Thursday, February 21, 2013

A much needed workout - the last true winterhike?

At long last.... I got myself going once more!

I had been looking at the weatherreports for a few days and it looked like today would be the last real, chorefree winterday for a while. Although there will be frosts at night, there will also be + temperatures, with an expected +8 on wednesday! So I decided to stall all my indoorchores (household), go out and enjoy that! Aftyer seeing the kids of to school, the Mss. off to work, our animals fed (besides our cats, we regard the birds, deer, hare and other animals around the house as ours as well, these days) I grabbed my stuff, made the last minute decision to give my new/old pack a real run for its money and in the proces decided to try something new too; walking with sticks. I thought that might come in handy with winterly conditions and a heavy backpack. And heavy the latter was; 17kg! I really filled it up and added two canteens with water. My main weak link should be known by now; my feet. I opted for my huntingboots, which give good traction, but offer little room for thick socks. I managed to squeeze in a couple of wool socks, that I had gotten for my birthday and with which I am very happy.
Befor I headed out I saw some of "our" animals, already in the yard.

The look of the day

The air was fresh and cold; -16C when I left the house. Unfortunately I had missed the sunrise, but this one comes earlier every day and befor I was on my way it was nearly 08:30. So I opted for the early morning sun, which is equally good! The birches were a bright silverwhite with all the frost on their branches and the snow was dry and frozen. It sounded as if I was walking on styrofoam. Combined with the sticks this made moving silently next to impossible.

My breath froze on the minkfur of my anorak

But the cold could not keep all the water from running, but it decorated the grass above it with long, beautiful chrystals.

Going with the sticks took some getting used to, but when I could the hang of it, I fell into a rythm that I could hold up for miles..... which I eventually did too. I tried some new roads in the area and one of them led me to a deadend with a loop, so you could go round and drive back. This road did take me deeper into the wood and from the loop there was a path leading deeper into the woods, still. Moving from a relatively even road/dirttrack into the woods meant a major change in snowconditions. Here the snow was next to kneedeep and lose. Someone befor me had obviously tackled that problem....
The snowshoeprints were an estimated 60-70cm long and rounded on both ends. Made me think of some native american snowshoes.

But when I tried to follow his path I still sunk in a good 30cm at places! I followed his tracks however, curious where they might lead and to stubborn to quit. Which I eventually did anyway! It was too hard to keep on going, despite the sticks being very helpfull and handy when moving and keeping balance. I most definitely want some snowshoes for next winter, too! Going offroad is murder, otherwise!

The snowshoetrail did lead me into a beautiful patch of wood, though. I most certainly will come back here to see what other seasons look like, here! How wonderfully majestic and mysterious a boreal forest can be in winter.... Dead silent, glorious, overpowering, yet comforting. Yet, when I stood still and took of the woolhat I could hear the birdnoices coming back, one after another. I spend many a short brake this way; standing, listening..... Whether it's the wind or the birds or that deep, eery wintersilence.....

By the time I came to the conclusion it was better to turn back, I had reached yet another trail. Not knowing the terrain made the decision to turn around a bit easier. I saw that there was a fresh track next to the snowshoe track and it was definitely canine. It followed the snowshoes for a while, but than headed out into the woods, not to return. Hmm... somehow I doubt if it was the snowshoer's dog... When I came back to the road I retraced my footsteps and found some more tracks, again canine and quite fresh! The disk of the stick is about 12cm across.

All the way down the road I found animalsigns; tracks and places where they had fed. There were many deer, moose, hare and snowhare (shorter stride) and all sorts of other rodents. Many woodpeckersigns, too.  I came across a set of prints, that was thrilling, though; large, rounded ones, with no nails visible. Again the disk is 12cm and even though thaw has blurred the edges a bit.....

Having marched through the snow for an hour or two I thought it might be wise to start thinking about refuelling my system. We have a viewpoint in the area with a fireplace, so I figured I'd head that way. It was still an hour's walk, first along a road, than through forest, which raised my appetite even further.

We live smack in the middle of this picture

I lit a fire, took out my billycan, filled it with water and set it to warm up

This viewpoint never ceases to amaze me, apart from the view; You'll always find a decent stack of dry wood here, a good bowsaw, a hatchet, a knife, a snowshovel, matches, a pan, sittingmats and all kinds of grill-gear. Yet the place is very frequently visited by locals and tourists alike, which is shown by the guestbooks people sign. You'll find these too here; a new one, but also the last four ones!! Nothing goes missing and everyone visiting brings some wood along or at least the locals do. And every once in a while a group of volunteers maintains the site and keeps everything in order. There's even a "thunderbox"! (An outdoortoilet) But I have to say that a couple of rodents had their go at the foammats, reducing them to flakes....
So while the water was heating up I had a decent lunch and had some time to relax. There wasn't much relaxing in the way of sitting still. The wind up here made the temperatures feel less comfortable and what do you know..... my feet got cold.... I kept moving about, adding some wood to the fire, making coffee, taking pictures and fumbleing about my gear.

So here's the backpack; I am quit impressed by the way it carries. Despite the weight I had worn it for 3 hours nonstop and only now was I starting the feel the fatigue in my shoulders, being totally untrained! Not a bad feat. with 17kg's! The frame rides comfortably on m hips. It had some shortcomings, though. The straps of the pockets have aged badly and, while trying to close them properly 2 of them simply broke. Those need to be replaced. The long strap on the left side (front one in the picture) has been replaced at some point, but with a buckel that is too small and fiddly. Again that must be replaced too, but not as urgent. The sidepockets are very narrow and so far I can not think of anything that I could store there, apart from a small stuffsack with bungees for the shelter or poncho. The latter has a place inside the pack, packed in two loops attached to the topflap. Now that is quit handy. You just open the flap and you have your poncho, without opening everything else up.

Something else I brought a long was a spare woolhat.... whcih it actually is not. It is a swedish army woolscarf, cut in two. When properly folded you have a wool hat and when unfolded you have a turtleneck. All my kids have one too and they love it! Nice and warm, no wind blowing in and no scarf that gets in the way, while playing in the snow or sledding, iceskating, skiing, what ever.

It was like seeing old friends again...

Wanting to refill the billy I had a bit of a unpleasant surprise. I could not open the plastic canteen I had used! Appearantly some water had spilled into the thread and that had frozen solid within 10-15 minutes. Putting the canteen next to the fire seemed to be unwise. So I took the other one, but I'll go for metal canteens the next time!

And then the sun broke through the clouds! Wow, what an amount of light all of a sudden! It actually hurt my eyes and offcourse I had forgotten some protection for the eyes. I have several sets of those celluloid, foldable snowgoggles. Weighs nothing and has no packingvolume, but do no good while in storage at home.


After a good while I packed up and went home.... but with a detour! I just couldn't get enough of the forest in these conditions, despite sore, tired shoulders and cold feet. I figured the latter would warm up eventually and the previous..... would be a matter of discomfort later. I figured I could stop by at the kilncabin not too far away from this place. So the detour added another 2,5km to the trip.
When I got to the cabinesite I saw that it had been used, but not much and not recently. The cabin hadn't been used in a while either, given the amount of snow piled against it and its door.

While looking at it, I caught a sudden movement in the corner of my eye, followed by a loud thud, right next to me! If my heartrate hadn't gone up because of the exercise, it sure had now!
But there was nothing there..... untill I looked up. There was this pine, bent over and laden with snow. A large dot had landed right next to my feet! Thankfully not 10-15cm more to the left.....

Then it really was time to head for home. The kids were coming home from school in about an hour, the house hadn't been heated since the morning, the body was quit tired and I had still a 4km walk over a snowy and icy road ahead of me. Quickly I fell into the rythm of moving poles and feet in unison and it was almost hypnotic walking that stretch of road. I was very glad I had brought these!!!

And then, when I came home, there was this grand finale. Crossing the wooden area in front of our house I was greeted by a choir of birds... All sorts of birds calling and chattering away.

And boy.... am I stiff and sore right now!!
But with a very satisfied feeling. This was a very good day! One to remember...


  1. Nice time Ron. That pack looks like a good one. Glad you got some much needed woods time. The pics were great. Those view never get old.

  2. weer heerlijk genoten he, was ook een prachtige dag ervoor.

  3. Winter wilderness hiking certainly is good exercise, isn't it? ;)

    Great photography as always, Ron. Really makes me eager to get outside, but being a bit sick isn't allowing that right now. :( Wish I could have joined you on your outing!

    Also, your snow smock and rucksack are looking good. :)

    1. Thanks Matt.
      Take care of yourself, bud and if all goes well we might join up this summer.

    2. That'd be great. :)

  4. Great reportage from your hike! Its allways so nice to get to spend time outdoors :))