Day 2 Moose River Winter Walk

The sun is finally making it’s showing above the expanse of spruce and fir trees here along the shore of the Moose River.

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My thumb is already starting to crack in the cold. We spent over 12 hours in the sleeping bags. This morning, no one was up until it was light. I got the stove going and then crept back into my sleeping bag to warm up while I waited for the stove to start radiating heat into our living space. It was very cold. I have no interest in winter camping out of a backpack any more.

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Heated tenting is where it is at for me. Pat works outdoors in all seasons and he said it was around 10 below zero. Snow had collected on the 13′ x 13′ plastic tarp in the night and we had to knock it off. The tent’s interior surfaces were covered in a thin layer of ice that built up from the cooking and the moisture that four men create by living in a small heated space.

I suffered through an hour of discomfort while eating supper last night. Stay away from Dave’s Ultimate Insanity Hot Sauce. I shook 4 dabs into last night’s stew and two spoonfuls put my mouth into such a fire that I was unable to eat any more. I should have read the label, which recommended 1 drop at a time. I put hot sauce on just about everything, but this stuff is truly in another universe. I should have read the label, which warned the user to use , at most, one drop at a time, and even suggested diluting the stuff in oil.

We came up with a creative solution to today’s activity. Instead of moving the tent again, we completed a 6 mile round trip walk up the river, taking minimal gear- just 1 toboggan, two saws, and the axe. Our quest was to pack down the fresh 6″ of snow on snowshoes and scout out a potential tent site to use as we move up river tomorrow.

The day was sunny, with a bit of a breeze, however it stayed freakin’ cold. I was terribly frigid at our first snack stop after 2 miles of trudging through the loose powder. I tore open two chemical heat packets and shoved them into my chopper mitts. I put a scarf over my lower face. I pulled up my jacket hood, drank a pint of hot coffee, ate a big Chunky, and trusted that things would turn around while I continued to walk.

We never did find an ideal tent site within those three miles. At the turn around point, Matt suggested that we explore a tributary that came into the river through a marsh. While walking in the frozen swamp, Pat broke through the ice and luckily dove onto shore before he got his feet wet. We all walked over to a single, tall, dead spruce to observe the osprey nest at the very top.

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Matt told us that the boggy expanse of swamp would be an ideal place to spot a Snowy Owl, which are overwintering here from their northern reaches in the arctic. No luck with that.
We made great time walking the three miles back to the tent, where the four of us, unspoken, set to work getting a bucket of fresh water, replacing melted snow under the stove, cut and split firewood, and readjusted the tent. No more snow allowed for repositioning some of our outside gear as we settled into Bad Influence’s evening meal of Ranch dip and veggie chips, beef stew, and yummy dessert bars.
We were all in bed by 6:45 PM. I hope I sleep soundly, and pray for no legs cramps tonight. The silence of nature is genuine here, a rare occasion in America in 2014.

Day 1 Moose River Winter Walk.

7 Miles of hard pulling today. It was snowing when we got up and snowing when we went to bed at 6:30 PM. Three friends accompanied me today: Pat, Bad Influence (BI) , and a new friend of BI’s- Matt, an interesting guy who has just moved to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom from Taos, NM. We stayed at #9 Cozy Cove Cabin in Jackman last night, where Pat cooked up a breakfast of bacon, eggs, English muffins and brewed several cups of great, rich coffee.
The snow made the walking more difficult. Although it was cold out, fresh snow crystals stay sharp, and they have a way of causing friction. After the snow melts a bit in the sun, the edges get duller, and the bottom of the toboggans slide better over the packed snow.

We are really tired tonight, after just 4 miles of pulling: one mile on a snowmobile trail to Attean Pond, two miles on top of the frozen Pond, and then one into and along the Moose River. We are all in bed by 6:30 PM. The Egyptian canvas 9 x 12 wall tent fits the four of us side by side toward the back of the tent. The front serves as our kitchen, complete with a small titanium box stove with stove pipe that heats the tent up quite nicely. Despite temps in the teens tonight , it got so warm that I had to strip down to my undershirt. We have a taught line rigged up below the ridge inside where our wet and damp clothing can dry out. We let the stove die out when we decide to sleep, and each are prepared to stay warm to 20 below zero, up here over 1,000′ in elevation about 10 miles from Canada.
I made up a 5 bean and pork/ beef stew. My appetizer was warm roasted mixed nuts. Dessert was walnut brownies. BI and I carefully approached an open lead in the river where we were able to draw off water for our drinks.
We spent a lot more time than usual setting up our tent tonight. There is less than a foot of snow in the ground. It was hard to plant side pole on the frozen ground. There were not many branches around the site that we could attach ropes to hold out the side walls.
I really like having four people on this trip. It was fun listening to conversations, and very satisfying to me having a pair of us setting up the tent while Pat and Matt sawed down standing dead spruce. They sawed it up into stove lengths and then split it with an axe.

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Pat tending the camp stove