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Minnesotian
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02/20/2018 02:31PM
So I just got back from a 3 day solo trip to Tuscarora Lake. Had a great time. Saw three guys leaving as I was going in and that was it. It was easy going in, the trail had already been set and the lakes were icy, without any snow, so my sled just flew across the ice.

On Sunday, 10 inches of light, fluffy snow dropped. Beautiful to watch. Nerve wracking too.

The next day I had to leave. That meant breaking trail for 3 1/2 miles. In 10 inches of snow. Crossing Tuscarora was tough with wind in my face the whole way, forecasted to be -19 windchill. The portage from Tuscarora to Missing Link was tough, with my sled wanting to slid of every which way and catch on the most minor of tree branches. Yanking that sled up the steep inclines didn't help either. At one point a knot on my tow rope let go and my sled went sliding downhill a good 10 feet or so. Damn it!

Missing Link was quick, but still a slog and by this time my goggles had frozen over. The portage to Round was probably the easiest segment of the whole day. But then there was finally Round Lake. My truck was so close, I could taste the burger at Fitgers, but the wind had picked up and was now completely in my face. I was stopping about every 30' just to catch my breath, and wow, I was tired. Not jelly legs tired, but getting there. It was quite an ordeal.

And I want to go back and do it again. Next time I won't go out as far when 5 to 9 inches of snow is predicted though.

It was the hardest hiking I have ever done, which gives me a whole new level of appreciation for anyone who has crossed the North or South pole via walking. I went 3.5 miles and I barely made it.

So, what are your most harrowing and tough winter camping stories?
 
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gonorth1
member (43)member
 
02/20/2018 07:38PM
I feel your pain. Last weekend I was also out. Visibility was down to about 200 yards at times during the height of the snow storm, I'm talking about seeing the shoreline, tall trees 200 yards ago. Seeing a human, much much less. The snow coupled with the wind, the Leave No Trace mantra was easy to follow. My partner also suggested next time out if significant snow is in the forecast to make camp closer to vehicle. Slogging through deep snow with a sled will certainly get the heart pumping faster. I didn't keep track of temps and windchill but I believe your -19. That wind was brutal. Still it was great to be out.
4keys
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02/20/2018 07:58PM
Well, we have not had any experiences quite that harrowing. No blizzards or below 0 weather.

But we were 4 unprepared and poorly outfitted college kids. We decided to hike the ice age trail near Medford over fall break (30 years ago). The night before we left it snowed 6-8 inches. We went anyways. 2 A frame tents, cheap sleeping bags (no Down, no zero degree rating), wore jeans and we did not have dehydrated food. Cheap hiking boots which warped from the heat of the fire, made for uncomfortable walking. At least 1 pair of socks had burn holes from drying near the fire. Slept on those old foam pads. Part of the trail had become a pond (beavers). And the creek that was supposed to be 2-3 feet wide was more like 15. So one guy stripped down to cross it to find a few logs to toss across it for us to walk on.

It was a cold wet learning experience, but we survived. With the same gear I know I would not do that trip now. Of course if I was 20 again, who knows!
02/21/2018 12:11AM
Geez Craig-glad you made it out ok! As romantic as it sounds a heavy snowfall while I'm out camping is the last thing I want. For exactly the reasons you experienced, not to mention the driving issues. Until upgrading (to a Subaru with AWD) last year I was driving a Toyota Matrix hatchback with FWD and no ground clearance. I was always very cognizant of the forecast because that thing would gladly strand me in a drift/snowbank miles from the next human.

Rich
WhiteWolf
distinguished member(5101)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
02/21/2018 01:33AM
It's over 20 years ago but I have had some "experiences" winter camping in the BWCA/Q. I will not get into the finer points but just hit some key things I remember. I will hit on one right now as my time is limited and hit the others in the future.

#1- Getting lost or "disorientated" on "Besty's Portage" from Big Sag to Sagonogans (spelling). 576 rods of mainly bush. Later we found out that the Indians in the area would cut down trees on purpose to confuse people. It worked. Ended up after doing the portage basically all day , we came to a gravel road (covered in 4' of snow -- this was in March) that really confused us. Why was a Gravel road in the middle of the Q? (I had no clue at the time that roads to exist in that area). I had one of the first GPS made that just gave you your LAT/LON with NO map and a FIsher MAp. Of course with all the twists and turns we did through rather thick stuff being it winter we has totally no clue how much distanced we had covered. Ended up camping that night (cold tent) in low spot on the gravel road next to a few swamps. This is where I learned to sleep with as little clothing on as possible and let your bag work for you. I had no temp measuring device like I carry now, but easily -20F, likely -25F. No wind. But I remember we cooked (or tried) Chicken thighs . Once one side got cooked? and you flipped then over to the other side, the first side froze.... We ended up following are tracks back to SAG where we camped one more night on the way out. Got to my truck near the SAG boat landing and it was plowed in with 4-5' of snow. Dug it out with snow shoes. Truck didn't start. Flooded. Ended up putting the old Coleman 442 stove under the oil pan for several minutes and I remember the oil pan getting very hot. SHe started on the first crank...

P.S- it's probably a blessing in disguise that my group got lost. For if we had hit Sagonagas , the plan was to take it back W and ultimately through Cache Bay on SAG and out. Likely would have found open water in the many current areas that exists on that route. We were 20 yr old kids and stubborn as hell. Very likely may have met our Maker considering how inexperienced we were. Learned a lot from that trip....... including don't bring your Dave Genz Fish Trap as your "pulk". I did fish-- no catching.


Minnesotian
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02/21/2018 07:56AM
tg: "Geez Craig-glad you made it out ok!

Rich"


Hey Rich! Thanks! And the sleeping bag worked great. Got down to -20 one night and I was toasty warm.
Gadfly
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02/21/2018 08:47AM
Outside of our last trip where the temps at night reached -37 we have also been caught fairly deep into the bwca when receiving a decent snowfall. Four years ago we broke trail all the way from Sawbill to Wine lake (roughly 8 miles in), there was easily 2 feet in the woods and the portage up to Zenith was miserable. On the morning of our last day we woke up to 5 inches of fresh snow and it was still coming down like crazy so we packed up as quickly as we could. Through the end of the portage wasn't too bad as we weren't completely breaking trail and our sleds where lighter than on our way in. By the time we got to lake lujenida there was 6 to 8" on the ground and we could no longer see our broken trail. Long story short it took us about 10 hours to get out and by the time we had gotten back to the vehicle we had completely run out of the water we had boiled up in the morning. We now plan our trips with an extra day on the back end so we could set up camp on our way out if needed.
SevenofNine
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02/21/2018 08:58AM
My tough winter story pales in comparison but I thought it needed to be shared. My buddy and I did a March trip with beautiful sunny and warm 35° weather. We pulled sleds from Hegman into Little Bass Lake. I stripped down to a 100 weight long underwear top. My buddy was so hot he went shirtless (ugly site yes).

Once we hit South Hegman we ran into deep snow with slush. I stayed just above the slush but my heavier buddy would sink a lot farther, both of us had wet boots by the end of the day.

Travel was slow but we took our time, avoided thin ice near the portage between North and South Hegman. North Hegman had less snow and travel was a tad faster. The portage into Little Bass was packed from previous travelers and mostly shaded so it wasn't bad at all.

We stopped along the way and re-hydrated. I had brought a Nalgene bottle of water which got consumed quickly as I think I wasn't hydrated before our hike. I also brought a bottle of Gatorade and that went fast as well. Perhaps it was the exertion of traveling in heavy snow and slush either way I didn't have enough water.

By the time we got to our campsite on Little Bass I was thoroughly dehydrated and cold once I stopped work from setting up the tent. Immediately I knew we needed water and I needed it asap. It was just one of those feelings that you know you will be in trouble if you don't get a fire going and snow melted.

Thankfully we got a decent fire going, melted snow and drank all of it. Stripped off wet clothing and warmed up by the fire. Lesson learned avoid dehydration in the winter.
tree
Guest Paddler
 
02/21/2018 12:46PM
after reading all these trips i wonder, when it's windy and zero visibility, if any of you ever used a rope to tie people together as you hike in or out so everyone stays in the same area?
Gadfly
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02/22/2018 09:03AM
tree: "after reading all these trips i wonder, when it's windy and zero visibility, if any of you ever used a rope to tie people together as you hike in or out so everyone stays in the same area?"

We were on snowbank one time when it was snowing pretty good and the wind was really reducing the visibility but it wasn't so bad that we needed to tie up to each other. Chances are we would have gotten lost without a compass though.
jwartman59
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02/22/2018 10:57AM
In high school, late 70s we did a winter trip with a ymca camp. Four night, five days, I’m certain it didn’t get above zero that entire trip. Cold camping, tarp, no tent. My sleeping bag was from target. Snowshoeing with sorel boots, constant slush, It was almost unbearable. We had a Swedish exchange student along, she was stunning and was always in great spirits. Easily the worst trip I’ve done in my entire life. There was never a complaint uttered by anyone. That Swedish girl brought out depths of character that none of us knew we possessed.

We did a trip to the porcupine mountains in Michigan when I was in college. It was a winter when Lake Superior froze over. Record low temps being broken everywhere in the north, nearest town was 45 below. Again I had my target sleeping bag, but this time we had a tent. Of course we had a bottle of whiskey along and other important gear. We drank most of the whiskey for lunch on the bluffs above lake of the clouds. In our impaired state we decided to snowshoe down the steep hill to the lake. We mostly rolled down the hill, out of control. When your young bones don’t break easily. We wisely decided to setup camp at the base of the bluffs. We collected tons of firewood and built what was to be our life giving fire. In that valley the snow was easily ten feet deep, the fire melted its way down to a point where it was useless as heat, our whiskey was frozen. Called it a night. Three of us in the tent, kelty timberline, really cold. In the morning we saw a person slowly come down the lake. This was olden days, we were totally bandit camping. We packed up and shuffled away. I can’t remember details after that but I remember that the biggest concern in those days was whether the car would start or not.

Same winter we were skiing at spirit mountain. Wind chills were 70 below. I’m not making this up. Winter of 78 or 79. There was actually quite a few people skiing that day. We stayed till dark. My friend somewhere along the line must have become hypothermic. He took off or lost his glove and was found by the ski patrol wandering in the woods. It was time to go, the car wouldn’t start, spend 15 minutes playing with jumper cables and screwing around with the carborator. My friend at this point was definitely suffering cognitive issues, we thought he was drunk. We had to use physical force to get him into the car. Next morning my friend comes upstairs. His hand is black and dead skin hanging from his fingers. He spent a month in the hospital for serious frostbite.
ABisbee
member (36)member
 
04/04/2018 08:52PM
Winter 2009 we built our own canvas teepee from a batt of sunforger canvas. I drew up the design in fall of ‘09 and we bought heavy duty thread from Omish folk, and grommets from Walmart. The layout for cutting the template from the sewn pieces was so big we had to use the gymnasium at Cortland College in Upstate NY. We made our cuts and continued the sewing. I read that Native Americans kept a hole in the top of their teepees for smoke and ventilation. So we worked that into the design. We salvaged a steel toolbox. Plasma cut a door into the end. This would be our stove. We stored the stovepipe in the toolbox to carry. The tent was pole less as is was a teepee, reducing carry weight, we would stake the perimeter then hoist the center from a cross rope slung between two trees.
That winter we were ready to give it a go.
We carried our gear, the tent, and our snowboards up the back side of a ski hill that was conveniently located on the Finger Lakes Trail in Central NY. We followed the trail (about 2 feet deep, as no one hikes that leg in winter) up the steep mountain side. We get to the top and start to set up the tent for its first time.
We lay it out, stake the perimeter, then run the cross-rope and hoist it into the air. Well, we didn’t account for the 2 feet of snow and assumed the edges were flush to the ground. We ran the stove pipe and gathered wood. First thoughts were a good impression of our achievement. But as the night went on, we began to realize that our snow anchors didn’t quite reach the ground. As the snow began to melt from the stove heat openings began to develop at our sides. We kept pushing snow to create walls below the ground line of the tent’s edge. Eventually we had 2 foot walls built up beneath the bottom of our teepee and nothing but mud beneath us. Exhausted, we added what seemed to be sufficient wood to the fire to last the night. It was our first time winter camping so we had no idea.
Remember that hole I read about at the top of the teepee. Yeah, bad idea. By 1am the fire had extinguished and it got really cold. Of course our tarp was covered in frozen mud from the high temp burn that convinced us we’d be warm all night. Everything mud, now frozen.we gathered wood all night to keep the temp bearable. Got cold, not below zero though. But the wind on a small mountain sure takes the heat away quick (as does a freakin’ hole) we woke up and hiked out to the ski slope with all our gear. Snowboarded/skied down to the lodge and made arrangements for pick up. Nobody slept, everyone froze. Since, we have made modifications to the tent and stove and enjoy using it as often as possible. But we sure made a lot of rookie mistakes.
ABisbee
member (36)member
 
04/04/2018 09:14PM
Ps...if anyone interested I can provide the plans. Very roomy for four guys. 10’ center height and (in 2009) under $120 to build (including stove). Still have her to this day, she’s easy to modify and make your own repairs.
treehorn
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04/11/2018 12:33PM
Awesome thread, you people are savages!
Soledad
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05/03/2018 12:20PM
A couple years ago, we set out on Clearwater lake with a goal of seeing Johnson falls. We had 5 days to get there and back.
First day was great, a little slush from time to time but not too bad. We would tip over the toboggans, scrape the ice off and be on our way. Luckily we had two ice scrapers for the 7 of us so we could share. It was snowing and just above 0*f. Perfect. We set up camp that night while it kept snowing, drank some beer and went to bed.
Next day we decided to stay put and figure out what our options for travel would be. We decide that on the third day, to pack up camp, move closer to the falls and take a day trip on the 4th day, then all the way out on the 5th.

It kept snowing- each day 4" fell. On the 4th day, we had decided that we were not going to make the falls. A couple of day hikes across the lake made it very obvious that the slush had increased with the weight of the snow.

Anyway, to summarize things a little, the 5th day out took us almost 8 hours to travel 2.5 miles. We had to flip our toboggans over constantly. We were wet from walking in water which was on the ice. (those 2 ice scrapers were not enough-we used credit cards and anything else we could find.) It was still around -5* and we were exhausted. One of our group, was showing signs of hypothermia. For instance- he had dropped his toboggan line and when I asked him how he was doing he said Great!, I then asked him where is sled was and he had no idea. His speech was slurred and we had a bit of an issue to deal with.

On the edge of the lake, instead of 3 tents, we set up two. Slush was right outside our tent door which made getting water really easy, but everything else tough.

We made a few phone texts to let folks at home know that we decided to spend another night.

Learned a lot of lessons, and unfortunately did not take a lot of pictures.
Pinetree
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06/02/2018 05:48PM
I always bring some graphite paste used for skiis so snow don't stick on. Also have used for sled bottoms. Can be a life saver.
MackinawTrout
senior member (62)senior membersenior member
 
06/11/2018 07:58PM
Pinetree: "I always bring some graphite paste used for skiis so snow don't stick on. Also have used for sled bottoms. Can be a life saver."
Please tell us of the specifics in using this graphite paste to fight the Kryptonite of winter travel ......the dreaded slush that slows and drags things to a halt.
I've heard of old timers using WD40 but never tried it on my skis. Please tell!
Pinetree
distinguished member(12778)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished membermaster membermaster member
 
06/11/2018 09:15PM
MackinawTrout: "Pinetree: "I always bring some graphite paste used for skiis so snow don't stick on. Also have used for sled bottoms. Can be a life saver."
Please tell us of the specifics in using this graphite paste to fight the Kryptonite of winter travel ......the dreaded slush that slows and drags things to a halt.
I've heard of old timers using WD40 but never tried it on my skis. Please tell!"


There are different brands but I often use F4 Floro and some have the label as flo with graphite. I use it on my skiis all the time when snow is sticky and makes a huge difference in just fallen snow and warm. Also on occasions have used it on the plastic sleds. Makes a huge difference but not a 100% cure all.
I also have noticed most plastic sleds at first are slippery when new,but over time they get scratched etc.-it seems snow sticks more than.
I tried cooking oil once and not a real lot of luck.
The F4 paste goes on sale often in the spring and quite common to get it at half price.

Yes I have seen sleds pick up so much snow underneath they hardly move,and also ice crystals and ice underneath make it worse.

I am sure some of the real big time skiiers would have some great comments on this product and others.

F4 Florocarbon
MackinawTrout
senior member (62)senior membersenior member
 
06/13/2018 02:34PM
Pinetree: "MackinawTrout: "Pinetree: "I always bring some graphite paste used for skiis so snow don't stick on. Also have used for sled bottoms. Can be a life saver."
Please tell us of the specifics in using this graphite paste to fight the Kryptonite of winter travel ......the dreaded slush that slows and drags things to a halt.
I've heard of old timers using WD40 but never tried it on my skis. Please tell!"



There are different brands but I often use F4 Floro and some have the label as flo with graphite. I use it on my skiis all the time when snow is sticky and makes a huge difference in just fallen snow and warm. Also on occasions have used it on the plastic sleds. Makes a huge difference but not a 100% cure all.
I also have noticed most plastic sleds at first are slippery when new,but over time they get scratched etc.-it seems snow sticks more than.
I tried cooking oil once and not a real lot of luck.
The F4 paste goes on sale often in the spring and quite common to get it at half price.


Yes I have seen sleds pick up so much snow underneath they hardly move,and also ice crystals and ice underneath make it worse.


I am sure some of the real big time skiiers would have some great comments on this product and others.


F4 Florocarbon "

Thanks Pinetree.

I’m looking at a ski across the Bdub and ice fishing along the way this winter. I will give the graphite floro a try. I have used Floro waxes before on sleds and they wear off in a day or so. Agreed on the plastic sleds becoming less and less slippery the ole emscos and Paris exp ain’t half as slippery as they were new. I’m going to try the untippable pelican trek 60 with runners and a uhmwpe bottom and two in tandem this year it fits perfect in a snowmobile or dogsled track.
Thanks again!
Pinetree
distinguished member(12778)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished membermaster membermaster member
 
06/13/2018 02:54PM
Agree very much it wears off but it is worth every penny when needed. I just use it when conditions are so that it sticks badly.
 
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