Imagine journeying through a winter wilderness untracked by other travelers. The bugs have gone away along with the summer crowds, and what is left behind is a glimmering white expanse covering the frozen lakes and rivers. The silence of your surroundings is broken only by the crunch of your snowshoes and the occasional call of a distant raven. Your breath steams and the crisp bite of the cold air feels refreshing as you pull your laden toboggan. Passing along a forested path, you enter a magical world as the tree branches bend low all around you, weighed down by a heavy blanket of snow. And when you stop to examine the tracks of an otter where it had crossed the lake, you can see how it slid on its belly between every few steps.
With night approaching, you pitch your canvas tent near the shore and then grab your axe and saw. Once the night’s supply of firewood has been gathered, you use an ice chisel to cut a hole in the ice for fresh water, and place the full pots on the stove to boil. The heat from the wood stove fills the tent, and you strip off layers of clothing and hang them to dry in the eaves. The smell of baking bread, frying meat, and bubbling stew fills you with anticipation as the stove’s heat soaks into your exhausted body and relaxes muscles made sore by a hard but honest day on the trail.
You are traveling much as the native people of the northern forests have since time immemorial, using tools and techniques developed through centuries of refinement. Judicious introduction of a few modern tools and materials have improved the durability and convenience of your equipment; but leather, wool, steel, wood, and canvas still make up the backbone of your kit. This specialized equipment, combined with some specialized knowledge, has allowed you to travel long distances in the harshest of seasons in relative comfort; and to experience the beauty and tranquility of the winter wilderness that few other travelers have seen.
– Kelly Hargesheimer