Winter backpacking can be fun, even in the most extreme artic conditions.
Boy Scouts from Troop 33 in DeKalb and Troop 139 in Waterman enjoyed an artic adventure together when they traveled hundreds of miles north to Tomahawk Scout Reservation near Rice Lake, Wisconsin.
Their expedition started Friday evening. Outfitted with winter gear, they were transported to a backwoods site. In the dark of night, they hiked with backpacks and equipment sleds across a frozen lake to a remote cabin. There they reviewed winter safety protocol and emergency rescue techniques.
Saturday morning brought -30 degree wind chill. Carefully dressed in multiple layers to provide maximum warmth, they ventured out into a piercing wind.
Along a snow-covered trail, with backpacks and sleds, they hiked to an area to assist with sled dogs. After harnessing and feeding the dogs, they shared social time with them. It made for a fun and educational stop.
On a frozen lake, they enjoyed kite flying. Strong winds made controlling a kite nearly an impossible task. Boys took turns. Powerful gusts of wind could bring boys off their feet for sensational face-plants in the snow. Laughter was shared.
Lunchtime included food dropped at an unknown location. Using a GPS (global positioning system) device, Scouts were skill-tested to find their food. They found lunch in record time.
A fire tower 100 feet tall presented another challenge. Despite cold winds, they climbed to the top for a panoramic view and the opportunity to see how deep a dropped water bottle would penetrate into the snow.
More hiking brought them to a campsite on a wooded peninsula, where they began building snow shelters for the night.
Called a quinzee, a shelter is created by building a large mound of snow, then digging out a sleeping area. Before digging, the snow needs time to sinter. Sintering involves snow crystals bonding to create structural mass. Their waiting time was spent sledding on a nearby hill.
With shelters complete, a dinner of chicken and wild rice soup with breadsticks made for a filling and delicious meal. Nutritious snacks were frequent throughout the day. Nutrients and calories are important for sustaining warmth in the cold.
Bright winter stars created a sky so unbelievable that a night hike became a necessity. Besides stargazing, it provided a cardio workout pumping warmth into every part of their bodies.
Quinzees provided excellent shelter from frigid cold that night. Scouts slept sound and warm. They awoke to -17 degrees the second morning. Considerable time was spent preparing themselves, packing up gear and loading sleds.
A trek across a lake, followed by a woodland trail, eventually took them to a snow tubing hill and a hot lunch. The expedition was complete.
Time was filled with fun, fellowship, teamwork, self-reliance and challenge, all in the face of winter’s harshest conditions. They earned Snow Base Expedition, Polar Bear and Zero Hero awards.