Not an ordinary Valentine’s Day, trekking off into the frozen backcountry, leaving my special someone at home with a heartfelt card and promises to be fulfilled post trip. Admittedly it was error on my part in planning last November and one that is not likely to be repeated again anytime soon.
We absolutely hit the weather though, bright and sunny with waist deep snow! The Mid-West has had a great winter season compared to many in recent history and the Medicine Lake crew along with Tubbs has taken every advantage. This time we went directly west from Minneapolis to the Flambeau River State Forest near (aptly named) Winter, WI. There are many entry points but we chose an area of the Forest which showed the greatest open spaces between ski and snowmobile trails. We found solitude! In fact, a lesson learned when looking for out of the way places in winter – canoe-in only campsites! The area we chose was not at all traveled, offered parking near the service road entrance, a campfire ring and ample room for a four person Quinzee!
Despite our off trail excursions, hearty laughs, Medicine Lake initiations (everyone is offered a whole dehydrated banana on their first outing), the Quinzee was the story of our weekend! It took focus and a lot of our energy.
Three guys and one Canadian female on a mission; at one point the three of us stood outside the Quinzee drawing straws on who would next “go under” to support this non-stoppable Canadian and excavate her Quinzee shavings. She truly was the driving force in this accomplishment!
Successfully the Quinzee was big enough to hold the four of us with plenty of room to spare. It was my first opportunity to sleep in one and it was worth the effort and energy! We all were super tired from blazing our own trails trekking in the backcountry, shoveling the same pile of snow twice and keeping up our body temps in the cold, snowy weather. When we retired we had cloud cover and a steady snow fall so when the last headlamp went out it was completely black. Within a few hours however the skies cleared and the Qunizee was illuminated by a shining full moon. Really cool! As the night drew on I was loosening up my zero degree bag to balance my body temp with the cozy warmth of the Quinzee.
This was no understatement by the way, and a testament to the benefits of sleeping in a Quinzee, because when we stepped outside at 6:45am it was -20 and we all slept in complete warmth! As a comparison our first night was spent in tents at -10, clear skies, full moon, yes we did a night hike without the need for headlamps – incredible – but we all slept lightly closing up any gap in our gear that was letting the cold sink in.
As one of our unnamed crew stated; Slept in a Quinzee – Check; Froze my ass off – Check. By all measures however it was a great weekend getting back into those places that only snowshoes can afford to share the winter wilderness in solitude with friends!