Sunday, March 17, 2013

BWCA Ski Camping

"Adventure is just bad planning." -Roald Amundsen

I could just as easily start this off with a hack of Tolstoy's opening quote from Anna Karenina: Happy trips are all alike.  So the Boundary Waters winter camping trip that I took at the end of February was pretty uneventful.  There isn't really any drama or adventure to relate.  It was a great time.  I wish I had more to say about it. 

I'm used to racing circumstances like Arrowhead where every moment is a bit of an adventure.  There is doubt about the outcome.  By contrast the BWCA trip was easy.  No bivy sacks; we slept in a heated tent.  No energy gels or electrolyte drinks; bacon for breakfast and homemade soups for supper.  No need to make 56 miles per day just to finish; our longest day was less than 10 miles.  In spite of all that I still had a great time. 

We snowshoed in from Sawbill Lake, across Alton, and pulled our sleds to Beth Lake where we set up camp.  Once there, with a warm tent to rest in, we found some firewood, and ate. 

The second day we skied across a longish portage to Grace Lake.  The skiing on the portages was somewhat challenging, but it was a good illustration of how much I've improved since Kaukopartio last year.  I'm much more comfortable on tight trails and steep climbs and descents than I was a year ago.  We skied to the west end of Grace and portaged about halfway to Phoebe then turned around and skied back to Beth by way of Ella Lake.  Then we ate and slept.  (The toughest part of the trip may have been sleeping close to 12 hours per night!)

The next day we skied all the way to Phoebe and then up a channel to Knight Lake where we took a break for lunch and then returned the same way we had come.  On the last portage I tried out my climbing skins as I had been slipping a bit on some of the climbs (not to mention not having used the skins ever).  They worked fine (no adventure here). 

The penultimate day we snowshoed to the top of a hill overlooking Beth lake.  It was a pretty strenuous climb, especially in my huge, three foot long, snowshoes, but overall it was pretty short.  We got a good view of the lake and I got a lesson in lichens.  We got back to camp pretty early so a couple of us did a short ski trip to Ella Lake which we explored a little more thoroughly than the previous day. 

The last day we packed up camp and snowshoed out.  So, to sum up, we ate a lot of good food, slept a lot, and did some casual skiing.  I guess that's what vacations are supposed to be like. 

It was a great chance to try out my new Åsnes skis with Karhu Meta style bindings.  The skis are very wide (75/65/70 sidecut) and have excellent float in the deep unbroken snow we encountered.  While it wasn't exactly easy to break trail, it was very doable, something I wouldn't have trouble doing for hours on end.  The bindings, combined with Kamik Green Bay boots, gave plenty of control, though I wasn't exactly demanding of them.  I never got any blisters or pain from them which is not something I can say of any other ski boot (Nokians excepted). 

Snowshoeing was something new to me and I was surprised how little experience it takes to use them.  I really expected to be tripping over my toes more than I was.  The huge shoes were great on the open lakes and deep snow, but not so great on steep and tight terrain where the folks wearing mountaineering snowshoes did much better.  That shouldn't come as a surprise. 

I do hope I get to do more trips like this one.  Mostly it's the land that I love about it.  I've never had a bad time in the Boundary Waters.  But I could do with a little bit more skiing. 

1 comment:

wildknits said...

Looks like a lovely trip! The great thing about backcountry trips is the relaxed pace.

Love how we are getting our best winter weather in the spring!