I didn’t realize the depth of my unmet need for outdoor adventure until I hastily concocted a winter tent camping trip over lunch one day with a co-worker.
While I love exploring with my family, I read Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trail thru-hiking memoirs all winter, and I am consumed by a longing to hike to my heart’s content. And although my kids are hearty (for their ages — 3 and 5) and my husband and I are strong at carrying them, a three-mile hike maxes us out.
My co-worker was excited to try winter camping, although we quickly realized that with the mild winter and our March chosen date, we probably weren’t talking about below zero temps. We selected Tettegouche State Park because it’s 1) beautiful and 2) close to other, beautiful hikes and things to do. I was worried if we picked an isolated park that we’d spend the whole day hiking around and trying to keep warm and fill time. But the North Shore of Lake Superior? We could have easily passed a week or two.
We were pleasantly surprised by the snow pack, which made our winter camping feel more legit, even though it was only 30 at night and 55 during the day.
The first night we squeezed in a short, icy hike to the Upper Falls, then kicked back at our campsite with dinner, wine, the amazing stars, and no kids. Bliss.
The generous co-worker who had lent me his pulk last year loaned me his -30 degree sleeping bag, which was the gushiest, coziest thing ever. Between that and the double Thermarests, I was comfortable and cozy.
The next day we headed out to Caribou Falls, a hike I remembered really liking when I spent a summer at Wolf Ridge during college.
It didn’t disappoint — between the white snow, blue sky, and the gushing, roiling river, it was amazing!
We spent the afternoon hiking around Tettegouche — out to Shovel Point, skipping rocks at the confluence of the Baptism River and Lake Superior, and hiking up from the Trail Center on the Superior Hiking Trail.
That night we had a relaxing dinner again, then headed into the tent early. The wind roared all night, so we slept more fitfully, trading stories when we were both up at 5 a.m. of all of our random fears — wolves, trees crushing the tent, gear blowing away, grouchy bears waking up from hibernation, creepy people walking into our site. Then we slept for a couple more hours. I had professed the night before that “the trip would not be complete to me unless we went to Two-Step Falls in the morning” but we both awoke ready to head out, so we did.
The trip ignited a huge, potentially fleeting desire to hike the whole Superior Hiking Trail in one go. I’ve heard it takes two to four weeks, so it’s not inconceivable. But the twin to that thought is the acknowledgment that it is going to take a long, long time for the girls to be old enough to really hike and backpack with me. And man did I miss those girls last weekend — it is not lost on me that those years of the kids wanting to do everything with me are limited. So I think I will leave my Superior Hiking Trail dreams on the shelf for a while — they will keep. For now we’ll adventure via canoe and other ways, and I’ll seek out some adult-only day and weekend trips to satisfy my endurance urge.
A big thanks to my co-worker for getting me out there! And Mother Nature, keep up the good work.