Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

The winter trail to Sock Lake
by TuscaroraBorealis

Trip Type: Snowshoeing
Entry Date: 02/18/2017
Entry & Exit Point: South Lake (EP 58)
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 3
Trip Introduction:
This would be both Vickie & Auroras' first winter camping trip. Consequently, a few weeks before our entry date, we had spent a -3 night cold camping in the back yard as sort of a test run/ confidence builder. With that successful outing behind us we felt poised to attempt a multi-night trip into the wilderness. Sock Lake has intrigued me for several years as a mysterious destination that has long been lurking with the myriad of trips that clunk around in the depths of my mind. The precious little information that could be unearthed only fueled the desire to get there. And, what sealed the deal, was the predicted warm weather,and chance of rain, as our entry date neared. Having to cross a slush covered lake would've been the death knell; getting to Sock would be all overland, which would be a lot of work but, I felt we could get there since one of the tidbits of information I did find was that this section of the BRT had been cleared of all windfalls (from the summer '16 storm) this past October. As a side note: I used EP #58 for this trip report since it was the closest option offered when choosing one for the report. Actually the EP listed in the kiosk was #93 Topper Lake.
Day 1 of 4
February 18,2017

Our hotel room in Grand Marais afforded us a great view of Artists Point and Lake Superior the night before our trip, as well as being within walking distance to Sven & Ole's for pizza. Since we had already picked up our hot tent from Stone Harbor Outfitters we were able to get to our starting point at Mayhew Lake road reasonably early. Still, there's the matter of getting all of our gear loaded and lashed onto the toboggans before officially starting our adventure.

Per usual, the road is a well packed snowmobile trail up to the point where it turns off towards the cabins on the north side of the lake. Along the way, a nice panoramic view west down Mayhew Lake helps to get the juices flowing. A few large boulders guard the entrance to a now much narrower trail north into the woods.

A well used toboggan trail leads up to the kiosk area where we veer off and will need to start breaking trail on our own as we begin to head east along the Mucker Lake Trail. There is about 18-20 inches of snow on the ground, and while in one sense we appreciate the moderate temperature (I think it reached mid 40's today) the snow is a bit stickier than anticipated. Still, once we shed the appropriate layers, and get the toboggans lashed properly we seem to be making steady progress as we officially pass into the wilderness.

This section of the trail is wide, clear and doesn't serve up too many obstacles. As we turn north up the Topper Lake Cutoff I figure that will change. Immediately the trail noticeably drops until it crosses a tiny little creek that appears to run into Hoat Lake. The twists and turns here hinder progress for our long cumbersome toboggans. Even though it is covered with snow, it is easy to discern a boardwalk section here and a beautiful long pond with precipitous cliffs on the far east end is easily appreciated through the scant, leafless underbrush. While this is a beautiful scene to contemplate, the harsh reality is that we need to get to the top of that rise. Fortunately, our trail isn't as steep as the South-Topper trail but will still require a team effort to overcome.

I walk ahead to both scout out the terrain and to break trail. The greater portion of this uphill section is more gradual than steep and there are just enough semi-flat areas to offer a few well deserved pit stops. There is, however, a short (10 rods???) very steep section just before cresting the hill. We are able to hook both our harnesses to each toboggan in such a way that we are both able to pull without interfering with the other person. I don't think we could've made it otherwise? There's a little more incline after this but, quite minor when contrasted with what we've just been through. Fortunately, Aurora is having a blast playing & sliding in the snow while Vickie & I labor with our loads.

Shortly after we hit the B-R-T intersection. As we pass by yet another weathered brown & yellow directional sign, the trail is noticeably more twisty after turning eastward. If hiking, these turns would barely be noticeable; but with our toboggans each turn is cause for a calculated extra effort. It's still reasonably early but, a short while after the B-R-T intersection we decide to pull up short and call it a day. Travel is a bit tougher than anticipated & we don't want to completely burn ourselves out so we set up camp along the trail under a large rise which protects us from any potential north winds.

The overnight low is only forecast to be in the low 30's so, instead of setting the tent up, I fashion a trio of snow berm beds for us to sleep on tonight. While Aurora hasn't complained all day, she must've been near her limit as she falls asleep right in her chair as Vickie & I prepare supper and finish getting camp setup. Firewood is tough to come by and having to melt snow for our water is not an ideal situation. Still, once we get an area tamped down this spot soon grows on us and begins exuding a 'homey' feel. For supper we just warm up the hearty wild rice stew we'd prepared at home. An awesome, gloriously star filled tapestry blankets the heavens as we turn in for the evening. Sleep comes easy.