In February, 2012, a few of the MNAdventure team took a trip out onto the lake powered only by kites. The three day trip is chronicled below, in an article from team rider Bryce Johnson’s site, Explore the Wind.
It’s a little long, but we think it’s worth the read. And remember, winter is coming.
I think most people thought we were crazy, when they heard what we were doing. We got a lot of funny looks, heading out on the ice, pulling sleds behind us, six people and a dog with a backpack on.
Though I had never gone trekking like this before, I had a good feeling about the trip. That feeling turned out to be absolutely right. Our plan was to kite ski from Rocky Point, on the south west shore of Lake of the Woods, all the way to Garden Island, 18 miles northeast.
When we set out the first morning there was no wind, so we started hiking. That’s when the funny looks started. Everyone else going out onto the ice at Rocky Point was in a Bombardier, or snowmobile, or pulling a fish house.
The hiking was pretty slow going. By around four in the afternoon we’d made it six miles. Since we were only going one or two miles an hour, we decided our next course of action was to take a seat and drink a beer. After just enough time for us to spread our gear across the ice, the wind came up.
We threw up our kites and packed our things. Angie, Brody, Bryce, Summit (the dog) and I took off just as the sun was going down.
As we kited along, Summit running at our sides, the sun began to set and the stars came out. In front of us was a wide open expanse of untouched snow and dark horizon.
The sunset was hot pink and the snow was perfect. We made it another five miles in about 40 minutes. Then we started to get chilly, and threw up the tent, fired up our camp stoves and cooked dinner.
Sleeping out there was an interesting experience. We were at least seven miles from land in any direction. There were absolutely no prints or tracks anywhere in the snow, besides our own. We saw no animals, and since there was no wood to be found we couldn’t fire up the woodstove. We stayed warm nonetheless, all of us inside the teepee.
The following morning we made coffee and watched the sun come up over the ice in a chilly haze the color of grapefruit. We ate some oatmeal, packed up our gear and once again tossed our kites in the air. The wind was from the south, so we were headed straight downwind.
Taking a path downwind is not as easy as one might think. Kiting is like sailing. Going downwind involves tacking back and forth, which means that it takes about eight miles of kiting to make it four miles downwind.
Summit had run at least 15 miles over the past two days. He was visibly exhausted, and laid down in the snow whenever we stopped. We decided he shouldn’t run anymore, and strapped him into a sled, where he rode behind a kite for another four miles or so (though he wasn’t too nuts about his position).
A mile outside Garden Island a pressure ridge appeared. The ridge was a good four feet in height of spiky, pale blue, thick cut sheets of ice. We knew from drilling a hole in the ice for water the day before that the ice was about three feet thick.
We were able to cross the ridge by removing our skis and walking gently across an open area to the other side. A couple of us were brave enough to ski across them.
Slushy areas caught my attention and made me nervous. There were cracks in the ice two inches wide, water frozen between them.
The wind was just dying when we were pulling into Garden Island. We thought we’d have to walk the rest of the way when the wind picked up again and we made it to a corner of the island where there’s an emergency shelter for snowmobilers.
We dropped off our stuff, and Bryce and Brody kited around, using the pressure ridge like a jump, while Angie and I ate a snack and did a little exploring.
The shelter smelled strongly of cigar smoke and was coated in a confetti of mouse droppings. Though it was dry and warm, I could not imagine laying a sleeping bag on the floor.
Snowmobilers stopped by to watch the kiting, and others to talk and have a beer. The propane heater on the shelter was out of gas, but we wiped down a counter and cooked some dinner by the light of candles that were hidden in a cupboard.
After eating we went out to the teepee and fired up the woodstove. Now that we had a large downed oak to cut up, we cranked the heat in the tent to about 80 degrees and soaked in the warmth.
That night, outside the tent, the northern lights made an appearance and Angie got to see them for the first time. We each took turns peeking our heads out from the tent.
The next morning our friend Mike showed up with a snowmobile. We decided to make our way to Oak Island, though there wasn’t any wind.
We solved this problem by making what I would say most resembled a chandelier of skiers behind the snowmobile. There was one large sled behind the snowmobile, which also pulled three skiers, each with a sled behind them.
Angie and I sat on the sled, one of us driving and the other holding summit. We were a spectacle.
Eight walleyes made a tasty meal on Oak Point. Bryce and I had both worked at a summer camp on the island, and we stayed in one of the cabins (with permission, of course).
The next morning we headed home, but not after eating a hot meal of hamburgers and fries with a cold beer in Warroad. Our trip was a success, and we sat around reveling in how delicious everything tasted, reflecting on the past four days.
On the way home, we browsed pictures on our cameras, and talk slowly moved back to more city-like topics. The snow collecting on the roads for our ride home could only mean more winter, which means more adventures before the ice goes out.