Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Winter Solo Trip- Moose Lake EP- January 2020
by GopherAdventure

Trip Type: Snowshoeing
Entry Date: 01/17/2020
Entry & Exit Point: Moose Lake (EP 25)
Number of Days: 3
Group Size: 1
Trip Introduction:
I had never been winter camping, and decided this was the year I give it a go. I cleared a weekend and headed north to Ely for a weekend on Wind Lake.
Day 1 of 3
Friday, January 17, 2020 I drove up last night and arrived at our cabin at around 10 pm. The temp was -15 degrees, so it was a chilly night in the seasonal cabin with only a few heaters to try and warm things up. I woke around 7:15, ate breakfast, loaded up and headed for the Moose Lake Entry Point. We're "Gopher Adventure!" I arrived at the EP at about 8:15 and there were no cars in the lot, I mean none. I got a little nervous so I called the ranger station to see if maybe they were not recommending travel out of Moose Lake due to bad ice. The ladies at the station asked if I had ice picks and said not many people have been out on the Moose chain due to slushy conditions and spotty ice because of the exceptional amount of snow that they've had. This made me nervous, but I really wanted to go to Wind Lake, so I decided to brave it and just be cautious.  I got my skis on and pulk sled down to the lake and glided out onto the ice. I skied across to the island with the BWCA sign and drilled a whole with the auger and I did encounter a hard crust on top, followed by a slushy layer a few inches thick, and then only about 8-10 inches of ice which is pretty thin for this time of year. Still, should be safe for travel on skis.  I made it across Moose and switched to snowshoes for the 175 rod portage between Moose and Wind lakes.  The portage was steep and tough, but I managed to get across in good time. At the Wind end of the portage, I should have put my skis back on, but I decided to snowshoe and let me tell you, it was much harder on snowshoes. My skis give so much more loft then my snowshoes and I was trudging through a good 4 inches of snow so travel was slower.  I should back up here and mention that I was breaking trail this whole time because it was clear that nobody had been out this direction in weeks.  I came around a point to find site 1665 had been previously used by a winter camping group so there was chopped wood, a shoveled out tent area and trails heading back into the woods for wood harvesting.  They had even dug out the latrine! Wow, camp set up was going to be quick and easy. Another plus is that this campsite face north and the wind was out of the SE so I was sheltered from the breeze. Having never winter camped I wanted to keep things simple. I brought a hub ice fishing house that weighs about 28 pounds, a zero degree sleeping bag, sleeping pad, lots of clothes, a few fishing items and food.  That was it.  I had a 20 pound hiking pack and a pulk that weighed about 65 pounds. I drilled a few holes out from my camp, set my tip up and got some water from the lake. It was only noon and I had everything I needed since I didn't have to find wood for a fire.  After eating some lunch and relaxing in camp I decided to get the skis on and go explore some of the other nearby campsites.  I found the island site (1662) to be probably the coolest on the whole lake, but it is so hard to tell what these sites would look like in the summer. Things look so different when covered by a few feet of snow.  I saw some animal tracks on the lake, but it was impossible to tell what most tracks were as they were partially covered in snow. After bumming around for a few hours I came back to make an early dinner over the fire. My plan was to eat at 4ish and then again (eating my leftovers) just before bed to help keep me warm overnight. I checked the tip up and adjusted the depth and then got a fire going. That felt amazing, the warmth from the fire coupled with the silence of the woods and the beauty of my surroundings had me overcome with appreciation for the Boundary Waters. Once my fire settled down a little I boiled up some water and had some Mountain House Lasagna followed by a cup of hot cocoa. As darkness settled in I could hear some wolves howling off in the distance and I sat and soaked in the sounds.  I brought a book to read anticipating long hours of darkness and wanted some things to do in the tent. I read for a while and ate a little bit before turning in at 8:30...I haven't gone to bed at that time since I was a kid.  I got hot in my new sleeping bag, and had to vent it in the middle of the night. It snowed like crazy and around 2 am, the roof hub caved in on my shelter, I had to get up and pop it back out and I could hear the snow falling down the sides when I popped it back in place.  No harm done.