BWCAW Winter Camping January 2019

I haven’t kept up my blogging like I had intended this year. I’m posting a mostly picture post of a winter camping trek into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness we did back in January. I’ve taking many winter treks like this but it’s been more than a decade since the last time I’ve ventured into the wilderness. The past few years my friend Jeff and I have tried to get out on a winter overnight at least once every winter. I thought it was time he experience a wilderness trip where there are no road crossings, no cell service and nothing but frozen lakes, rivers, trees, and snow. And, no other people. We had planned a two night trip. We ended up cutting it short after one night. The snow depths on the lakes and rivers were deeper than I’d ever experienced. This caused some unsettling slush conditions to develop between the snow cover and the lake ice. The energy output required to keep moving forward was greater than expected. To put it simply I was exhausted after day one. We made the right choice and ended the trip early. Regardless it was magical to be moving about this beautiful wilderness in the middle of winter.

Seasonal Transitions

Two weeks ago I was convinced we’d have rideable snow well into April. And then the weather turned. Our snow is virtually gone except for a lot of piles.

Over the weekend the studded tires came off the A-train. Looking back through last years pictures I discovered the studs came off two days earlier than last year. Back when I used to commute daily all year round I’d need to keep the studs on until mid-April most years. That’s when morning temps would get above freezing and stay there for good. Prior to that there is ice in the mornings from the previous days snow melt.

I tried out a new saddle bag this weekend. I’ve never used this type of bag. It was different. Not terribly stable. I finally looped the flap straps through my rear rack to stabilize it better. The bag itself is a very nicely made bag from Ellum Bag Works and sold by Hobo Pieces.

I rode on Skyline Parkway with overlooks of Duluth and Lake Superior. I had a view of the second Great Lakes freighter to leave the port since the shipping season started Friday. A Coast Guard Ice Breaker has been clearing shipping lanes. Ships on the move is a sign of Spring here on Lake Superior.

Snow is hanging on.

The weather has turned. It’s attempting to shift into the Spring thaw. This past week we had temps rising above the freezing mark and heavy rain on Wednesday. I figured the rain ended any chances of riding snow now.

After a night of lows in the teens I figured I needed to get out and see for myself if there was any rideable snow.

I discovered some spectacular riding. I was out before noon and before it reached the freezing mark. If you wait until it gets above freezing with the snow depth we still have, it becomes unrideable very quickly.

Only a half mile into this ride I stopped at the edge of the groomed trail to let a snowmobile go by. As I put my foot down on the snow just on the outside of the groomed part of the trail my foot punched through the snow and into a water filled ditch. I was wearing a low gaiter which prevented my boot from instantly swamping. But I didn’t get out without my boot getting a good soaking. It was only 29F degrees. Needless to say I chose to cut my ride short so as not to turn my foot into an icicle. I did stay out for an hour though.

Get out there and ride.

Pictures from the weekend.

This is what our front yard looked like as I was shoveling the latest 3 inch snowfall off our sidewalk. Our front yard is level with the sidewalk.

On Saturday I got in a nice ride on the local trails before the snow arrived. The temp was 34F degrees. It was the first day the temp had risen above freezing in more than two months. The trails were rapidly softening up.

With all this snow, I’ve been thinking we’d be able to ride the trails until April. All of a sudden the extended forecast is calling for temps in the upper 30’s with heavy rain midweek. Yesterday’s ride may have been the last ride on the trails unless we get another cold spell.

I’ll just have to wait and see what the weather brings.

Get out and ride.

Best Snow I’ve ever Ridden

I worked a half day today because I scheduled a plumber to come over and fix our basement sump pump. He was in and out in an hour. That left me with a free afternoon. Free to go fatbiking I say.

We had a record month for snow in February, 36 inches. It never really firmed up all month and was difficult to ride. On Sunday I rode the singletrack on the ridge above my house. The conditions were beginning to improve and was it was almost rideable.

With a winter storm coming this weekend I wanted to get out and ride today before the trails get buried again.

I don’t know what happened in the last four days, but the trail conditions went from fair to the best conditions I’ve ever ridden. That’s saying a lot because I estimate I’ve ridden 12-14,000 miles on snow on a fatbike over the last 13 winters.

Sunday I felt like everything took a huge effort. I had to push the bike up small rises and bumps. Gradual inclines were a struggle to keep moving forward. Today? Everything was effortless. The conditions were unusually fast. I rode every single inch, every bump and every hill. The first time for me on these trails. I never touched a foot down. And I rode twice as far with less effort.

I love March riding. It will change this weekend though. High winds and 6-9 inches of new snow are forecast. We could easily be riding snow into April.

Get out there and ride.