Canoeing to My Destiny
Chapter 16

Copyright© 2012 by Lance Manne

When I awoke the next morning, I didn't want to get out of my bag. Through my small breathing hole, I could tell that it was cold. My bag was warm and comfortable. The snow shelter that we were in provided good sound insulation, so it was very quiet. I did realize that sooner or later, I would need to get up to relieve myself. I just needed to take the time to prepare myself for the shock that was eventually going to come.

I knew from other camping experiences that my boots would probably be cold. I already had my insulated underwear on, so that wouldn't be too much of an adjustment. It was just the thought of that change back into the freezing environment.

I looked over and saw that the cotton sweat pants had frozen. I had changed into them after my plunge. Cotton does not wick away moisture very well. From the way they had frozen, it looked like there was still a person inside. I wondered whether the clothes hanging out on the line had dried out during the night.

Dawn began to stir. I told her that I was preparing to brave the cold. I suggested that she wait until I was up and had everything prepared. I also told her that I would turn on the heater when she decided to get out of the sack. I told her that it wouldn't be a good idea to leave it on too long or the walls would begin to drip.

The air was just as cold as I expected when I finally crawled out of my bag. The big surprise was when I put on my boots. They were actually not that cold. It was a very pleasant surprise. I noticed that the snow had blown around during the night and had covered most of the opening near the door. It took me some time to push the sled and snow enough to allow me to make my way out into the cold environment beyond our hut.

The landscape had changed during the night. Drifting snow had piled around wherever we had left something out. It would be necessary to do some digging to retrieve some of our supplies. The line was still up and I was able to shake out the ice crystals and snow from the hanging clothes. I put on the wind pants and jacket, knowing that soon, the heat from my body would begin to provide me with a protective layer of warmth.

The wind had died down and it looked like the sun might begin to peak through the clouds. The sky was exhibiting varying shades of gray, with patches of blue attempting to show through. It was definitely a winter sky.

The sun was a hazy bright light behind the thin veil of clouds. I collected some wood and started a fire. I cleaned away some of the snow so that our supplies and equipment could be found. I took the cover off our ice hole, knocked away some of the ice, and collected some fresh water for our morning coffee.

I checked in on Dawn and found that she needed to take care of a biological function. I dug out the portable stove and placed it in the ice house. Then I handed Dawn a little plastic bowl so that she wouldn't need to brave the cold. After that, I went back to the fire.

While collecting firewood, I had also found three long narrow trunks, which I had formed into poles. I placed these in a tripod formation over the fire, and hung a pot from a chain which was anchored at the junction where the three poles met. Into the pot I poured some water which I planned on heating up over the fire.

I always pack my food supplies in Ziploc bags. I do this for several reasons. The main reason would be in case the food packs ever fell into the water. Another benefit is that it's nice to have everything in one package that can easily be found.

Everything that we would be eating had become frozen during the night. The bagels were frozen, the jelly was frozen, and the eggs were frozen. I placed everything into the warm water so that it could thaw out. I mixed up some powdered drink and poured that into the bottles that would be carried on our belts. The constant movement of our bodies would be enough to keep the liquid from freezing. I had discovered that the cherry flavored drink seemed to be especially refreshing on this kind of trip.

By the time Dawn finally crawled out of the shelter, the sun had broken through the clouds. Immediately our world was transformed into a land of incredible beauty. The pine trees were covered with layers of snow. The sun shone so bright against the white snow that it literally hurt your eyes. I looked over at Dawn and pointed out a snow drift that was near our camp. If you looked at the crest at the proper angle, it appeared to be blue.

The first thing Dawn did was to come over and give me a kiss. She thanked me for trying to protect her from the cold. She thanked me for the warm sleeping bag. She thanked me for the chance to push herself beyond a limit that she had never imagined that she would achieve. In the same breath she said, "You will never get me to do this again." We both laughed.

Dawn was surprised when she saw the bags thawing in the water in the pan. She said, "I had never thought about the food freezing. I just expected that everything would be ready to go." When the eggs were usable, I broke them in the pan and began to prepare our breakfast.

I like to use as much normal food as I can when I'm camping. I guess it's one of the small rewards which you look forward to, after all your efforts during the day. Meals become a special time and I always want to make sure that they are enjoyable. Eggs, coffee, bagels, and jam made for a very pleasant breakfast. The clouds continued to drift away until it looked like we were in for a very nice day.

It was still very cold, so I asked Dawn to watch while I tried an experiment. I poured some boiling water into my cup. Then I threw the water up in the air. Before it hit the ground it vaporized. I had heard about this happening, but had never seen it for myself. Dawn just sat there with her mouth hanging open.

By the time we were done eating, the sky had cleared and the sun was shining brightly. I suggested to Dawn that we take a little trip to explore the world around us. I packed a backpack with some food and a few other supplies, and then we headed off to explore.

The air was perfectly still as we skied. It wasn't long before we were beginning to warm up and needed to remove some layers of clothing. It felt so freeing to be gliding along on our frozen path. We came to a thick grouping of cedar trees which were covered with snow. The branches were hanging heavily; bent as far as they could go with fluffy loads of sparkling white snow.

We took off our skis and walked back into the quiet wonderland. The ground was bare in spots where the snow had been caught by the trees. The trunks of the cedar trees created an interesting pattern against the winter landscape. The biggest difference that we noted was the quiet. Most of the sounds were muffled by the snow laden branches. It was a very peaceful setting.

As we skied along, we came around a corner where a large marshy area probably lay under the fluffy snow. Dawn was the first to spot it. With great excitement, she pointed her finger in the direction to the right of me. I turned and spotted a cow moose running through the snow. Little tufts of snow were being thrown from her hoofs and a mist of snow surrounded her body. We watched as the magnificent creature turned down a trail and then disappeared into the woods.

I made my way up to Dawn and held her arm. As she turned to me, I gently guided her lips to mine. Her head quickly reared back. Due to the cold, an icicle had formed on the mustache under my nose. It didn't take me long to realize that it probably looked pretty disgusting to Dawn. A little melting with my fingers and a thorough cleaning, and I was ready to try again.

This time I was successful. As Dawn's cool lips touched mine, I closed my eyes to savor the moment. As we held our kiss, our lips began to warm. I opened my eyes to gaze upon the girl of my dreams. Her cheeks were bright and rosy and her eyes were picking up the blue from the sky above. I turned in my skis and almost fell over. I hugged her tight.

I told her that I was proud of the way she had braved the cold night. I told her that I would try to never let that happen again. She looked at me and said, "Good, because next time you will have to travel with someone else." Then she again admitted that she was glad to have tried it, but once was enough. I fully understood her reasoning.

The previous day was behind us. The current day was turning out to be a beautiful one. We skied along until we found an animal trail that headed off into the woods. We took off our skis and leaned them against a tree. We followed the trail as it made its way past boulders, fallen tree trunks, and other obstacles. We heard the rat-tat-tat of a woodpecker. After a long hike and a change in elevation, we finally came out upon an opening.

We were surprised to see that we were actually on a high bluff that looked out over onto a snow covered lake. We walked over to a large flat rock where the wind had created an area free of snow. Around us, the terrain stretched on for miles. There was no sign of any human activity, just miles and miles of wilderness.

Dawn turned to me and said, "This incredible view makes the whole trip worthwhile. It looks like a setting that you would only see on calendars or in photos." The landscape was covered with pine trees laden with snow. Bare rocks stood out where the snow had been blown clear. Sheer rocky cliffs dropped off to the lake and frozen marshes below.

I pointed out to Dawn the tall pine that stood watch over our campsite. We located a boulder that was being warmed by the sun. In front of it we discovered a small patch of snow free ground. We placed a piece of padding under us and sat down to enjoy the incredible beauty around us.

The sun felt warm and refreshing on our faces. It was one of the first times that we were able to just sit and not worry about freezing. I closed my eyes and relished in the moment. I opened them and noticed that Dan was doing the same thing. I closed them again and let the warmth of the sun's rays wash over me as I drifted off into a warm and pleasant slumber.

The previous day had been very exhausting for me. It had forced me to dig deeply into my reservoir of determination and strength. I am always amazed as to what you can accomplish if you have the desire and determination to see it through. I have found that it is usually the next day when I notice the consequences of my previous day's actions.

Fortunately, I didn't end up with any serious injuries, but I did feel like I had gone through a very rigorous experience. It felt really great to be able to just sit and relax in the solitude of the wilderness. As I awoke from my slumber, I noticed a red-tailed hawk, soaring in the deep blue sky above. It was a good sign that the rest of our trip would be pleasant one.

It was one of those times when you felt like you could just stay in that spot forever. I was completely warm and comfortable. The world around me was as full of as much beauty as anyone would ever be able to absorb. Unfortunately, as is always the case, we had to move on to another activity.

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