winter fire. We got to joking around, and made bets on the thickness of the ice on the lake. My friend was the lucky one to auger a hole. Ice was 17.5" near where the dock normally would be, which was reassuring.
Day 3: We got up, after a late night, and hiked a few miles down to one of the lakes included in the Boundary Waters. The hike didn't require snowshoes, as it had been warmer than usual and the snow was crusty on top, and took most of the midday. We trekked about 2 miles each way. Once to Pine Lake, we relaxed. We found moose tracks and scat, as well as plenty of wolf tracks along the way. There was open water, but nothing we couldn't skirt around. On this final night, we heard the wolves howling the loudest and that is a sound I will never forget.
Day 4: This was our final day, and we had to hustle and clean up the cabin and shut it back up for the rest of winter. Rain was looming, as temps had hovered around 50 all weekend, so we were trying to get going quickly. The hike back to the truck didn't seem as brutal as the way to the cabin and we avoided the rain by about 10 minutes. I used my snowshoes on the way back, while the other guys didn't. I didn't break through the top crust of snow at all, really.
I'm counting the whole weekend as Hike #7. This was the most strenuous, adventurous, and beautiful of all the hikes in 2017 to date - and it'll be hard to beat.