Experiencing Winter in the BWCA and Beyond

Maybe I’m just hearing about it more often but it sounds like people are getting outside and enjoying the great outdoors during the winter.  Exploring by snowshoe, cross-country skis, dog sled or snowmobile is something I love to do and I’m not alone anymore.

I just read about a group of four people who are planning to make their way from Saganaga Lake to Ely via the Boundary Waters this February. They are planning to spend a month traveling and camping but I’m not sure what their exact route will be.  I did read about their menu planning on their blog and I’m very happy I’m not going on their expedition based upon their food choices like sticks of butter.  I know you burn alot of calories in the winter and you need energy but I still don’t think I’d be eating butter, tubs of frosting yes, butter no.

Find out more about their adventure and another winter adventure below. If you want to experience winter in the BWCA by day and have a roof over your head at night then give us a call. We’d love to see you at Voyageur.  

Boundary Waters Winter Expedition

January 24, 2014 by Tim Smith 0 comments

What would you do after a 2-week, northern Maine snowshoe expedition? If you answered head directly to Minnesota to go on another multi-week snowshoe expedition, you think just like the guys doing our yearlong immersion program.

Paul Sveum, one of our instructors, is leading a trip across Minnesota’s Boundary Waters immediately following our trip in Maine. You can follow along on a blog he set up for the experience: Boundary Waters Winter Expedition 2014.

Paul is spending the winter in Cornucopia, Wisconsin, living in a wall tent on the shore of Lake Superior. You can read more about his experiences doing so on his blog, Sustainable Outdoor Adventures And Recreation.

You can stay current with both of these blogs, as well as with other members of our community, on The Moose Dung Gazette.

I won’t be heading to Minnesota. Instead, I’ll be heading south for a paddling trip. More on that later.

National Geographic Emerging Explorer Gregg Treinish founded Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, a nonprofit organization connecting outdoor adventurers with scientists in need of data from the field. He also organizes his own expeditions, contributing to research on wildlife-human interaction, fragmented habitats, and threatened species. In that spirit, his blog posts appear both here on Explorers Journal and in Beyond the Edge, the National Geographic Adventure blog.

A huge part of my organization’s mission is to promote conservation around the world. This primarily means collecting data for researchers around the world, but it also involves educating others, particularly adventurers on the importance of conservation and the ease in which they can help. All they have to do is commit to 3 seconds of courage.

But it is even more valuable when we can instill these values into young people — school children who will one day be our leaders, our adventurers, our scientists, and our conservationists. That is a huge reason why Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation offers guided adventure science outings for school groups. We’ve taken students from all walks of life, from the inner city of Oakland to the rural Paradise Valley in Montana and each time it is just as rewarding as the last.

Winter camping in the Gallatin National Forest. Photo by Julia Johannesen.

During the first week of 2014 a group of students and teachers from Arrowhead Middle School in Pray, Montana joined ASC in the Gallatin National Forest just outside our headquarters in Bozeman, Montana.

During the trip we taught students how to find and identify plants and wildlife including recognizing tracks and scat. They also helped set up a non-invasive camera trap to help biologists understand what wildlife is utilizing the forest in the winter. I was joined by ASC’s intern Julia Johannesen who has a long history of both adventure and conservation. Julia recounts the trip below:

It’s one thing to take a group of 8th graders camping; it’s another thing to take them camping in the middle of winter in Montana. Likewise, it’s challenging to carry a heavy backpack containing everything you need to survive for a few days in the wilderness. It’s beyond tough when the backpack you have on that is bigger than you! Now combine the “me-size” backpack with the Montana winter camping, add a pair snowshoes and generous portions of deep, unconsolidated snow, and you have an unforgettable citizen-science adventure.

Snowshoeing through winter’s calm. Photo by Gregg Treinish.

Last week Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC) led students from Arrowhead Middle School on an adventure science outing for 3 days and 2 nights in the Northern Gallatin Range. Though some may believe there is little activity when nature is covered in winters white blanket, Arrowhead students quickly found the opposite to be true. What winter lacks in colorful flora and fauna, it makes up for in the relentlessly hardy evergreen trees.

While there is little daylight to speak of, each unique snowflake can provide hours of entertainment. And while it oftens feels as though nature is on vacation, opting to hibernate through the winter, distinct animal tracks left in the snow tell a different story.

Our mission was completed: we identified plants, documented wildlife observations, and installed noninvasive  camera traps to monitor wildlife in our absence; simultaneously learning important skills for safely living and traveling in the backcountry with minimal impact. We explored the seemingly quiet corners of our surroundings and found signs of life: scratches left on trees, tracks tempting us to further explore their story.

Growing up in the rural area of Paradise Valley, these students were no strangers to being outdoors in Montana. However, watching their faces light up as we traveled far off trail following the tracks of a mysterious animal, it was apparent that exploring their surroundings in this manner was a new adventure for them. Their curiosity was increased as we saw the world from the eyes of our mystery animal: following their tracks down through the thick coniferous forest, over downed trees, always hugging the edge of the forest and avoiding the dangerous exposure of an open meadow.

We continued tracking, taking notes on stride and straddle, document depth and shape, and gathering GPS coordinates along the way, until we were clearly able to identify the tracks as belonging to a coyote. Such a successful, hard earned discovery mandated a much anticipated celebration: lunch break!

Successful trip! Photo by Julia Johannesen.

While we found exciting signs of snowshoe hare, pine marten, and coyote, we did not catch the presence of the rare and clearly elusive carnivores we had our eyes peeled for: the wolverine (Gulo gulo) or Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis). However, the adventure isn’t over. We will go back in a few weeks to retrieve the camera-traps we installed and see what we discover. Stay tuned…

Interested in sending your group on an adventure science expedition? Learn more about ASC’s guided outings. You can provide this opportunity of a lifetime to more students by giving to ASC’s campaign to raise $30,000 to send students on adventure-science expeditions. Keep up with ASC by subscribing to ASC’s blog, liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter (@AdventurScience)Instagram (@AdventureScience) and Google+.

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  • Still getting cold at night on the Gunflint Trail. 21 degrees for a low. At least there aren't any bugs yet.

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