Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Trek or Treat - Round 3
by TreeBear

Trip Type: Hiking
Entry Date: 10/29/2022
Entry & Exit Point: Snowbank Lake Only (EP 28)
Number of Days: 2
Group Size: 4
Trip Introduction:
It started a couple years before as a joke. As many good inside jokes do, for some reason or another it stuck around. The first year, we had decided the weather was decent enough and the lakes frozen enough, it seems fitting to backpack. And the trail that had kept both of our attention the longest was the PowWow, still marked "for experienced wilderness navigators only." But since the hike was scheduled over Halloween weekend, we mused that we may as well wear costumes. "No one will see us anyways." That didn't prove to be true, and we had a tough snowy trick-or-treating session. Year two, we continued the tradition plus a member on the Sioux Hustler. Similar to year one, we wanted a BWCA trail with one night spent (weekend trip.) It's a good chunk of mileage for not-often-backpackers, but the weather was perfect. This would be the third year entering at the western trailhead of the Kekekabic and looking for a loop around Snowbank. Somehow we convinced a fourth friend to join us. Per the rules of the tradition, I gathered what costumes I could at the local thrift stores, and we met at the trailhead for a weekend of adventure.
Day 1 of 2
Saturday, October 29, 2022

The adventure actually started on Friday the 28th. Though I live in Ely, I ended up being the last to pull into the lot well after dark. The group gathered with open car trunks to discuss the plan. We could sleep in the lot; we've done it many times before (including the two previous Trek or Treats.) But we decided instead to hike into one of the national forest sites on Snowbank as it would be nice to wake up along the lake. Lil Grumpy and I had done both the previous year's Trek or Treats, Dan-in-the-box had joined us for round two, and Gramps (ironically the youngest of the crew) was along for round three. The first order of business was for me to unveil the costumes I was so excited about. For Little Grumpy (a pumpkin and a super hero the past years), a lovely bumble bee costume. Dan would get the Fred Flinstone, Gramps the clown, and that left me with the Santa onesy. Sigh, nothing if not flattering.... We took a snack break and started packing to hike in. We donned our costumes for the sake of it and made good time to the portage. Then we made the silly mistake of stepping off into the woods since the campsite was "just over the ridge." It wasn't. Thus a few poorly dressed former wilderness guides found themselves lost an hour into a weekend-long trip. Classic. Soon enough though, we stumbled back onto the trail and continued north. The campsite we ended up in is not marked as a site on our maps, but it had a biff (two in fact) and a grate. We settled in for the night.

Now, I should mention that I was wrapping up a bout of covid before the trip. Nothing too bad, but the impact of that would play out this day. We started early in weather that felt truly like fall. No snow or harsh wind to tempt thoughts of winter. We packed up a bit of garbage laying around the campsite and up in a tree or two, ate breakfast, and headed north. The point about coming off covid started to come into play as I learned how steep the Snowbank trail actually is. I like to think I am fit for a wilderness trip as I head out hiking and canoeing regularity. Every up hill though, I ran completely out of air and struggled to catch my breath. This may be a long hike for me. Thankfully it was scenic and we enjoyed the views across Snowbank.

Staring off into the distance, we took note of Disappointment Mountain, a landmark for the far side of Snowbank and one which never felt to get that much closer. Wooden Leg Lake was cool to see especially since I had failed to hike there from the nearest bay with a group my very first guide season (they had opted to turn back beforehand.) The whole Snowbank loop was impacted by the 2016 blow which contributed nicely to the sprawling overlooks of the lake. As morning began to turn to afternoon, I couldn't help but notice how warm it was! Is this truly the same dates as the past years' trips!?! We all started removing layers, careful to leave our costuming as intact as possible. Though I couldn't help but empathize for any poor souls we may encounter with four shirtless guys in various, odd costumes! Grub Lake was beautiful and we stopped for a snack and more water. It was warm enough to make staying hydrated a problem, especially on a trail with limited water access. We all tried to down more water before leaving the lake. From there, the trail turns steeply up and down again. Finally drastically overheated and turning towards dehydration, I turned to Lil Grumpy's first aid kit for help. I didn't want to take the fleece-onesy Halloween costume off (that would be decidedly unfun.) Instead, we cut the sleeves and legs off of the Santa costume. Just great, now there's a Santa Clause cyclist hiking through the BWCA! Just awful. There's a very steep climb before the boot portage offering our last big overlook of Snowbank. We could see Disappointment Mountain looming closer now as we took in the late afternoon sunlight. If I wasn't so warm and if breathing wasn't so hard, this weather would be impeccable! It's a far cry from the snow and heavy winds we hiked through on the PowWow! We crossed the Boot portage reflecting on the many trips we've made with canoes across this same trail. We turned east at the split and made the Ahsub portage at sunset. We geeked out over the PH of the water at Ahsub, enjoyed some fancy truffle cheese, dug out our headlamps, and prepared for a long evening. In the dark we headed eastward still and it became clear we would be acting as two separate units. Gramps and Dan-in-the-box would surge ahead while Lil Grumpy and I fell back. They'd wait awhile and we'd catch up. It was discouraging though to look out in the darkness and see the light of two headlamps climbing a steep ridge well in front of us! We were making it along fine in any case. We finally pulled in late to the campsite on Alworth. Tired and sore, we ate some dinner and set up camp. I climbed down the ridge for a water bottle fill up. Soon we tucked in for a well-earned sleep.