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

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Man Trip 2013, Day 3

camp site day two
 Day three started on the cold side again, well below zero, but that didn't stop us from sleeping in a little(7:40am). After packing up camp, A.F. and I headed for the van to cook breakfast in the back. The Legend joined us and received a special delivery from E.P. in the form of a gas station breakfast sandwich. E.P. drove from Duluth to join the group on the tail end of the trip, replacing JJ who had to head home the night before. We were five strong again and ready for action.
I love it when the sun is out

fat-bikes go anywhere, even waterfalls
 We started the days adventure riding another river. This one is very scenic and my favorite one that I've explored on all of the north shore so far. I've done a lot of them and would be surprised to find something better.  Going up river is not as much riding as it is hike-a-bike, but the reward is the amazing scenery and a fast twisty down hill on a nearby trail.

A fast downhill awaits
 Now that our little warm-up was out of the way it was time for something a lot bigger and more time consuming. Another x-c ski trip down a river. This particular river never ceases to amaze me, I've been down it at least twenty times over the last 13 years, and it's never exactly the same. This year we left early enough in the day that we planned to have a good sized lunch and a fire mid-way down. Ramen noodles, rice crispy bars, and Monster were on the menu for me, as well as a special treat I brought to share, Jiffy Pop.
The Legend

Is this Colorado? I don't think so

No slipping and falling allowed here
 In less than an hour we were all fed and on the move. We were cruising the small water falls and past pools of open water on our way the the crux of the whole endeavor, a big waterfall with a  mandatory rappel. A.F. and I set up the ropes and he was first to go. With our little lesson in rapping the day before everyone was quickly set to go,  and over the falls in no time. Typically we spend a lot of time here getting ready, and as a result we all get very cold. I was happy to stay relatively warm this time. The stretch after the falls is deceivingly long, about two miles of well worn, rock shard littered, icy single track, not conducive to skiing. I'm sure everyone's skis took a beating on this section with gouges and scrapes on the underside like mine did.
 I went swimming here last fall

Miles of this kind of terrain

Who wants pop-corn ?
Back at the vehicles it was time for a drive and retooling of required gear. For the next exploit we would be riding fat-bikes somewhere, to some place and spending the night.  We would also need the snowshoes to complete the objective when we ran out of trail suitable for riding. All of us got the packing done in a frantic effort trying not to be last, and also to make use of as much of the daylight as possible. This part of the trip was also one that we did last year but wanted to improve upon.
We should do this every day

Metal !

Watch it, that last step's a doosie
      This time we wanted more riding and less snowshoeing. We achieved both, but had a bit of a breakdown several hours into the journey when we got turned around/lost/disoriented and contemplated retreat if the solution did not reveal itself within a set amount of time. It's not like we could get lost, we had a snowshoe track to fall back on.  Correct forward movement in knee deep snow, in pitch black darkness, in the middle of nowhere, with temps now below zero, and headlamps that just don't seem to shine far enough to get a good lay of the land was not helping us. I was a little rattled by know, moments earlier my entire left leg broke through thin ice dropping me to my stomach and pinning me to the snow as I could not pull it free. I thought I just stepped into a void in the snow-pack until I could feel water seeping into my boot and around my leg. I didn't panic but inched back and wiggled my snow-shoe shod foot free. When I looked back at the hole, I realized that what we had all just walked over was compacted snow. It gave me a sick feeling to think what might have happened if one of us had fallen through completely.  For me, these are the times when all of my "training" in endurance events and back country travel pay off. Sure I was cold and tired and getting really hungry, but I knew this wasn't shit compared to what I've been through in the past. We were all getting frustrated and had different ideas on which way to proceed, but AF was right all along to follow the otter tracks. In the midst of it all I threw on my down sweater, ate a couple candy bars and felt better.   
I'm Ready

uh oh, it's getting dark
        Looking back on last year's trek to the same place, we had similar problems with the unknown.  As the self proclaimed trip leader I feel responsible for everyone having a good time and knowing what to expect and where we're going at all times. In this territory it's just as much a first time adventure for me as it is the rest of the crew.
where the hell are we anyway ?

After nearly four hours of fat-biking and snowshoeing we arrived at a little cabin in the woods. Tranquility fell over me as I got my first glimpse of the moose skull hanging on the outside wall. The stars were out in full effect, the silence was at the point in which I can hear my heart beat, and inside the cabin a hot fire and warm food is about to erase any doubts I may have had about making the long trek to this special place in the middle of nowhere.


  1. 'Salvation' is a fantastic picture.

  2. Great report of the exploration.

  3. Great post, and I agree that the last pic is awesome. That little cabin truly is a special place.