I learned the hard way in past years that winter can be slow to get started here in Duluth. This year has been different. Or maybe I’m being different. I’ve gotten the winter season off to a great start this year. After opening skiing season with the girls on November 12th, we had fabulous luck to come upon more snow this weekend in Grand Marais – just right for some winter camping with Vanessa.
I had planned a trip for the whole family to see the “Winterer’s Gathering” up north, yet it was grey and brown with no snow on the ground in Duluth on Saturday morning as I packed up for the weekend. Right when I was about to finish loading up the car, I got a message from my friend Jim up north, letting me know that they had gotten 4 inches of sparkly, dry snow up at his cabin the previous evening. Talk about hitting the jackpot! I quickly added our skis and boots and poles to the rest of our gear, and 2 hours later we were in our glory.
The first day in Grand Marais we attended some events at the Winterer’s Gathering at North House Folk School, then made sure to set up the tent while it was still light out. Of course, winter “camping” outside your friend’s cabin is a lot easier than winter camping in the Boundary Waters. But this was the perfect opportunity to get Vanessa in the game. And she was more than happy to sleep outside in her favorite warm sleeping bag.
Setting up a tent in the snow is my idea of a fun time, and doing it with your kids is even better. Then we got a fire going in the cabin. The tent was to be only our sleep home, otherwise we cooked and ate and hung out with Jim and his son Andrew in the cabin. Inna and Adriana also slept in the cabin.
The tent is designed to repel snow and resist heavy winds. We got neither during the night. Still, sleeping outside when it’s +18 Fahrenheit takes some courage. You feel the soft snow under you, you feel the cold air coming in your lungs as you’re falling sleep, and you realize it could be a long night if you’re not warm enough. Vanessa and I wore some extra clothes to bed, we both have warm sleeping bags, and we threw a hot water bottle in Vanessa’s bag to warm it up when we went to sleep.
The weekend was not only about sleeping outside in the cold though. It was about meeting new people and discovering new things at the gathering. We certainly met cool people, and we had a great time with our friends. On Saturday night we all got to see the main speaker – Jon Turk. There was a lot of camaraderie at the Folk School, and we had a fabulous dinner there as well.
On Sunday morning the sun was out, and Vanessa and I woke up with a good night’s sleep behind us. We had a massive breakfast of oatmeal and coffee and toast in Jim’s cabin to celebrate. The country life had soaked into us a little at this point.
Then we had perhaps the crown jewel of the weekend – another ski tour. Our second in as many Sundays. The girls had a great time once again, and I felt lucky that we had come north, and taken on another adventure, and succeeded. The skiing was perfect – not too cold out, sunshine all around, and perfect snow conditions. We had it all.
We’ve been fortunate two weekends in a row now. It’s been an unexpectedly great start to the ski season and winter camping season. And now I have five days off from work. Finally, a chance to rest a little, and of course try some new adventures.