March 11 (Day 14)

Very slow start to the day. Garrett is scraping ice balls from yesterdays rain/snow off the tent fly at 5:45am! Eek, much to early for me but its like nails on a blackboard, there is no escape and we all get up, start packing gear in preparation to move. It’s a 3 hours job to break camp with this size and experience of group. I ponder Garrett’s comment: an experienced group with one tent can get going in about 1 hour, easily travel 10 miles a day. Our group is doing about half that…

Extremely wind conditions from the west as gusts are causing ground blizzards and white outs. The blue sky is visible above, tempting one to move. It’s awesome and a bit scary, feeling the power of the winds as they whip across the expanse of open frozen lake, building wind devils high as white tornadoes. Luckily the wind is at our backs….its –15C with estimated gusts up to 50 kph.

The toboggan is sliding beautifully however for the first time on the trip. It’s the first time I’m using one of the synthetic sled compared to the traditional wood toboggan. In fact, it is pretty much pushed along by the wind, I have to jog along ahead or risk being run over from the rear! Not sure if its the sled material or the different snow condition  which makes the biggest difference but I’m glad for it. Now I learn other skills, like how to hold my arms out bent at the elbows to keep slack in the traces and smooth the overall motion. One trace or the other can be shortened to control the toboggan on a descent, like reins of a horse. Sometimes the toboggan flips over on its side, digging deep into the snow and requiring a lot of effort to dig out and right. This can be controlled with proper reining as well. So much to learn! What fun to be a student again.

It’s a quick lunch stop in the trees. Within 40 minutes we are looking for an overnight camp site. It’s another island site and another 3 hours to make camp. In light of this morning conversation, I wonder when does experience start to kick in and the set up/take down time start to diminish? Six  spruce grouse linger at the base of a tree, unsure about the new arrivals…soon however, they depart to a safer location.

There’s an excitement and restlessness in the air. The wind is still howling at dinner (chicken stew with dumplings, desert of toxic brownies and fruit compote). The usual wood pickets are set inside around the woodstove but for added security, some cross bars are added to keep the canvas tent walls from brushing against the hot wood stove. In the middle of the night, Ric accidentally upsets the stacks of metal cups and dinner plates – the resounding clatter of metal bouncing against the wood stove knocks perching grouse out of the trees as well as jolts sleepers awake in the tent. In the wee morning hours, the stove pipe becomes uncoupled, thick choking smoke blows back into the tent until Garrett wedges it back together. I fall back into an uneven doze until light begins to rise.