Boundary Waters – Minnesota

February 11, 2009 8:39pm

February training in Minnesota. Nothing like the lake district inMinnesota in the middle of winter to test systems and get in the mindframe to face the harsh conditions of the Polar North. Months ofrigorous diet, physical and mental training are mandatory to make the pole. If you like camping in the snow, pulling a 200 lbs sled for 8hours a day and jumping in a hole in the ice, then this is a great wayto spend a holiday. If you don’t, not so much!

The Boundary Waters area in Minnesota are, surprisingly, easiest to
travel in the winter. The many lakes are frozen and the surrounding
forest is cut though by skidoo and dog sleds trails where marshes take
over in the summer. After a hearty breakfast by the campfire we set off
for a full day of skiing, pulling the mammoth sledge. By and large, I
am relieved that I feel fit for the challenge. But the hours roll by at
a snail’s pace. The conditions are mild but very humid. My body
temperature rises rapidly and while the outside temperatures hover
around freezing, and it snows for much of the day, I find that shedding
my jacket, hat, and gloves is plenty warm while pulling the heavy
sledge. Even with a short day, I sense the challenge of the Great North
where the hours drag on with no end in sight and the brutal cold
imposes total protection from frostbite. The skiing is, in fact
solitary and leaves plenty of time to reflect. A permeating thought
invades my mind as I contemplate what type of individuals subject
themselves to this painful exercise. Is it escapism? Is it fear? Is it
a “mal de vivre” or a disenchantment with the world. I ponder these
thoughts as my legs burn; my back aches; and while I breath heavily,
filling my lungs with the cold air, I visualize the endless white
desert of the Great North roll before me.

Five and a half hours and we have traveled 7.4 miles, which is a
reasonable speed considering the weight I am pulling. The moist climate
penetrates every stitch of clothing, and when we break to make camp at
the edge of a small lake, I am too spent to fully take in the beauty of
the surroundings. Heavy snowflakes cover the tent where the four of us
will sleep tonight. The cooking stove quickly warms up our tent, but
the intense humidity is taxing. My body aches, and as I lay to rest I
am contemplative of my limitations which silently scream from the
depths of my soul: What type of man are you to think you will succeed
at this?”

Leave a Reply