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September 20 2021

Entry Point 68 - Pine Lake

Pine Lake entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by Gunflint Ranger Station near the city of Grand Marais, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 60 miles. Access through McFarland Lake. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 1
Elevation: 1214 feet
Latitude: 48.0505
Longitude: -90.0572
Pine Lake - 68

Winter #68

by TuscaroraBorealis
Trip Report

Entry Date: January 20, 2011
Entry Point: Pine Lake
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 5

Trip Introduction:
The variables of this trip were a work in progress right up until we finally departed. How many, who & for how long were not established in time to properly plan the trip. The 5 of us who did end up going all had some winter camping experience. But none of us had ever done an overnight winter wilderness trip. Never the less we still felt we were adequately prepared..........

Day 1 of 4

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Originally this was to be our entry date. But unavoidable circumstances pushed us back a day. So our 5 man crew (Mark, his brother Keith, John, Scott & myself) met up at Marks' place in Gilbert this day. It was suggested that the 5 of us could all fit into Scotts' truck, thus saving on gas. Being about 6'2 I didn't like the sounds of that so I quickly volunteered to drive my van as well. I'm not sure we would've gotten all the gear in Scotts' truck anyways? So we finished packing up both vehicles & headed off towards Grand Marais.[paragraph break] The roads weren't in optimal conditions as there was some snow blowing around on the way up. The wind reallly started "howling" once we hit highway 61. But the drive went off without incident. Albeit a bit longer (time wise) than we'd hoped. [paragraph break] We checked into our hotel rooms then made tracks to Sven & Oles' for some pizza and a few beers. While seated inside it was impossible not to notice the wind violently swaying the street lights just outside. Scott tried to check on the weather on his cell phone but there was a trivia contest in progress and WI-FI connections were blocked until it was over. One of the locals told us it was supposed to be -35 below with 30+ mph winds in Grand Marais tonight. Hmmmmmm. Maybe it was a good thing our trip got pushed back a day?[paragraph break]

We packed away 3 large pizzas between the 5 of us. Plus a few beers apeice. Witnessing the maelstrom currently wreaking havoc outside. We all whole-heartedly agreed that it was fortuitous our trip got pushed back. There was some discussion wondering if we should cancel the trip altogether. But the general consensus was to proceed as long as the winds died down.[paragraph break] We went back to our hotel rooms and immediately checked the weather channel. The forecast called for the winds to calm by 10:00 the next morning and was not to be much of a factor for the next few days. The overnight lows for the next 2 nights were -8 and -2 respectively. MUCH more manageable temps. This set everyones minds a bit more at ease. After this stimulating news, I believe everyone else headed for the comfort of the hot tub? I remained in the room and watched a little Dual Survival on TV from my bed.[paragraph break]


Day 2 of 4

Friday, January 21, 2011

We stopped downtown for a hearty breakfast before departure. We posed for a pre-trip group photo. Hoping it wouldn't be the last known photo of us alive :) As forecast, the wind had died down & was barely noticeable even by the lake. A quick stop at the Holiday station to top off our tanks and grab a few last minute items, & verify the latest forecast. Then we were on our way.[paragraph break] The Arrowhead trail was wide open & well plowed. Virtually any vehicle, driving sensibly, could make it up to McFarland lake. The roads down to the boat landings on McFarland & Little John were NOT plowed. There was a very nice cleared out parking area with room for a dozen cars or so located just before the bridge which crosses the small stream between the 2 lakes. This lot also would provided direct access to the Border Route Trail as well. There was a smaller lot further back the Arrowhead trail which apparently served those heading for South Fowl.[paragraph break] We finished gearing up & started loading/lashing our sleds. There would be about an extra 300 yard or so walk down to the lake. It appeared there was also a snowmobile trail running out onto the lake. We hoped it would run all the way to Pine? Since there were 3 scout leaders among us us it was determined that Mark be designated our patrol leader. This would be a dubious title. Honorary at best, as no one would really listen to his advice anyway? :) Only reminding him of the title when there was something that needed to be done that no one else wanted to do. And right now that was breaking trail. Which actually wasn't so bad with the snowmobile tracks. [paragraph break] Soon we were out on the lake. I had a little trouble with my sled being tippy. Taking the auger & ice chisel off the top of the load seemed to do the trick. There was some minor tweaking by various sleds after that, but for the most part we were making good steady progress. As expected, it appeared the snowmobile trail headed for Pine lake.[paragraph break] The cliffs and peaks of the nearby hills provided an awesome backdrop as we trekked across the lake. Unfortunately the snowmobile trail veered to right (north). We planned on camping near the east end of Pine lake. And expecting open water near the small creek running in from Pine. We were hoping to be able to cut across the long peninsula between the lakes somewhere before reaching that creek. There was thick impassable underbrush along the length of the peninsula. We came up to the creek from the south side of McFarland. We walked along the side of the creek out onto Pine. From the Pine side the portage trail was more appparent. With a little minor clearing & grooming we were able to pull our tobaggons through without too much trouble. The only obstacle was a downed tree that we had to crawl under right at the top of a small hill. [paragraph break] By the time we reached Pine a little snow was starting to fall. Also I had discovered a few minor issues with my digital camera. I found that in order to keep it working properly I couldn't let it dangle from my neck while in it's pouch. I had to tuck it under the top of my wool bibs close to my chest to keep it warm enough to operate properly. And I couldn't keep it exposed for more than a few minutes at a time. I also decided that I would keep it in my sleeping bag at night as well.[paragraph break] Unfortunately we arrived too late in the day to properly complete a quinzhee before dark. Which, for me, was one thing I had really wanted to experience. Vivid recollections of the brutally raw wind from the previous night were no doubt still fresh on everyone's mind. So it was agreed to find a spot back in the woods a bit where we would be afforded a little more shelter from the elements. John had sewn together a canvas lean shelter which he had brought with. So once we determined a suitable site? John, Scott, & Mark went about setting up our shelter. While Keith & I started searching for, then cutting up, firewood. [paragraph break] Once camp was setup & we had a small cache of firewood. The next order of business was to get supper started. That's where our patrol leader Mark comes in once again. He had brought his dutch oven along. This was what we would use to do a good deal of our cooking. On the menu tonight was venison stew & biscuits. [paragraph break] The stew was a little more the consistency of soup. But never the less tasted great. The dutch oven made great food. But one drawback we immediately noticed was that it took so long for the food to be fully cooked. Especially when everything was frozen rock solid! Also the tri-pod we used to hang it from took up valueable space around the fire. Which was at more of a premium as the sun went down and the temperature started to drop. We were able to manage. But, looking back. We should've opened up a larger area.[paragraph break] After supper we each had a few hot beverages and enjoyed the camraderie around our campfire. It would not be a late night for me. The energy expent getting here then tending to the necessary various camp chores had worn me out pretty good. I filled both of my water bottles with boiling hot water. I then stuffed those in my boot liners and put them at the bottom of my sleeping bag. For sleeping I wore only a balaclava, my under armour top & bottom, along with my wool socks and vapor barrier socks underneath. Sure felt nice to have heat down by my feet. I was asleep in no time. [paragraph break] McFarland Lake, Pine Lake


Day 3 of 4

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Though I hoped beyond hope that this issue wouldn't arise. Inevitably the urge to urinate overcame me in the wee hours. It was more a mind over the elements thing. Though I'm sure it was below zero? It really wasn't all that bad. It was just a matter of making up my mind to go and do it.[paragraph break]

I was more than satisfied with the performance of my sleep system. I used a footprint from a very small REI tent I have as my ground cloth. On top of that I had a Z-lite closed cell Thermarest pad. Finally was my Marmot CWM -40 below bag. Believe it or not? I actually was getting to the point of being too warm! I wound up opening up the hood a bit to regulate the temperature. Besides my boot liners I also brought my outer fleece, mittens, & camera inside the bag with me as I slept.[paragraph break] I was the first one up this morning. As anyone who has ever camped knows, there is an unwritten rule (doubly true in winter) that the first one up must get the fire going. So I did just that. Apparently the sound of the fire cracklin made it impossible to sleep any later? :) As everyone else was up shortly thereafter.[paragraph break] John had brought along some eggs he had broken then vacuum sealed and frozen. He coupled that with some tasty breakfast sausage. Nothing like a hot drink and a warm breakfast while winter camping. [paragraph break] After breakfast I finished chopping the wood we had on hand. We were definitely going to need some more. Mark & Keith were gonna go exploring around the lake and brought a tobaggon with that they would load up with any downed timber they came across. [paragraph break] Later I headed down to the lake to finally try some fishing. We already had one hole augered from which we got our water. Tried a number of other holes. The wind had picked up some. While not bothersome to me personally, it really made jigging (without a shelter or wind block) a real pain in the a$$. Line froze up instantly. I brought my vexilar along but never marked fish in any of the holes I punched. Though I kept pretty close to camp and didn't punch too many holes. Not really giving it the all-american effort. Since I was the only one who was fishing I lost interest quicker than I might of otherwise. Plus I felt a little guilty that others were out gathering firewood etc. I set out a tip up and went to explore the nearby shoreline for awhile. [paragraph break] Mark & Keith were seen in the distance heading back towards camp. They were both pulling the tobaggon indicating they had a nice load of firewood. It took a group effort to get the tobaggon up the hill around the various trees and into camp. Once there we took turns chopping it up. We now had more than enough firewood for the duration of our stay.[paragraph break] Mark set about preparing our dinner. He commented to me that bringing the glove liners was a brilliant idea. When I told him I had an extra pair he offered to buy them on the spot! I told him I wouldn't sell them, but he could use them. They proved invaluable for preventing cold fingers while turning the knobs on our stoves, manipulating zippers, striking matches, and several tasks that required more dexterity than our bulky gloves or mittens would allow. One of the stoves Mark brought was somewhat of a family heirloom. A Coleman stove circa 1962 that his Dad had giving him. While not the most efficient, it still served us well boiling water for coffee, cider, & hot chocolate. [paragraph break] While our meal was being prepared I wandered the woods. It was amazing how much snow clung to the branches of the trees. It really gave the area a feeling of a winter wonderland. Soon soup was on with polish as well. The stew the night before was more like soup with this soup was more like a stew. We all shared a good laugh about that.[paragraph break] Afterwards Mark began making a dessert. It was a mixed fruit cobbler topped with an oatmeal crust. I considered all the food we ate on this trip very good. But, in my opinion, the cobbler was off the charts. Having more than we could possibly eat was also an enviable problem. Keith suggested we save the leftovers to top our oatmeal tomorrow morning. [paragraph break] After eating we went out to the lake to fill our water bottles for the evening. No luck at the tip up. But at this point, with the scant amount of time I'd put in, I didn't have any real expectations that there would be. It seems there are just not enough hours in the day sometimes? We all gathered down by the lakeshore as the sun was setting. It was a clear evening sky blanketed with innumerable stars. Providing a nice scene for our final evening. [paragraph break] We sat up awhile enjoying some mixed beverages. Since the overnight low this evening was to be warmer than the previous night. We all went to sleep tonight giving little regard or concern of our sleeping comfort. In fact, I purposely left the hood of my bag open a bit.[paragraph break] Pine Lake


Day 4 of 4

Sunday, January 23, 2011

While not outright cold. It was certainly a bit cooler in my bag this evening. I drew the hood on my bag after having gotten back in my bag after my night pee break. Somewhat puzzled, I thought that maybe my sleep system needed some refining or perhaps I brought in too many things into my bag to dry? [paragraph break] Once again I was the first one up. John & Scott were up shortly thereafter. Even before I could get the fire started. They also said it seemed a bit cooler last night. Confirming our suspicions was the fact that even with my glove liners on my fingers instantly became numb while breaking up tinder and trying to get the fire started. Everyone had figured the next guy would bring a thermometer and no one did. Not an absolutely necessary item? But it would've been nice to know. The kicker was when Mark, sounding irritated, asked, "Who the hell put grease in my schnaaps?!?!" We all checked our bottles and they all had "grease" in them ;-) Yet another indicator that it was colder then -2 below.[paragraph break] The leftover cobbler was just as good on our oatmeal this morning as it was last night. Slowly we began packing up. After glorious sunshine most of yesterday today overcast skies were moving in.[paragraph break] We thawed out some teriyaki sticks for the trip back. Fortunately we were able to get off Pine before the wind picked up. You could really here it blowing across Pine. There was a snowmobile parked at the portage. Discussion turned to using that option if we ever come back to this entry point. So we could get out further onto Pine. We stopped a number of times along the way back. Our trail from coming in was getting blown over so we tried to keep moving. The wind was blowing pretty good by now. It even started snowing. For me personally I was comfortable while we kept moving but once we stopped it did get a bit cool. I didn't want to dig my parka out. So I took the lead for the last stretch determined to make it back to the parking lot without stopping.[paragraph break] The short climb out of McFarland seemed a bit more substantial than expected as I hit the home stretch. Soon the vehicles were in sight. I was relieved when the van fired without incident & left it warm up while we stripped down and began packing our gear.[paragraph break] Heading south down the Arrowhead Trail we happened upon 2 moose in the middle of the road. They appeared to be 2 large bulls that had shed their antlers. They disappeared into the woods before we could dig the camera out. Kind of a cool close to our trip.[paragraph break] Once back in Grand Marais we stopped at My Sisters' Place to grab a burger. It was at this time that we found out that the overnight low temperature was btween -35 to -40 below inland along the Canadien border. Ignorance is bliss! I guess our gear did it's job after all? LOL [paragraph break] Wish I had a little more time to focus on fishing. Also a fishing partner would've been nice. But, all in all I couldn't complain. It was a good trip. Being in below zero temps for the majority of our trip, I'm not gonna lie and say I was never cold. Usually it was just numb fingers and/or toes. Which was quickly remedied by just moving or putting my gloves back on. Worst case was once I used a foot warmer pad. Looking back it's surprising how comfortable I was the vast majority of the time. I think we were all more than satisfied with the performance of our gear. We cold camped in near -40 below temps. So we must've done a few things right? And we all agreed this was something we'd definitely like to do again. But just as with canoe camping there will be constant tweaking. Things I won't need to bring next time & things I'd like to. The unending pursuit of perfection.[paragraph break] But here's to the boys. Who experienced the joys. Of camping in the cold. So this story could be told. Pine Lake, McFarland Lake


Lakes Traveled:   Pine Lake, McFarland Lake,

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