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Thread: my winter vacation with my son

  1. #1
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    Default my winter vacation with my son

    Last summer, Jake and I signed up for an Outward Bound dogsledding and cross country ski course that started from Ely, Minnesota. On December 27th, Jake and I arrived in Ely Minnesota full of nervous anticipation, as we have never done a vacation like this before. Jake and I were one of 8 students on the course and we had three seasoned guides / instructors. After several hours of sizing the Outward Bound equipment for each individual, we head out to do a simulated ice rescue. One of the students volunteered to jump into an ice hole in the lake and the newly formed group had to recuse him and rapidly warm him. This was an interesting introduction to what turned out to be a very hard week.
    Our introduction to the course was short, as the group camped out under a tarp in 20F weather. The next morning we had a hat breakfast indoors and then the group departed for the Minnesota backcountry. Outward Bound is not an ordinary vacation as the participants do the work and are not pampered. I started the dayís 6 mile cross country skiing trip dragging a sled with 70 pounds of equipment. Each day I would drag the sled behind me with both mine and Jakeís equipment.
    The groupís second stop was at Nickel Lake, which is just outside of the Boundary Waters. This was a beautiful lake and we set up camp on the ice. While setting up camp in 20F weather, it started to snow and then the freezing rain started. The freezing rain continued through the next day. The group set up the canvas wall tent with a stove and we spent the next day drying out clothes and sleeping bags. During the second night the rain stopped.
    Leaving Nickel Lake was easier for the skiers than the people on the dog sleds. It took the dogsleds 3 hours to travel a quarter of the mile due to slush. After 10 feet the runners on the sleds would ice up and then have to be scraped clean. My son was mushing on this day and got an incredible workout. The group did not make as much distance as we hoped and we ended up camping at a small site next to the cross country ski trail. After setting up the sleeping tarps, processing wood for the fire, we settled down for a New Yearís Eve celebration dinner of shrimp, bratwurst and potato soup. It was glorious meal after a hard dayís work.
    The next morning we broke camp and made it to the cross country next trail after traveling 1.5 miles. The next four miles were on virgin snow and we had to break trail. As usual, there were two skiers in front of me, and then I followed with the sled. The skiers were traveling two abreast to try to break trail for the rest of the group. The first sled position is always the hardest as the first sled packs the snow for the rest of the travelers. This was our last travel day and we ended up traveling 6 miles to this little rock quarry which was about the size of half a football field. The group arrived in the dark and could not find an entrance to the quarry. The person who knew where the entrance was trailing in one of the dog sleds. I was tired and while waiting for this person grumbling to myself, as I wanted some hot food and drink.
    The entrance turned out to be a steep chute that you had to slide down on your rear end. After processing wood and bringing our supplies to the quarry floor, we set up a cooking spot and a sleeping area. The cooking area was nestled in a corner of the quarry which helped reflect the camp fire heat. During the night the temperature plummeted to -10F. The next morning the sun finally showed itself and I awoke in the midst of a beautiful snow covered granite quarry. It was glorious morning. Two of the guides on the trip have never been to the quarry before and marveled at its beauty. Later in the day we were picked up by the Outward Bound staff and returned to base camp. After unpacking and cleaning our equipment, the group went to the campís sauna. During the sauna, I joined the 200 club, which occurs when the difference between the outside temperature and the sauna is greater than 200F. After about 15 minutes in the sauna, the group rang out to the lake and jumped through ice holes into the lake. This was incredibly refreshing and felt wonderful.
    The next day, Jake and I departed for home, a 12 hour journey. This was a rewarding experience with my son and one that I will cherish forever.
    life is too short to drink bad wine....

    Stuart Levy

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    Default Re: my winter vacation with my son

    awesome. Thanks for sharing. I've only been up to the Boundary Waters/Quetico area on one occasion (never in the winter, though), but do hope to return at some point. I grew up in NW Wisconsin, so am used to the cold, but man, sleeping outside at -10 sounds daunting.

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    Default Re: my winter vacation with my son

    Thanks for the great story. I absolutely LOVE northern Minnesota on a cold winter's night. The snow is just so loud and squeaky when it gets really cold. Good stuff. Did you see any northern lights?

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    Default Re: my winter vacation with my son

    Beautiful! That is outstanding.

    I hope that my two sons (ages 3 and 1.5) will love the wilderness and seek out challenges like this. I am doing my best to plant the seed. My 3 y.o. received his first 20 degree sleeping bag for Christmas this year. Can I ask . . . How old is your son? What inspired the choice of dog sledding and cross country skiing? IMHO, some of the best adventure literature is about arctic travel. Though I kind of hope my kids take an interest in the Maine sailing program or sea kayaking in Baja! ;-)

    Thanks for the inspiration!

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    Default Re: my winter vacation with my son

    You are beautifully living up to the thought at the bottom of your post. Congrats! Tim

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    Default Re: my winter vacation with my son

    the sky must light up at night up there
    nice trip
    s

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    Default Re: my winter vacation with my son

    Did not to get to see any Northern Lights as the sky wast mostly overcast. Jake chose the vacation as his reward for finishing a 28 day outward bound course last summer paddling through the Boundary Waters of Minn. Jake is 16 and as you can tell from the picture is that he is much larger than me, he stands 5' 10" and weghs about 210. Next summer Jake will be participating in the Outward Bounds John Wesley Powells rafting trip down the Green and Colorado Rivers.

    Tim, thanks for the kind comment, as my wife and I are trying to give our children as manay varied positive experiences as possible....
    life is too short to drink bad wine....

    Stuart Levy

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    Default Re: my winter vacation with my son

    Go to heaven twice Stu. Those are times you and he will talk about forever.
    hahah I have canoed across those freakin' lakes!!!! Boundary Waters and into Canada are some of the most pristine wilderness I've ever experienced.

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    Default Re: my winter vacation with my son

    tall man said it all ...
    great for yo and yo son --- "can never go back to where you have never been.."

    ronnie

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    Default Re: my winter vacation with my son

    You will never regret this or what it took to raise a son with this mindset. I went through trappers education, boaters education, hunters education and every other type of education with my Son and Daughter that they wanted to attend. They have both since graduated from college but I have to say we had a helluva time when they were home this Christmas.

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    Default Re: my winter vacation with my son

    looks like a great trip and a great bonding experience. I wish more parents would spend some quality time with their kids and be parents and role models.

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    Default Re: my winter vacation with my son

    Man that looks like fun. What a cool trip for you and your boy.

    -Joe

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    Default Re: my winter vacation with my son

    thats is seriously awesome Stu. more pics?

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    Default Re: my winter vacation with my son

    Very cool!

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    Default Re: my winter vacation with my son

    That is really sweet. My place is about 20 miles south of the Outward Bound camp on Hwy 1. My wife has been bugging me about going on a dog sled trip, but I know she couldn't handle it. The freezing rain must have been brutal. I really love the area and never seem to get to spend enough time there. Riding up there in the summer is fantastic as well. Not too much traffic other than the occassional frenzied logging truck. Might have to avoid the animals though.

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    Default Re: my winter vacation with my son

    Dorman: You live in a beautiful part of the country. I hope to make it back there to enjoy the Ely Minn cross country ski trails. Yes, the freezing rain was brutal.
    life is too short to drink bad wine....

    Stuart Levy

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    Default Re: my winter vacation with my son

    Awesome! Thanks for sharing. I hope I can do something like this with my son someday!

    Shawn G

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    Default Re: my winter vacation with my son

    znfdl - I forgot to ask if you saw any moose or wolves while you were there? I think the last moose I saw was 2 a.m. Memorial Day weekend on our way up after a late night at the track. Had 2 deer killed on the property last winter by a local wolf pack. I saw one wolf standing in the middle of the road last July as I was riding up towards Ely.

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    Default Re: my winter vacation with my son

    Dorman: The group was way too noisy to have any wildlife near us. I had hoped to see some wolves, but I only heard them howlling at night. I prefer not to see moose as they are bg, dumb and aggressive....

    As for the father's, I highly reccomend a trip like this one, as it takes you and your son out the normal everyday element and changes your relationship.
    life is too short to drink bad wine....

    Stuart Levy

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