Thurs Feb. 12 (day 4)

It’s a cold morning – weather station says –15C. Well, cold relative only to what we’ve experienced so far on the trip but certainly not cold by seasonal temperatures. I’m expecting a return to double digits below zero soon enough.

As the others take down the tent, I’m asked to go ahead and start packing the portage trail. It’s a very steep hill, rising 40m in elevation over 300m of distance. With the fresh deep snow, it’s hard work and I take many breaks to catch my breath. Craig is the boss of the trip’s  route management – he walks to the top of the hill I’ve stomped and proclaims ‘too steep’. We need to find another way around this hill…

About 500m north of camp, the same skidoo trail disappears from the lake, going up a gentle grade into the bush. As we start hauling our komatiks over to the trailhead, yesterdays fishermen appear (on skidoos with fishing gear, iceboxes and chairs) – they tell us the trail is packed all the way to an old logging roadway. This is good news because the old roadway will eventually connect with the portage trail. Although ultimately longer, it will be much easier than going up that original portage steep slope. The gentle uphill is tough enough as it is – I push each komatik from the rear to assist the puller up the slope. But the day is lovely and clear, its wind sheltered working in the trees again, and I’m enjoying myself.

The forest feels very sparse, being mostly leafless deciduous trees. A small creek grows in size and we cross the occasional wood bridge fording tributaries. Lunch is at the portage trail on the shore of Three Mile Lake. I wonder that we can afford the daily luxury of fire building as it costs 2 hours of valuable daylight and the good weather has continued throughout the day. It’s a slight surprise as slush begins to appear underfoot threatening to clog our snow shoes.

  Finally we hit camp about 4pm – I’m thinking yes, we will have the tent set up before dark tonight. But wrong! After 45 minutes of clearing this site, the decision is made to move the tent site about 50 feet further up the slope where the grade appears to be more level. All poles are packed up to the next level, unloaded gear is reloaded on to the komatiks and we shuffle upwards. In the end, the tent doesn’t appear to be better pitched but at this stage, I don’t care. Bob’s pasta dinner is superb with a huge bag of dehydrated veggies and big pieces of ham. I make fruit crisp for desert, following Dick’s how to suggestions. The wind is starting to blow, the trees are rattling and squeaking. Sounds like another weather front coming in.