Everyone can admit this winter has been LONG and COLD. When I approached my buddy about a northern Minnesota camping trip at the end of February I was getting a mixed response. I finally talked him into going. The week leading up to the trip involved a lot of convincing and promise that we both would come home with all our fingers and toes.
We ultimately decided to head up to the Iron Range about 200 miles north of Minneapolis. I was avoiding checking the weather but I knew that we had a chilly weekend ahead of us. We promptly packed our sleds and loaded up the Jeep.
With the gear wagon packed and the cup holders loaded we set off!
Once we arrived we began our trek after digging a parking stop for the Jeep. Once parked we got bundled up and strapped on the snow shoes and started the trek.
Moving our sleds in the deep snow turned out to be a bigger challenge that we had anticipated. we luckily were able to get everything to camp after a few trips! After digging out our "Home" for the weekend we quickly got a fire rolling and setup camp.
With the sun quickly setting we knew that getting warm and staying warm would be critical for survival, the temperatures we sitting right around -8. After a nice warm dinner and some warm water we shivered around the fire for awhile and took some time lapses of the stars.
After drying gloves, socks, face masks by the fire we boiled up some water and tossed it in the tent with us. Once in the tent we fired up the heater and warmed up the tent to a balmy 30ish degrees. Knowing running the heater all night was not an option we wanted to start off as warm as we could. Completing the simple process of changing, getting on fresh socks, placing hand and foot warmers strategically in your gloves and socks while in a cramped tent turned out to be enough fun for one night. Once we were cinched tightly in our bags we called it a night.
- DAY 2 -
Once the sun started coming up we both got very optimistic that maybe we would be able to feel the warmth of the sun in the tent.. wrong.
With the high for the day of -16 we knew staying warm would be critical. It's quite amazing how a warm breakfast and some coffee would help raise moral around camp. Once you taste that first sip of coffee and that first spoonful of oatmeal you get this rush, this feeling of power. It's moments like the this that keep me going, you honestly feel like superman knowing that you just survived a night at -18 in the back country of Minnesota . We found out later it was only 10 degrees colder on the summit of Mt. Everest that night.
Camping in the winter is a constant battle to stay warm without sweating, keeping warm and dry are the two biggest challenges we faced. Our cameras also really started to feel the pain. Holding your frostbitten camera even through thin gloves made taking photos next to impossible.
After collecting wood, watching water boil, making a snow tunnel, and a nice warm lunch we strapped on the snowshoes and headed out.
Once back at camp came some more busy work around camp, followed by some afternoon spirits. Gathering wood became a great source of warmth in 2 ways; trudging through the snow works up quite the sweat, and we then get to burn the wood and stay warm. That a huge win in my book!!
We sat out the cold and night with a nice fire, the two of us talked about our weekends adventures. We learned so much about staying warm and staying smart in the extreme cold. We then headed to bed that night after taking a few more star photos.
- DAY 3 -
After several trips back to the Jeep we loaded up and headed home.
Looking back on the weekend I can't wait to get out camping this summer and next winter. Getting out into the wilderness and forgetting about everything but the bare essentials is what getting out is all about to me. Nothing makes you appreciate a bottle of water like boiling snow over an open flame for 25 minutes. Warm coffee and oatmeal in the morning make you feel like you have one some sort of lottery in the wild. That's not a feeling you get everyday by turning on the faucet, or microwaving some oatmeal.