Throwback Thursday: Keweenaw Rocket Range in the Winter

Date: 2013-03-22/23

Location: Keweenaw Point

Weather: Cloudy, Freezing Rain with Occasional Sun

Temperature: 31/24

Total Distance Hiked: 8.70 miles

The Kit:

Food:

Mac & Cheese

Apples

Beef Jerky

Sausage

Pop Tarts

Granola Bars

Chocolate

Tea

Hot Chocolate

Cooking:

Small Cookset

Small skillet

Small Pot

Measuring Cup

Bowls

Knifes Forks Spoon

Plates

2 Penny Can Stoves

16oz Fuel

Matches

Lighter

.50 Ammo Can

Bedding:

Comforter

Bedsheet

Scrap Mattress

Shelter

Tent

Poncho

Ground Cloth

Clothing:

Long Underwear

Under Armor

T shirt

Shorts

Fleece Zip Up Sweat Shirt

Light Wind Jacket

Cargo Pants

Socks

Soccer Socks

Snow Pants

Winter Jacket

Extras:

Knife

Camera

Survival Kit

Compass

Topographical Map

Waterbottle

What I wish I brought:

Small Shovel

Hatchet

Wool Socks

Extra Fuel

Goals:

Visit the Keweenaw Rocket Range

Create a Minimalist Shelter and sleep in it over night

Snag 3 Geocaches along the Superior coast line.

The Trip:

After reaching the end of 41 and pulling into the small roundabout just past Fort Wilkins State Park we began our adventure.  I wasn’t too excited to start this hike because my contacts had been bothering me.  I was only able to keep one in, giving me weird, off balance vision.Despite the good vision we proceeded with the hike. The hike in was relatively straight forward, following trail lines made by snow mobiles on the unplowed Mandan Road. We were slowed down by the slight incline, the lack of entirely compacted snow, and the wind from the north carrying a freezing rain.  Since the hike was much more difficult than my partner expected, we took frequent breaks to prevent him from becoming winded.Soon we dropped in elevation and hiked down between two bluffs.  Using the topographical map I was able to gain a bearing from the two bluffs and determine our location.  We continued forward on the path enjoying the respite from the rain and wind.

Image

After about 3 miles of hiking, the trail curved to the south, plunged down further into the valley between the two bluffs.  After passing a small creek we decided to pitch camp due to the slower movement of the group than anticipated.  Thus goals number 1 and 3 were aborted as we would have to have continued 3 more miles to reach the point.ImageCamp was set up within an hour and a half.  I selected a small copse of pine trees to contain our site.  After dropping our packs, we began to work on our shelter.  We trudged through the snow outlining the sides of our trench, then used the plates as primitive shovels to entrench ourselves.  Pine branches were then place on the ground to provide insulation from the snow.  This was covered by the poncho, allowing bedding to be placed without fear of being poked by the sticks in the night.  On top of the trench walls, tent poles were used along with the ground cloth and tent to create a roof that was fairly windproof.

After building the shelter, it was time to start the fire.  We relied too much on the alcohol stove and ended up using most of its fuel.  However, we started a large fire via bark of a dead tree, and a small dead birch tree.  The fire lasted well into the night, going out sometime between 12 and 1 in the morning, allowing us to dry off some of our wet clothes.

For dinner I cooked mac and cheese with weenies and roasted apples.  For dessert we each had pop tarts and chocolate bars which were exceptionally good in my opinion, because they were cold.

The night progressed relatively uneventfully.  After I changed my socks after lying with cold wet feet for an hour I was able to finally catch some z’s.  I slept in spurts, waking up every now and then to change my position in order to conserve warmth.   The bedspread kept me surprisingly warm in the snow trench.  I kept my coat on, but despite how light the comforter was, it still retaining large amounts of heat.   The snow trench did not retain as much heat as expected, and I predict most of it went through the roof.

The most exciting thing that happened in the night was waking up to hear wolves howl to the south-east of the campsite and hearing a large mammal, deer?, walk directly in front of us.

Morning came quickly and we awoke at 6:36 and prepared to leave.  After starting the fire and eating a simple breakfast of granola bars, pop tarts, and chocolate, we took down shelter and packed up our gear.  The campsite was left with only the ashes and branches remaining as evidence to our overnight stay.

The hike back began roughly, as we had no water. We placed snow in our water bottles and put them next to our chest to let our body heat melt it into water.  After hiking up the hills for a short time we were able to get sips of water, allowing us to hike longer.  We made quicker time as the hike back was mostly downhill after the initial uphill start and we arrived back at the vehicle at 10:30.  I was freaking out, because I thought I lost my cell phone, but later discovered it in the liner of my snow pants.

ImageOverall, the trip was very enjoyable, but slightly frustrating because we weren’t able to complete our initial goals.  When the weather warms up, I intend to retry and make it to the Keweenaw Rocket Range at High Rock Bay.

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