Winter Camping in Spring or Spring Camping with a touch of Winter?

I’ve been watching the weather with hopes of getting out on a short, overnight backpacking trip with my very new Mystery Ranch Glacier pack.

My pack ready to go Friday morning. I specifically had Friday April 19th in mind. My place of employment gives us Good Friday off as a paid holiday. When the ten day forecast came out it called for 60% chance of rain. I know forecasts change. Seven days out we were having a winter storm with a foot of snow. I let Jeff know I was planning anyway. He said he was in. With one day to go the forecast was for a high of 60F and cloudless blue skies and an overnight low of 36F degrees. The best weather so far this year.

Despite the hundreds of miles I’ve hiked on the Superior Hiking Trail as a hiker, backpacker, volunteer and paid contractor somehow I’ve never hiked any of the sections between Two Harbors and Duluth.

Both Jeff and I used to live in one-vehicle households which complicated getting out. Now that we both have vehicles we decided to both drive so we didn’t have to do an out-and-back hike. We chose to do the section from Rossini Road to Lake County Demonstration Forest.

We started at Rossini Road and hiked “north”. On the short drive up, 50 minutes for me, 30 minutes for Jeff, the view from the road made it appear the forest floor was mostly snow free. Our biggest concern was snow/slush covered trail or muddy/standing water conditions. Those concerns were valid, but the frustration caused by those conditions was minimized by the beautiful weather. It was sunny, 60F degrees with light winds. By far the best day of 2019 so far. Plus, the sun doesn’t set until 8 pm this time of year so there is no urgency to get to camp by dark.

We quickly discovered we’d be walking in snow most of the hike. At least 85% of this section of trail still had snow on it. From 1″ to 2 feet deep. It wasn’t slushy, but it was very wet. We would posthole in deeper snow, sometimes punching through to standing water. It was slow going and tiring……but the weather! We were walking through snow and only wearing short sleeve shirts. It was fantastic to be out hiking in the woods on such a beautiful day. The smells of the woods had us looking forward to the backpacking and bikepacking adventures yet to come this year.

I named the following picture “The White Pine Inn”

This was more tree fort than deer stand. Deer stands are common sites in the north woods. This wasn’t your typical deer stand.

We stayed at the second of two campsites on this section. It’s by Ferguson Creek and is called Ferguson Campsite.

We filled our water bags at the swiftly flowing creek before climbing a short hill to the campsite. The campsite was on a side of a deep ravine facing south. We were hoping it would be snowless.

It wasn’t. There was just enough open dirt in the center right of the above picture for us to set up our shelters. Jeff was hammocking. I had my tent in fastpack mode; ground sheet and tent fly. I left the main tent body at home.

It got down near the freezing mark. My wet boots were frozen solid by morning, but our water didn’t freeze. I was able to bring my down sleeping bag, rated to 0F degrees to keep me toasty warm all night. It fit nicely in the sleeping bag compartment on the Glacier pack.

It felt like winter camping with those temps and all the snow.

This hole in the snow was where we buried our food bags. A new method Jeff suggested rather than bear bagging it. It worked. No critters found our food. It’s likely the local black bears have awakened from their winter sleep and were active, and hungry.

The hike out was short and very nice in the morning sunlight. We skipped a mile and a half snow covered spur trail to the trailhead and did a road walk instead. We both had sore knee and hip joints from all the walking in snow.

It was a wonderful early season backpack trip. The snow added some challenges. It was tiring hiking in the snow. It made route finding a challenge. We followed a pair of faded footprints which lead us off trail at one point. The blue blazing was inconsistent and not always helpful. For those of you that know Susan and I worked as contractors to blue blaze the whole trail, we didn’t paint blaze this section. It was built after we did our blazing project.

I had high expectations of my new Mystery Ranch Glacier Pack. It exceeded those expectations. Having put 3,000 miles on a Dana Design Terraframe (the same designer of my new Mystery Ranch pack) the new pack felt completely familiar, but better. It has new design elements and new features. It was like putting on a new pair of shoes and realize they fit you perfectly and never cause a blister.

It was a great start to a season of outdoor adventures.

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