March 9 (Day 12)

Another very cold night of –45C or so…as I only get up when the sun is up, I wonder how cold it was during the coldest part of the night! Mary lent me her extra thermorest, what a difference it made having the extra layer under me. I was warm sleeping for the first time in days, slept sound and deep through the night. What luxury!

Venturing outside, the sun rises over a distant ridge I climbed yesterday. The river steams, hoarfrost coating tamarack twigs Its very calm, quiet with everyone else sleeping. A crossbill calls just outside the tent. Its going to be a slow layover day, breakfast is oatmeal, bunkers and lots of coffee.

Feeling somewhat ambitious, I start to pile snow for a quinze. Having never made a quinze before I’m somewhat at a loss what to do. Randomly I select a site on the backside of a hill, which is open to snow drop between the spruce trees. The sun is out and I’m getting warm from the exertion. After about 40 minutes of alternately piling and then trampling down the snow, I’m satisfied the pile is big enough and leave it to harden. This keeps me busy until lunch.  

Later, Mary, Joe, Leif, Garrett and myself depart to explore further north towards Howell Lake. First detour is a 350’ climb up short bald dome, almost cliff adjacent to the lake…from there, magnificent views in 360 degrees around. Enticing hills loom to the north-west, winding up along small lakes, connecting valleys and rivers. Would be interesting to explore compared to wide open lakes where nothing is left to the imagination. Its easy walking on the polished hard packed snow mounds and we quickly cover ground. Scrambling up to another summit, we take pictures of each other as the wind whips at our feet. A large bird, possibly a golden eagle, circles overhead. My mind wanders, imagining the forest below from a birds eye view.

On our return to camp, I lag behind trying to capture the delicate pastel colours cast by the setting sun. The diffuse light suggests some change in weather approaching, perhaps a warming after the last frigid days. Back at camp, supper has started. Everyone is feeling mellow, perhaps relaxed now that the push to move forward has been eliminated or the moderating temperatures are less stressful (no cold weather anxiety). Its only –18C which feels pleasant now! How fast one adjusts. A balmy south-east wind adds to the warming trend. My quinze is long forgotten as I snuggle down inside the tent for the night.