Day 4

It was 27 below when I woke up, the coldest morning yet. I slept warm and snug at first and then the cold entered my sleeping bag later in the night. I slept off and on. When I actually slept it was comfortable because I didn’t feel the cold. When I was awake it was like a cold limbo. The last half of the night I tossed and turned to try to find a warm position that didn’t exist. At sunrise I couldn’t take it any longer so I got up. The day had changed in the sky. Gray stratified clouds showed up in the morning and the sun had a halo, which means snow coming. The wind blew hard from the Southwest changing by lunch to south and in the afternoon it blew against me from the Southeast.

It was 27 below when I woke up, the coldest morning yet. I slept warm and snug at first and then the cold entered my sleeping bag later in the night. I slept off and on. When I actually slept it was comfortable because I didn’t feel the cold. When I was awake it was like a cold limbo. The last half of the night I tossed and turned to try to find a warm position that didn’t exist. At sunrise I couldn’t take it any longer so I got up. The day had changed in the sky. Gray stratified clouds showed up in the morning and the sun had a halo, which means snow coming. The wind blew hard from the Southwest changing by lunch to south and in the afternoon it blew against me from the Southeast. Around quitting time I felt one snowflake hit my top. I didn’t see it, and there was no snow in the air, but I was sure it was a snowflake. Soon its companions started to show up and by camping time they disappeared, but then all last night a slight snowfall accumulated on the tent and I woke often when layers of snow slid off it. There are 5 inches of new snow this morning and it is much warmer, around 20° above!

Yesterday I decided I had to haul in one load regardless. Relaying was not working out. I was getting too chilled on the return trip against the bitter winds. So I hauled the 2 miles along the little river that flows to Quetico Lake from Beaverhouse to pick up the load I had dropped off the day before. There I loaded the canoe and headed out on the 20 mile-long quite a Quetico Lake. There was a windblown crust, hard enough to support me on my skis and the canoe. The catch was the surface, because of the cold, was very abrasive and it was a tough haul. The billions of little arms of snowflakes in minus weather give sharp resistance to anything that slides over them. It gives resistance to skis, but especially a canoe which has such a large bottom surface. It was doable but difficult. I ended up pulling about 100 yards and then resting some allowing my temperature to cool off. Then I would pull again. This went on about eight hours with a few short breaks and one 20 minute break to get some fuel in me. Mostly milky tea, hot chocolate with lots of powdered milk, and a few energy type bars.

It’s a delicate balance at the beginning of an expedition in a situation like this. There is no avoiding overheating and sweating, but you can’t overdo it by really saturating your clothes, because the chill will enter your body when you stop. If the chill stalks you when you stop it could eventually get into your chest and then you could burn yourself out and worse get something in your lungs. This is the most dangerous thing in the beginning when you’re forced to work as hard as I did yesterday. It is a fine balance, but I balanced the day out and kept the chill from entering my body. The other caution in the beginning is not to pull a muscle. A pulled muscle not only hurts, but it could stop you from pulling. Getting the canoe started up again after stopping takes a number of hard pulls with the harness. I was careful to keep the pressure of this pulling even with my body, and I did small jerks to jumpstart the canoe. All day it was stop and go and then exhausted and overheating, stop again to cool off. It was a tough day but instead of getting into the hardship of it I watched the weather and slowly I made progress.

The main thing is despite a hard day my body survived it okay. After making camp I was exhausted, but no injuries or chilling my lungs. I had a relaxed evening, corrected my journal, prepared water, and later dinner. Then did my satellite check in. My conditioning is getting better but I still have to go slow. I have no idea what these 5 inches of new snow will mean to my hauling day today. We will find out. But it is much warmer, meaning it is more comfortable. I am camped on a leeward side of the small island, So I can’t read the wind, but it seems somewhat calm. I need winds now to blow this snow. It is going to be an interesting day of travel.

Sleeping cold, the sweating and freezing, the stalking chills, the extreme effort of pulling the sled is no big deal for me. Most people would never leave their comfort zone to experience this. As long as I am not pulling muscles or getting sick from the chills that enter my lungs, The days are hard, but I don’t put my mind into the hardships. I look at it as training, Each day I get stronger, and my mind begins to empty out and straighten out. I can’t say I’m really into the trip yet because it has been so challenging with this heavy 160 pound canoe. I am working more on pacing myself and getting my body set for the long haul. I look forward most of all to the long days of hauling with a body that is in good shape and to all the adventure and everything I will experience along the way. Of course I hope for spring to come and to be hauling when these lakes and rivers break up. This is where the learning experience is for me. It is all unknown right now and this is why I am here. The unknown is the house of Adventure. So we will see how the day goes.

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