It’s a land of 10,000 lakes, a place of resurgent wildlife and a place of grand summer vacations. Almost no-one goes there who doesn’t have to between November and April.
I’m leaving for Minnesota in a little less than two weeks. I feel compelled to test the limits once again and attempt a long-distance solo trek through the winter in a very cold place. It will either kill me outright or greatly enhance my survival abilities. You know, whatever doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger.
I’ll start near the North Dakota / Minnesota border at the town of Fergus Falls. The general idea will be to spend two days pulling my sled and then two days ice-fishing on one of Minnesota’s ubiquitous lakes, continuing this pattern in roughly the direction of Lake Superior. My primary route will be the North Country Trail, a 4,000 + mile hiking trail which extends from North Dakota to Vermont (it had a role to play in the hikes of my brook trout solo adventure too). About 780 miles of the NCT are found between North Dakota and Wisconsin and I won’t be walking all of that this winter. And as anyone knows who’s read my book, I like to seek alternate routes and find little-used trails to seldom-seen places. This expedition is something far different than the previous 5 long hikes: there’s no fish study on the agenda and covering ground isn’t really important to me either: it’s about persisting in a hostile environment for as long as I can. Maybe too, my real goal is to come out no longer seeing the wintry north woods as a hostile environment.
I grew up ice-fishing in eastern Canada and western Maine as well as central New York and it’s just in my blood to seek out hard water and cut holes in it. This will be the pinnacle for me as an ice-fisherman too, I’m pretty sure. The ultimate long haul two month self-propelled ice-fishing excursion of discovery through an unfamiliar environment. My planning has been good and my gear good enough but what’s great about wandering off into the wild is the unknown and unknowable, the things I’ll just have to adapt to and the surprises that can only add to the adventure. It’s about exploration too: venturing off into a whole state I’ve never set foot in before to see how life goes on in an environment far removed from Pennsylvania and the Appalachians. It takes me out of my comfort zone and opens the potential for new trail, a new level of cold and encounters with new fishes as well as moose, wolves and the faint possibility of crossing snowey paths with a mountain lion.
This one is a personal quest, a further push into the wild; I won’t be communicating a lot and I don’t suspect I’ll be running into a lot of humans. The purpose of today’s post is really to let you know that beginning in January, you just won’t be hearing from me for a long time. This is what I do, you know that.