Snowshoeing Seagull Lake
The three had actually hiked this trail the week before in hopes of packing it down but the high winds and more snow had covered their efforts. I kept falling behind and tipping off the trail into deep snow. It felt like a scene from "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" where Marlin Perkins describes how the old and weak get hunted down by wolves at the back of the herd. Natural selection. Every time they waited for me to catch up I would tell Billy to remind me "You wanted this, Jeff." He was happy to oblige. He said it a lot on this trip!
After winding through some swamps and small lakes and one hill where I heard Jake say something about "small victories" (small?) we came to a very large hill. The kind you see when driving up the trail but never truly appreciate just how large they are.
The hillside was full of scrub willow, small jack pines and tight cover. Now and again we passed the blackened remains of tall trees that were burned by the big fire on the Trail. The three pushed on ahead and Billy did truly amazing work pulling that sled up and over while I followed slowly. My pack was much too high and in some places this required me to crawl along the trail and then attempt to get back up as best I could with the millenials cheering me on. These three were hilarious and supportive. Their spirits never lagged, even on the hardest pushes. On the back side of this hill we wound through five or six small lakes and swamps until we came to deep crevice full of blown down pines. We stripped off all our packs and passed them down one by one, skating the edges of the large trees until finally we reached our destination lake. We hiked to an island campsite. I can't remember a time I have been more delighted to take a pack off my back....or more happy to be at such a beautiful site in the winter! This was an amazing spot.
As winter campers know, arrival on site is only the beginning...we had our tents to put up and about four feet of snowdrifts to shovel out to get down to our tent pads. This was real work and it took time. Once the tents were up, Billy, Jake and Hannah set out to find wood and came back toting large, long dry cedars on their shoulders. It was a sight to see. We went at it with the saw and hatchet, cutting and splitting enough wood to lay in for the night. Once all was ready, Billy was eager to get to fishing at sundown so three of us hustled to the honey hole while Hannah organized the interior of the large Cooke tent that was to be our communal area. As we fished, Billy also cut a water hold and hauled water up for cooking.
I caught one trout near dark and when Billy returned I asked, "Is the tent getting warm?" He said "Not at all." And he reported that the tent was full of smoke from the fire! What was wrong? I suddenly realized that the piping held a spark arrestor and wondered if that was holding back the flow of the smoke. Upon returning we found the tent FULL of smoke--pulling the pipe quickly we removed spark arrestor and within moments the tent was warm and smoke free. Whew! That was a moment of panic to start us off on the first night.
Later we sat around the communal tent. I love this part of winter camping. It really draws people together for food, laughs, stories. If you enjoy that part of the outdoors as I do, you'd love a winter trip. The day had been a long one, so by around 9 pm Billy and Jake retired to the Seek Outside while Hannah and I got ready for sleep. Before they laid down, however, they cheerfully cut a great deal more wood for Hannah and me so we could stay warm. Two years ago on our first trip we had been caught off guard by the cold at night and our sleeping bags were too light. This time she had a heavier bag and I had foregone the extra pants in my pack for an extra bag altogether and we cut MUCH wood so we spent a pretty toasty night--and I did wake up many times to feed the fire but who cares? We were warm and comfortable all night long. All and all, it was a wonderful first day--challenging snowshoe trip, lovely scenery, great meal, fun group.