Waiting for Winter

Amy breaks through thin ice with each paddle stroke on Glee Lake.

Amy breaks through thin ice with each paddle stroke on Glee Lake.

In the past week, we have observed the change of the seasons. We have been witnessing the end of fall and the beginning of winter.

Dave and I left Knife Lake for several days. We had experienced abnormally warm weather, with high temperatures in the 50s. Our trip to Ogishkemuncie Lake was great. There were several short portages. They were mostly up hill though. Once we set up our camp on Ogishkemuncie, we stayed out as late as we could in the evening, because the weather was so pleasant and warm.

The next day, we paddled and portaged to Sea Gull Lake and then trekked the long portage to Paulson Lake. This portage is 515 rods. Rods are the unit used to measure the length of portage trails. One rod is 16.5 feet. That means there are 320 rods per mile. I’ll let you do the math to figure out how long that portage is.

Amy portages the canoe towards Paulson Lake as the sun sets.

Amy portages the canoe towards Paulson Lake as the sun sets.

The portage was rugged, with many ups and downs. The forest here had burned in a forest fire a few years ago. That meant once we climbed to the top of a ridge, we could see for miles around. It was a big relief to reach Paulson Lake and we set up our tent just as it was getting dark. That night the temperature dropped and clouds moved in.

There was snow on the ground here. It had snowed several days ago. We had gotten snow on Knife Lake, but most of it had melted during the warm sunny days. The snow seemed to remain in the shady places here. Dave and I love traveling in the snow, because we can find animal tracks. It means that we can learn a bit more about what the animals are up to. On several portage trails, we saw a variety of animal tracks. Some tracks were easy to recognize, like snowshoe hare and red squirrel. There was one set of tracks that had us stumped for a while. It was a little bit bigger than a fox track. We knew that it wasn’t a fox, because there were the marks of five pads (or toes) instead of four. This meant the animal was probably in the weasel family. After looking it up, we figured out that the animal who left these tracks was probably a fisher. A fisher is related to a pine marten, but bigger.

Amy punches through the ice as we work our way down the narrow channel to Glee Lake.

Amy punches through the ice as we work our way down the narrow channel to Glee Lake.

As we reached Glee Lake, we were surprised to find ice on top of the water. This was a small, shallow channel. It makes sense that the water here would cool faster and ice would form here. The ice wasn’t very thick, so we plopped the canoe down and used our paddles to crunch through the ice. We both thought this was funny and laughed about it. The sound of our canoe crunching through the ice was loud. Eventually we got tired, because it is hard work to push a canoe through ice! Once we were out on a bigger part of the lake, the ice disappeared and we were paddling in water again.

This reminded us that winter is coming soon. It was a little taste of what we could expect in the near future. That evening, Dave checked the forecast. Temperatures were dropping. Wintery weather with temperatures below freezing (32 degrees F) was predicted for the coming week. We decided to head back to Knife Lake. This is where we planned to wait for freeze-up.

The next day, we made it back to Knife Lake. We set up camp and gathered a lot of firewood. We are camping in the same spot we had been in before. We were excited to observe that a moose visited this spot while we were gone. How do we know? There was a large pile of moose scat left in the middle of a trail near the campsite!

We are prepared to wait here until the lakes freeze. We have plenty of food and warm clothes. Knife Lake is a big, deep lake. That means it will take longer than the small, shallow lakes to freeze. Dave and I are excited to be out here in the wilderness, witnessing freeze-up. We will keep you posted with what we observe as winter begins.

Student Response Worksheets



  1. Alistair
    Posted November 23, 2015 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting post.
    I love the idea of witnessing the seasons changing outdoors.


  2. David Knudsen
    Posted November 23, 2015 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    I look forward to each of your updates, and especially the photos. It has to be an amazing experience to intentionally remain in the Wilderness as the water pathways around you freeze solid. Thanks for providing your story to so many students.

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