Friday, January 1, 2010

Ely Winter: The Kawishiwi Triangle

The air had grown cold; it would leave you breathless in the morning rays. The land outside my cabin had been draped in white, the snow clung to tree limbs ornamenting them in beauty. The icy grip of winter had transformed the lake outside my window to a frozen playground.

As a lover of winter, I had taken to the snow with frequency. The usual was cross country skiing on the local groomed trails. But here on the door step of the wilderness I found that there was more to be explored and skis would bring me where my wanderlust would take me.

However the winter air had grown frigid as temperatures reached no higher than -5 in the peak of daylight and regularly crept to -25 below in the darkness. I made a call on New Years Day and shortly thereafter found myself in a parking lot with two other companions staring across the windswept lakes. Out beyond the horizon we would trek the Kawishiwi Triangle. The daytime high was -6 and as we crossed the first lake my face was numb as the wind had a nasty bite. I am a warm bodied soul, however on several occasions the small bit of flesh exposed outside of my balaclava was ghostly white with frost. Over the course of the trip, we battled slush forced up by the river's current, which would freeze and kill ever bit of glide your skis may have had. I managed to narrowly avoid going through the ice on one occasion. And the trek wouldn't have be complete without an instance of hearty bush wacking through a thicket of alder (the northwoods most frustrating shrubbery). We skied into the darkness anticipating the rising of the moon.

It was a heavenly moment watching the darkness pierced by the moonlight rising out of the white pine studded horizon. I looked back to see our black silhouettes against a canvas of luminous white snow and our tracks a silvery line tracing into the distance. The winds grew colder and maintaining warmth became more challenging. I began to realize how vulnerable I was. Hours from civilization and warmth, needing keep the fire of exertion tended and stoked we could not stop skiing. When we arrived back to the car, I found that my boots were frozen to my skis and bindings hopelessly clogged with ice (sans the slush) as the temperature gauge read -13. Through the beauty and ruggedness of the boundary waters, we had traveled 22 miles in all. As I hopped in the car in my socks and put on borrowed shoes, I couldn't help but crave the unusual: a gas station rice cripsy bar.

For days my cheeks and nose remained as a rosey reminder of the trek. And a week later the skin from my cheeks peeled away, evidently having been been frost bit. It was day to remembered and possibilities opened to me.

2 comments:

Snow_King said...

a rice krispie bar,eh? I fell into a beaver pond on skis a few weeks back.

Nora said...

I coat my face with Eucerin...it helps keep your skin from freezing. Vaseline works also and Vaseline is in Eucerin. Sounds like a fun trip. Did you see any ice climbs?