Spring always seems to sneak up on us here in Northern Minnesota… Sputtering between snow and rain, sub-freezing nights slowly give way to warm and sunny days as winter gives up the ghost and relents to the annual defrost. The 2020/2021 winter season was hard for us. Delaying the expedition was a challenging but ultimately simple decision to make, and like everyone else going through the COVID-19 pandemic it was mentally and emotionally taxing to spend the winter on edge; waiting for information about how the virus spread and if the northern border might open, all while isolating ourselves to limit exposure.
That being said we were still able to work towards our expedition goals by running our dogs on the trail systems connected to our property, testing our field gear, and meeting consistently to keep our project list up to date. The culmination of this work came at the end of February/beginning of March when Samantha and Anna took a team of dogs, a new (to us) tent and stove system, and a hulking Frankenstein-ed dog sled out for a rip up Moose and Knife lakes. The practice trip was successful by three important benchmarks: 1) the dogs adjusted and performed well pulling a loaded sled, 2) Samantha and Anna decided what they did and did not like about existing camp systems and took extensive notes for improved efficiency, and 3) they were able to get out and have some good old fashioned dog-sledding-winter-camping FUN!!! The week the two spent on trail was blessed with warm temperatures and bluebird days (but not too warm as to swamp the lakes with slush) and it felt great just to be outside in the Boundary Waters again.
Now, nearly two months after that trip, the ice and snow are completely gone and Samantha, Anna, and Nora are switching into summer mode. In our personal lives this means preparing for summer jobs, switching over our fleece and down wardrobes for jean shorts and sun dresses, and of course, rearranging the house. For the expedition, this means taking the notes from the practice trip and applying them to as many spring projects as possible. Our hope is to implement changes and cross things off our long-term “to-do” list so that when the fall rolls around, and the northern border hopefully opens for winter 2021/2022 international travel, we are one step ahead.
See our list below for a highlight into what some of the notes from our practice trip look like…
- Foot powder.
- Matches > lighters
- Stove board — siliconized wood?
- Lift stoves for increased efficiency
- Wet tent-ness? Cooking in sleeping bags?
- 11 ft seems ideal for sled length… 12 ft a bit much on portages. Width is good.
- Diamond cord necessary for lashing
- Freight boxes?
- Contact the Amish
- Tent bag system by Nora worked great
- Fleece foot pocket for Sammie’s sweaty toes
- Contact: MSR, Wintergreen, Piragis
- Test egg pucks
- “Poop box!” Sammie chants
- Can we incorporate solar panels on top of sled?
- Purchase Garmin (messaging and maps work)
- Hygiene conversation
- Elon Musk sponsorship, let’s get on it