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Minnesota, United States

9.2.11

A winter adventure

     Growing up, I envied my brothers' adventures with the Scouting program--especially when they went to Canada on canoe trips.  Fast forward to the present, and it was Jim and Ben enjoying the high adventure at Sea Base in the Florida Keys, Philmont in New Mexico, and Okpik in Ely, MN.  I should mention that Jim took Ben and I to Philmont and I did the Silverado program and Ben did the  Mountain Man program, which were so much fun.  We are going back again this year.  After many years, it is my turn to go on my own adventures with Scouting as an adult Scouter.  I signed up for Okpik with the troop and we had a great experience over the past weekend.
     We met at the church on Friday at noon and took off on a cloudy, but relatively mild (20s) day.  After close to a five-hour drive, we stopped in Ely to have supper at Pizza Hut and wish Sam a happy 17th birthday with cupcakes his mom sent along.  
Arriving at Okpik after sunset, Mike checked in, we met our Interpreters Dom and Andy (who was shadowing Dom to learn the ropes of leading a crew).  There was a presentation for the participants about cold weather camping and the activities available for the weekend.  Building a snow hut was one of the activities the boys wanted to try.  We got outfitted with extra gear and set off to the first night cabins.  The advantage to being the only female is that I had my own cabin!  
     After breakfast on Saturday, we set out on our trek to Griddle Lake.  It took over an hour to get there and when you are working hard to pull a loaded sled (mine weighed more than me) uphill and control it going downhill, it gets warm!  When we arrived at the lake, the experienced Scouts were sent out to check the safety of the lake's surface for camping.  The deep snow insulates the surface and because of the slush below the snow, we decided it would be better to camp offshore.  There was a nice campsite with a cooking area already set up and plenty of room for all of us to set up camp.  
We loaded up on some snacks for fuel; it takes a lot of calories to stay warm and it is very important to stay hydrated.  
     With some hearty snacks and warm drinks in our bellies, we set to work on the snow hut.  We sewed the trapezoid-shaped sections of heavy material together up to the first set of green loops and began to fill it with snow.  As the snow fills the area, the snow inside must be packed by stomping it down.  I did some shoveling, and then would help stomp down the snow.  When the snow gets to the next section of green loops, you sew up to the next section, repeating the process of filling with snow and stomping it down to pack it tightly.  It took about two hours, but we got it finished.  When C and S opened up the seam, it sounded like it was going to blow up with all the pressure!  It held together and was a giant snowball.  We stopped to have lunch.  (To finish, you have 16 pins to help determine the thickness of the walls as you dig.  When you hit a pin, stop digging.  The pins are moved around until the interior is finished.)  Having the snow hut canvas sections made the job faster!  
     After lunch, we had a real treat--the dogsledding!  There was a Scout crew in Musher Camp, so they came by to give us dogsled rides.  We had a short talk on the dogs, types of sleds, etc., and then the fun began!  The dogs used for Musher Camp are the smaller, speedy dogs.  The larger ones are for freight hauling.  The minute the dogs stop running, they bark and bark.  They are bred to run and love every minute of it.  They are well-cared for and clearly love what they do!  The toboggans were really nice.  The Musher is the driver and the passenger sits in a covered sled with just the head peeking out.  It is very comfortable and warm.  With four sleds we were all able to take three loops on the Lake, and I was so happy to get a second turn!  Dom was my Musher.  I should mention that the Interpreters were our Mushers, not the Scout participants.  We walked back to our camp and then enjoyed watching the sleds come by camp on their way to their next activity.
     Forward to supper, a hearty, warm pasta meal; a small campfire (for show, not warmth--it smelled heavenly!), and then a night hike before bed.  I should back up a bit because before the hike we filled Nalgene water bottles with hot water to warm up our sleeping bags.  It is a great idea, however, mine leaked!  I stuck my hand in the bag and felt dampness.  :(  Mike helped me out by switching out our inner sleeping bags.  We kept the large ones and switched his bag for me to use inside and my damp one he used on the outside of his heavy bag.  It worked out great, and I really appreciated the help! Before going to bed, we each got a granola bar for a midnight snack.  It is for when you wake up at night and have to go to the pee tree.  Eating the bar gives you quick energy and will add the extra calories when walking away from camp to the designated spot.  It was useful because I had to get up and it takes energy to leave the warmth of a sleeping bag, slip on those cold boots (stored under your sleeping pads), slip on the coat (stored between the sleeping bags), make sure to have a flashlight, and take that walk in the dark!  I slept relatively well and got up at first light.  I stayed put until I saw movement outside!  Having the day's clothing in the inner bag with me kept them warm enough to slip on quickly.  We had a quick breakfast.  I had oatmeal and it was so good and warm.  As we were packing up our sleds, the dog sledders came by camp again, we  patrolled the campsite for any stray trash and put clean snow over where we had the campfire and the outdoor loo.  An important part of Scouting is to leave no trace.
     It was about 10 degrees colder in the morning with a lovely, light snowfall.  Everyone hitched up to their sleds and trekked back to base camp.  We took a more difficult route, but it was a shorter distance.  After unloading the sleds and turning in extra gear, I quickly took the opportunity to wash my face and hair before lunch.  It felt wonderful!  We had a hearty lunch, shared stories, and did some last minute shopping at the Trading Post.  Our Scoutmaster promised the boys root beer if they were on time all weekend (they did a great job) and then we packed up the vehicles and headed back to the cities after a brief stop in Ely to see the snow sculptures.
     This experience was amazing for me.  I thought of my family growing up.  My parents taught us to appreciate the natural world and the simple pleasure of the beauty of and enjoying a winter wonderland.  What a wonderful gift.  

My first night cabin
The Scouts and Dom lead the way
My sled, Mike, Gary, and Andy bring up the rear
Stomping snow for the snow hut
Un-sewing the seams--lots of pressure in there
In the snow hut
The Musher Camp pays us an afternoon visit and Mike, our Scoutmaster gets a ride




My view from the sled
Second trip--hike, hike!
Coming by camp--the experience was beyond awesome!
Winter camping in the snow trench
We had a small campfire before our night hike
Sunday morning; the sled is packed and ready to go
Heading home
At the Trading Post
Andy, me, Dom, Gary, and C (our troop's crew lead)
A lovely snow sculpture in Ely
Re-enactors camped in the park
I love the Hudson Bay blanket coats!
A trapper--the hat was a complete pelt complete with feet
the knife in the fur sheath is made from a bear's jawbone.
He was very large and friendly, but a little scary looking...
Queen of the little snow castle

5 comments:

zippiknits said...

Wonderful Photo Journal of your Trek! Thanks for putting the link over at R. Wow. I love your little snow castle! Queen Mom! hehe

Kathy said...

Looks like fun(?). Brrrr! You're lucky that it was actually one of our warmer weekends. You are a brave soul.

Call me when you're going camping in Hawaii!

Joanne said...

Looks like great fun! Glad you were able to go!!!!

saa said...

Congrats to Jim and Ben who now qualify for the Triple Crown of High Adventure award! http://www.holry.org/triplecrownaward.php

Jennifer said...

Oh my - Sign-Me-Up! Looks absolutely fantastic. What a thrill. Thanks so much for sharing your adventure with us.