It was an old-fashioned blizzard last night. The temperature dropped straight down with 18 inches of snow drifting in the overturned canoe and the tent. It was arctic style. I tried to sleep as long as I could. I must have gotten out of the sleeping bag around nine. I haven’t been paying attention to the time and I think it’s April 1 instead of the second. That was a good experience I had on the stream yesterday. It really got me thinking about waterproofing everything. I spent all morning going over every piece of gear and getting it all into a waterproof-able system. It takes about a week before you know where everything is at, how much fuel and every ounce of food. I have no spares except matches. Everything I have I use and depend on and if I take a dump in the river, just surviving that is going to take a lot of skills. If I lose gear in a spill I might be in for some hard times. Winter is holding on, it is seriously cold today. If I tipped my canoe in these winter conditions it would be serious.

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Woke up at 3 AM expecting to travel, but the thaw continued all night. So there was no freezing, only more thawing. So I went back to the sleeping bag and slept another three hours. On the second round I efficiently packed while I ate my oatmeal, broke camp and off I went across Jean Lake. It was a mile to the portage. I had a full load that hauled okay in the wet snow on the lake. I made three trips of the portage, deep wet snow that I sometimes sunk to high-thigh with my snowshoes on. There was a strong north east wind that strengthened all day as the temperature began to drop. I planned a long day to take advantage of the better conditions and particularly I wanted to get past Jean Creek, a two mile winding stream that at first, opened into good travel and then turned into dangerous hellish travel. I crossed the 2 mile long Burnside Lake without much problem, just a lot of work. The snow was thawed right to the ice now on the lakes and if it froze without snow I would have the perfect travel conditions I have been waiting for. This snow also thawed it to considerable depth in the forest and a freeze without snow would make the portages relatively easy.

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Got up in the dark at 3 AM. It was warm all night, lows around 20. I slept about seven hours, not enough for my tired body, but I slept warm and snug. I made a quick exit. I had thermoses filled the night before. I broke camp by headlight. With in a half an hour after awaking I was hauling. It didn’t really thaw much the day before and what thawed didn’t freeze up all the way. It wasn’t easy going, but at least I was hauling with one load. At first I navigated by the stars. I drank a glass of limewater on breaks every 200 yards. Shortly after I had a quick breakfast of granola and hot milky tea. Venus rose in the twilight, there were some clouds. When the sun rose the conditions got worse. I hauled 100 yards, stopping before I got too wet. It was tiring work this early in the morning without a good breakfast. The conditions got worse and worse. Snow clumped to my skis and at what must have been around 10 o’clock the canoe was impossible to haul. I skied a half a mile with a 60 pound pack and went back to try the canoe again and I couldn’t budge it. So I took out my foam pad and sleeping bag, stretching it out on the shadow side of the canoe. I rested and slept for three hours.

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It remained clear last night, no wind, about -20. I slept cold again due to my moist clothing. Slept until the sun hit the tent and then slept off and on in the warmer situation. I figured it was going to thaw today and that this would make for a bad day of hauling. The top layer of the snow thaws, and when skis or canoe slide over this it breaks through to the powder snow under the micro crust and the powder then freezes or clumps up on skis, snowshoes, and canoe. Since the first day is usually not a good travel day and I figured that into the daily activity, which was mostly drudgery.

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It cleared off in the middle of the night and the temperature dropped. I slept warm and cozy at first and then the last half of the night I slept cold again. I have a double big system that is supposed to be good down to -30, but despite the overinflated rating I have been sleeping cold overnight and this is unusual. I usually sleep warm. I think the dampness of my clothing has a lot to do with it. I never overheat to a sweat while dogsledding but the exhaustion of this trip has been the hallmark of the days.

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It cleared off in the middle of the night and the temperature dropped. I slept warm and cozy at first and then the last half of the night I slept cold again. I have a double big system that is supposed to be good down to -30, but despite the overinflated rating I have been sleeping cold overnight and this is unusual. I usually sleep warm. I think the dampness of my clothing has a lot to do with it. I never overheat to a sweat while dogsledding but the exhaustion of this trip has been the hallmark of the days. {audio}podcasts/2014_Solo_Canoe_Haul/20140328_WillStegerDispatch.mp3{/audio}

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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!

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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.

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Day 3

It was -20 this morning, Wind picking up early. I had made camp on the leeward side of the small hill next to a small waterfalls whose noise blended into the wind all night.

The small river forced me to travel its deep snowbanks with snowshoes. I relayed a load of extra food and other things that are nonessential from day to day. The wind picked up from the Northwest on my back on my outward journey. I had to keep dressed up because of the cold day. I sweated and soaked my inner clothes on the way back. Against the wind I froze and chilled due to my wet clothing. Because of my exhausted condition and my concern of catching something in my lungs if I continued this all day, I decided to take the rest of the day off.

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Day 2

Yesterday was a tough day-25 in the morning. Breaking camp was not too bad but when I tried to pull the canoe it was obvious it was too heavy in the deep snow and in particular because of the friction of the snow in the cold temperature. I expected to do relays the first days until conditions got better. There was a cold, strong northwest wind blowing and I had to dress up which meant I sweated hard when pulling and froze when I rested. There was no real rest for the 10 hours I ended up hauling. In relays in the snow you always have a track to look forward to your return and the second load is always easier. But yesterday the track drifted in on the return for the second load and this trail again drifted in so the return loaded trip was difficult. I made it to the end of Beaverhouse, did a small portage around the small river that flows from Beaverhouse Lake it to Quetico Lake. I camped on the solid ice near the river which gave me a flat spot to pitch my tent. I used to ice screws to secure both ends of my Stevenson tent. A very easy setup. Also there was water from the river, which took a little doing to relay but this saved me fuel and time melting snow for water. I filled the three thermoses.

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