The following is a true story, only the names have been changed, to protect the guilty.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Relative Luxury

It's 10deg F outside
In the last remaining days of 2012, "G" Man, Super Y, and I headed for the North Shore of Lake Superior. With us were Ragweed, his son Q-Ball, and daughter Wiggles. Some months back, a plan was formed to take our youngsters winter camping. Q-ball was really the spark that got the whole thing going when he asked his dad to take him camping. One thing led to another and there we were, all six of us headed north in the UAV (Ultimate Adventure Van) for a winter adventure.  
Best swimming hole ever, in the summer

 Where Q-ball's idea of camping left off my ideas for taking the kids on some real adventure took over. I know the North Shore quite well and had some really fun ideas in mind. After setting up camp at Temperance River State Park on Friday afternoon, we headed down the road for our first adventure up a frozen river.
getting darker

No camp out is complete without a fire
 One of my favorite things to do in the winter is explore the rivers. We would stick to the small ones I knew well for safety sake. Although I felt comfortable taking the kids on the creeks they are not without danger. The possibility of getting hurt or cold and wet by falling in open water, breaking through the ice, or sliding down something you shouldn't, are very real. Typically I would lead and find the best route, and Ragweed would sweep with a watchful eye to make sure they were following in my footsteps.  
It's about 90 in here 

Pointy things on feet make walking easy on this stuff
 The first "exploration" carried over into darkness. We got a late start at 3:00 pm but were prepared with headlamps for the 4:30 pm sunset. We managed to navigate the really cool stuff in daylight before hitting the turn around point and heading back in the dark. The night hike was fun as well, it was snowing hard and a safe route had already been established, so we made good time.
Even if he doesn't try, I can pull him up

Thin ice !
 Once back at camp we got a fire built and started cooking dinner. It was snowing harder now and I retreated into my wall tent to get a fire going and cook dinner without the snow falling on the back of my neck. I really don't like snow down my back. Ragweed finished cooking his family's dinner outside and the six of us ate together in the relative luxury of a heated wall tent. I felt guilty when they left the warmth of our tent and headed for their traditional unheated dome tent for the night. The fact is my tent isn't all that big and with four kids and two adults inside it's cramped and gets very messy in no time. Also, the thought of an unprotected, glowing red, wood stove in the corner gets me really nervous when four rambunctious kids are playing and not always paying attention. 
He wields a mighty ax

time to dry out
 The next morning we went further north for my favorite river on the north shore. With all the slipping and sliding on the ice the day before we donned whatever we had for extra traction. My boys had snow shoes, I had cramp-ons, Wiggles had snow shoes, and Q-Ball and Ragweed had gravity and friction (nothing) :( . At the start the river doesn't look like much, but at the first waterfall I had doubts if we would make it. The waterfall was nearly vertical, and a large pool is within feet of the fall line if you were to slip. I went first to check it out as well as the other larger water falls that are just upstream. It was so beautiful I had to show them. When I returned I rigged up and threw down a rope and carabiner for the kids to wrap around themselves under their arms with the help of Ragweed. The kids crawled, I pulled, and Ragweed pushed, until we were all at the top and ready to get into the good stuff. The rest of the river was consumed slowly, and methodically not only for safety, but to ensure we were taking it all in.   

Little do we know, we are on about 3.5 inches of ice with 2-3 feet of water below
 Exploring this river was my only real plan for the daylight hours so we took our time and also ventured further upstream than I had ever been. We were all having a great time, although some of us were getting tired, when Q-Ball broke through the ice and got his boot and glove completely soaked. Don't worry mom the water is only 4-6 inches deep. In true Jack London style we decide to stop and build a fire to dry out. It's a warm day, we have lots of time, I have snacks,... the fire was the best thing that could have happened on our adventure. We hang out by the fire for at least an hour and a half telling stories and warming up before heading out in time to beat sundown.
we put out the fire by smashing a hole in the ice to submerge it

This is winter camping?
 The daylight had vanished but our fun was far from over. Before dinner we all enjoyed or time at the municipal pool in Grand Marias. In addition to the pool is a hot tub and sauna :). After swimming dinner was had at Sven and Ole's, say what you will, but I love that place. For me, no trip to Grand Marias is complete unless I've had pizza there. After dinner we headed back to camp arriving around bed time. Wiggles and Ragweed were not quite ready for bed when they convinced my boys and I to go sledding and hike down to the lake from our campsite. Two runs later and the sled was broken. The boys and I hit a log and punched a hole through the sled precisely where my left ass cheek was sitting, owch !  That was the end of that. After the short hike to the lake and back up to camp with the broken sled it was time for bed.  
Best way to dry socks, only two cycles per sock

This is winter camping !
 Before going to sleep I got the tent nice and warm while we lounged around inside. We told some stories and got our last snacks in for the day. What a day!  The next morning it was time to go. I don't like to just pack up right away in the morning on any trip just to get home for the sake of being home. Instead I prefer to get home later and use the day to have fun, which is why we stopped at Split Rock Lighthouse. We did a short hike, checked out the light house from the outside, and milled about the interpretative center before making our journey homeward.

Figured out a great way to cook cinnamon rolls for breakfast
 Thanks for the great weekend.. boys, Ragweed, Q-Ball, and Wiggles.  Big "D" you were missed and I'll bring you with next year or very soon on our own little trip. Lynn you were also missed but I know how you hate the cold so I will suffer out in the frigid temps so our boys can go camping in the winter :).

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  1. Everything about this trip is awesome... other than Sven and Ole's.


    1. Sven and Ole's.. LOL either you love it or you hate it :)

  2. Fantastic. Fantastic. Fantastic. You are a really good dad Deathrider.