Today it was in all out 11 hour day with only two 10 minute breaks. There is a heavy thaw upon the northland right now. I can still travel during the thaws on the lakes, so today was a race to get off the rivers, and being hemmed in by the deep shore snow . If I didn’t make the lake country today I may be stuck for two or three days in deep snow that is impossible to travel in. So it will be up at four and hauling in the snow on the river at four forty-five . I had skied ahead the afternoon before making a ski trail around the holes and bad spots. It was cloudy and pitch dark, but I was able to make fast time on ideal frozen surfaces using my headlight. It didn’t freeze that hard and it was urgent to make good time while the surfaces held. I made it to the end of my trail when it started to get a little light. I traveled fast but at 6:30 I was stopped by open river. I waterproof everything, secure everything with lashing and decked myself out in my hydro-skin system.

{audio}podcasts/2014_Solo_Canoe_Haul/20140406_WillStegerDispatch.mp3{/audio}

Today it was in all out 11 hour day with only two 10 minute breaks. There is a heavy thaw upon the northland right now. I can still travel during the thaws on the lakes, so today was a race to get off the rivers, and being hemmed in by the deep shore snow . If I didn’t make the lake country today I may be stuck for two or three days in deep snow that is impossible to travel in. So it will be up at four and hauling in the snow on the river at four forty-five . I had skied ahead the afternoon before making a ski trail around the holes and bad spots. It was cloudy and pitch dark, but I was able to make fast time on ideal frozen surfaces using my headlight. It didn’t freeze that hard and it was urgent to make good time while the surfaces held. I made it to the end of my trail when it started to get a little light. I traveled fast but at 6:30 I was stopped by open river. I waterproof everything, secure everything with lashing and decked myself out in my hydro-skin system. I’m quite organized and was in the water just as the yellow orange sun rising light illuminated the top of the towering white pine’s. All went well. I moved slow with the usual caution but later an ice jam blocked the river. I spent a tiring hour and a half delicately ramming the canoe up on the ice, ice breaker style, and inch by inch I used my paddle to break ice. First on one side of the canoe, then the other. It was a delicate balancing act, paddling from the stern, ramming the ice and gingerly reaching as far as possible towards the bow with the paddle, whacking the ice. I worked up a sweat and despite my exhaustion I had to concentrate every second. But I crashed through, paddled a nice calm water with a slight current and then the river pinched off. I then hauled again, the surface remained good and again open river barred my way. I launched the canoe, paddled being very cautious, being 100% into the adventure and the beauty that surrounded me. Again the river pinched off. I pulled the canoe out and hauled again. I was on the south side of the river in the morning shadows and this helped keep the surface firm. I moved quickly. It was clear with contrasting shadows of black on the white snow covered river with the characteristic black holes of ice here and there. The forest was magnificent, huge white pines. Later I made a navigational error by missing the small stream created by a series of beaver dams that would take me to another river which would lead to my goal, Minn Lake. The river opened with dangerous rapids ending in waterfalls. I was confused but figured this was Twin Falls on the Maligne River. I backtracked a mile moving quickly because the snow was now thawing fast. The 1 mile beaver’s stream had deep snow, very deep and then about 100 yards of good ice in the actual beaver ponds. At first I didn’t know if this was a flowage. The snow conditions started to give, but I moved fast, pulling hard. Then the flowage dropped fast over a huge beaver dam to a river that was perpendicular to my flowage. I knew this was the river that led to Minn Lake. Then the work really began. It took me five hours to negotiate the 2 miles to Minn Lake. I had over one mile to portage, three trips, two being packs and then hauling the canoe in hellishly slushy, granular, quicksand like snow. Sometimes one snowshoe would stay on the top and the next step I would be up to my thighs. I persevered and got into the haul rhythm and enjoyed my time. I’m now on the shore of Minn Lake. Tomorrow I will get up very early and if it freezes I’ll make another brisk advance until the thaw stops me. I have a decision tomorrow, do I portage into Lac La Croix and exit via Nina Moose River on the Echo Trail, or do I follow the border lakes and rivers and head to the homestead? This is a much longer route, very challenging because this time I’m in a major flowage, with high water going up against the current, but safer because there are no chances of being swept over a falls or into the rapids. My food and fuel are getting shorter, but the good news is now I’m traveling light. I could have fast travel if this thaw continues, but snow will make this route and awful ordeal. So tune in tomorrow to see what happens.

Very hungry

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