Where the Middle of Nowhere Becomes a Winter Wonderland - My Family Travels

This journal is humbly dedicated to Mark Twain, whose fine literature inspired me to document my travels. Also, I humbly dedicate it to Lewis and Clark, the classic textbook example of a true explorer.

Last summer I took a trip to Ely, Minnesota and canoed fifty miles in lakes with no civilizations. That trip inspired me to venture into the North Country: this time in the winter. So I raised one thousand dollars, purchased cold-weather gear in Florida, and returned. This describes these seemingly indescribable experiences.

â–º  Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship

What we ate on this trip can be measured in volume! Being on the ice we would eat cheese, bacon, and pasta. Our meals were cooked on a stove in the kitchen carved out of snow. Breakfast was early, but dinner was always eaten when it was dark. Our snow table was illuminated with eight small tea light candles.

Our site on Blackstone Lake was comparable to a home. In addition to the kitchen described previously, there was a couch, armchair, and an igloo-like structure called a quinsy. There was a tent, water hole, and sleeping places of those who chose to spend the nights under the stars.

The weather this week was balanced. For three days we had sun and even though there was snow outside, it was not snowing. Although on one night, there was sleet, snow, and rain, which caused us to return to base camp rather than move on to Griddle Lake. When I woke up on day four, the snow was in a thick layer on the branches of every tree. What had been a wondrous powder was now a refreshing pile all around. Oddly enough, I did not feel cold on the entire trip.

Sleep was one aspect of the trip that was in abundance. After our dinner in the dark, as a crew we walked up hills and through the snow before slipping into our sleeping bags. I slept out on the ice both nights we were on the lake due to my claustrophobia in the quinsy. To complete the process, every article of clothing had its own location in the sleeping bag or between the two sleeping pads. The purpose of this was so that the body warmth would dry out all the clothes.

Walking through the snow on snowshoes… gliding across the lake. The moment I slipped it on, I knew this was it. Like walking on water, the shoes added a spring in my step that could only be felt in the serenity of Ely.

The dogsledding aspect of my journey was only a small taste of the experience: it left me wanting more. Within moments, the Alaskan huskies were vociferous and persistent. They felt, as did I, a burning passion to speed through the snow. On command, at “Hike!” the dogs were suddenly and eerily silent, but for the soft pitter-patter of their petite, powerful paws as they cascaded across the snow covering the pristine, untouched, chilly lake.

One final hike, spent trudging through slushy snow and gliding through dry, perfectly clean snow alike. We all knew we would never feel the closeness together again that we did that day. Even the wispy grey clouds felt so as they hid the sun our feelings were also mixed with enjoyment. I was overcome by the realization that this trip was finally over, and took time to reflect on how it had gone. In this state of meditation I formed no negative thoughts other than that the Okpik experience would soon be complete. With each stride I contemplated my winter wonderland vacation.

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