It was quiet for awhile as everyone cooked and melted snow for the next day's water. Later though, we gathered to talk and share cheesecake for dessert. We began to get acquainted as people told stories of their life and other trips they'd done.
The sky was black and studded with stars that can't be seen amongst the lights of the city. There was the deep quiet of the wilderess and the magic of candle-lighted tarps. The temperature dropped, but only to the teens so we were very comfortable and talked til almost 10PM before crawling into our bags.
Winter makes for long nights: when I awoke around 7:30 there was only a faint glow in the sky. I got up anyway though, as 10 hours is more han enough rest. I built a fire, brewed a bit of the nectar of life, and watched the sunrise over a breakfast of scrambled eggs wrapped in a tortilla. Not bad, but should have brought a bit of hot sauce...
There was a lot of talk along with the morning camp chores, and at 10AM, some were packed and some were not. Michael shared the plan for the day and said said those who were ready could get started. With NCT in the lead, we bushwhacked through the dense pines at the edge of the lake and up a steep slope into mostly hardwood forest where it was pretty easy traveling NE to Upper Baraga Lake.
Though all of these lakes are pretty, I found this one more scenic than most. Long and narrow, it had points of land that projected out dividing it into a series of different vistas like beads on a chain. The land sloped down steeply along much of the shore, covered with dark green spruces and pines, some of which were magnificent specimens. We followed the lake to its north end and waited there for the rest of the group.
A few ravens called overhead. We had seen otter trails and the tracks of deer, squirrels, rabbits and other small creatures and heard a pileated woodpecker's intermittent drumming.The sun was out in a clear sky and the day was warming rapidly. We put on jackets while sitting, but didn't need to zip them up.
When Michael and the rest of the group arrived we cut overland toward the circle of small lakes to the north. We had a late lunch along the shore of Lake Gordon and headed toward our planned bivouac on Lake Dortay.
Evening of the Second Day
It was very warm and the wet snow clung to our crampons and soaked into our mukluks.The area we chose for camp there was a bit more open than the previous night. Scattered small cedars,willows, leatherleaf and laborador tea indicated that it was very wet in the summer.
We set up camp, gathered firewood and began the evening routine. I decided to sleep out and so had plenty of time to get a start on cinnamon rolls. Muir and his dad set up a pedestal fire and soon had mukluks propped up to dry around it. Michael worked with NCT on the finer points of wood splitting and hobo stove operation since he'd brought one for the first time on this trip. The sun set and the quiet of dinner time was punctuated by intermittent sawing and stove sounds.
Suddenly there was a loud "Eeeow!" sort of exclamation from behind me and I turned to see Michael scrambling hip deep in the snow. Crossing from NCT's place to Muir's fire he had stepped into an unfrozen spot, sunk to the mud and soaked a boot. He retired to his place to start dinner and change footwear, but soon returned to join Muir in propping bootliners to dry around the fire.
The sky put on another awesome show as we talked around the fire. The flip baked cinnamon rolls were of marginal quality, but appetites stoked by fresh air and exercise assured that they disappeared anyway. We adjourned to our bags, full, content, and with almost dry boots.
A Lookout in the Woods
Unbelieveably the sky remained clear and the most of the group was stirring when the morning glow appeared. When some of us were ready, Michael gave the radio to Maryann and we started for Island Lake. We cruised SW to the end of Lake Dortay and figured a rough azimuth to the goal.
Matt took the point and brought us out right where we wanted to be. We radioed, as instructed, to say we'd made the lake, then headed up to the north end to wait for the rest of the group who'd paused to check out some moose tracks. When they arrived, we talked about bushwhacking north to a lookout point for lunch, but that course didn't look very promising and we decided to continue east toward Bulldog Lake and try for some other high points along the way.
Michael figured an azimuth and led us to an escarpment which rose perhaps 70 feet above the surrounding terrain-well above the tallest trees. Leaving the sleds at the bottom, we snowshoed up for a look and the view was well worth the effort.
To the north we could see the haze over Superior and all around the rocky terrain dotted with ponds and criscrossed by creeks. We soaked upthe view and took pictures as Michael talked about other trips to the area and things that had been found. When we'd had our fill of looking, we returned to the sleds and pushed on toward Bulldog Lake, stopping for lunch along the way.
We relaxed inthe sunshine after eating: this trip had all the beauty of winter with few of the discomforts.
Evening Day Three
Another azimuth or two took us to a site on the shore of Bulldog Lake where there'd been a lumber camp many years ago. There remained a sizeable clearing in the woods and some decided to camp there. The rest of us opted for view property on a ledge overlooking the lake.