Wednesday, March 8, 2000, 10:10 a.m.
Skies are cloudy and the air colder, but no sign of rain or precip. We fed the dogs this morning, now we're packing up, set to go this afternoon when the snow starts. Because BWCA rules forbid groups of ten or more, we've been split into two groups. They are:
Wednesday, March 8, 2000, 2:10 p.m.
Rain continues. Lunch of alphabet soup and grilled cheese. Then hot tea and lounging on couches. Fire burns in the green gas stove. "Mr. Bojangles" is on the radio, a tinny sound coming from a kitchen windowsill. The weather prediction is for 4 to 8 inches of snow.
Earlier, we loaded the sleds and got a dogsled lesson from Karl. "Control of a dogsledd is really just a figment of your imagination," he said. "That's the way it is and that's the way it will be." No interest yet to go sledding in the rain. We're content to sit inside and listen to folk songs on WELY. Tom, in particular, is feeling under the weather. I hope he feels better by the time we load up the sleds.
Wednesday, March 8, 2000, 6:45 p.m.
How to explain our ice swimming experience in White Iron Lake? Let's start with the afternoon's decision NOT to go out with the dogs. Dave and Dave made a persuasive argument: The rain was coming late into the afternoon, and we would make better time if we left early in the morning with the dogs. So, faced with yet another day in the cabin, Dave F went out to fire up the sauna. As we'd been promissed, we were all given the opportunity to roast in the sauna, go take a quick dunk in the lake (with assistance) and return to the sauna. Like most of us, I went twice.
Sweat seeps from every patch of skin in the sauna, to the point of cloustrophobia. Then the intermediate temperature, a welcome break, stops the sweating as we lace up our boots in the entryway to the sauna. The air outside crackled with an icy snow, piercing our skin as we ran down the trail to the lake, laces untied, towel flailing. The dusky light and lack of glasses made the lake all shades of fuzzy earthy greys. Boots off, but ice doesn't sting the bare feet at first. Hands to sides, eyes closed, a short step into the rectangle cut precisely into the ice earlier with a chain saw. Dave and Karl lift me up, the water still stings all over as the wind hits. Then the strangest part: Unable to feel feet momentarily, trying to steer toes into the boots by watching them. The towel is useless at this point, and now it's a race back to the sauna for another round. All strange a shift of feeling, time, vision, movement. The group all enjoyed this weirdness together.
The same evening, Paul came by to tell stories about his polar expeditions. His story was the sort that cannot exist apart from the time and place in which he told it. So I'll leave two words as a reminder to those who were there: brown foam.