January 29 - Day 2
Day-trip to Drummer Lake

I got up at 7:00am and fired up the stove, it was freezing in the tent. I vaguely remember getting up once in the night to put wood in the stove, but that was it. Sean said he was up at 4am and loaded the stove up. It was a bright and sunny day outside, it was cold too, my thermometer read -9°C but it felt colder even though there was no wind. Several centimetres of snow had fallen during the night and everything was coated with fluffy white snow, it was very pretty.

After coffee and a breakfast of what I can't remember, I loaded up my day-pack as did Sean and we geared up for a day-trip. Our destination was Drummer Lake. There was an open shelter there that I had camped at a few years back. Jeffrey knew the shelter well, having repaired the roof on it a few years back, extending the life of the structure for many years to come, which was good for it was old, having been built around circa 1946-47 by the boys of Camp Ahmek.

winter camp

Jeffrey hanging around camp on a beautiful morning in January

Just after 10:00am Jeffrey led the way breaking trail, with his gps in his hand. The winter trail eventually emerged at a nearby marsh which we tracked along its edge till we hit Sam Lake. I took the lead, being the heaviest, with my ice picks at the ready and walked in a straight line, heading for the opposite shore. There had been several moose tracks in the area and as I reached the opposite shore I came upon another set of tracks that crossed mine. They looked like wolf, but it was hard to tell as they were old and they were in deep snow.

By 10:55am we were safely at the summer portage to Gill Lake and five minutes later we were staring at Gill Lake itself. This is where we were supposed to have camped. There was no way we would've made it. The snow was deep and the terrain too hilly to deal with after the slush surprise we had endured the day before.

Jeffrey leads the way skirting a marsh near Sam Lake


The trailhead to Gill Lake

I felt uncomfortable walking out onto Gill Lake, I didn't have my ice-chisel with me and the snow on the lake was deep. I bounced up and down on the lake, about 10 meters from shore. Sean quickly reported that he could see the ice heave as I bounced up and down.

I took hesitant steps, slowly making my way, tracking a route at the opposing shore. Once across the open expanse of snow covered ice and close to the opposing shoreline it was only then that Jeffrey and then Sean made their way across, one at a time. All of us carried ice-picks.

Five minutes later I was at the take-out for the 1850m portage to Drummer Lake. It was there, that there was a big log, perfect for a rest as I brushed off the snow and waited for the Sean & Jeffrey to join me. There is a very steep but short (Barely 3 meters) slope that one has to ascend at the very beginning of the trail.

Gill Lake
Arrival at Gill Lake


Gill Lake
Looking back at my trail through Gill Lake

After the short break, Jeffrey in his brand spanking new snowshoes sauntered up the slope like a moose, he made it look so easy. I followed next and failed miserably in my wooden bear-paw snowshoes. There was ice underneath all that snow and after several attempts, I found some tress to cling to and finally climbed onto the trail proper. Sean had less difficulty and needed only one hand to steady his ascent. Gotta get me a second pair of shoes one day.

Jeffery and I took turns breaking trail. I had been up in the Park two weeks earlier and I can honestly say that there was a significant increase in snow depths in the bush, at least a good foot of additional snow. There was a lot of snow and we changed the lead several times, taking a break about 20 minutes in after we ascended one particularly snowy hill. It truly was a special day to be there in the middle of the forest, deep with snow and silence.

Through the forest along the portage to Drummer Lake

The rest of the trail to Drummer Lake didn't get any easier and as we got closer to the lake, trail climbed more and more, it was quite the workout. Just around 12:30pm the trail started to level out, I caught a peek of lake in the distance off to one side, then the trail started to descend and twist as it left the hardwood forest and entered the softwood one filled with cedar and pines. Minutes later I arrived at the shelter, it was 12:40pm and had taken us nearly 2 and three-quarter hours to reach drummer Lake.

Drummer Lake shelter
Arrival at the shelter on Drummer Lake!


Drummer Lake shelter
Jeffrey & Sean examine the 60+ year old structure

I snapped a few pictures while Jeffrey & Sean gathered firewood for a lunchtime campfire. By 1:10pm Sean was roasting dogs over a small fire. He had brought a really nifty device; a telescoping roasting rod…awesome!

We took turns roasting our dogs over the fire and enjoying the warmth it provided. Lunch was good, complete with some mustard I had brought along for the hot dogs. An hour later, around 2:15pm we buried the campfire (We had used the summer fire-pit at the shelter) and decided it was time to head back, it would be getting cold in a few hours with the sun setting.

drummer lake shelter
Sean removes his snowshoes and prepares for the hot dog festival on Drummer Lake!


hot dog roasting
Sean enjoys toasting a hot dog over the fire on Drummer Lake

Exactly one hour later we had made it back to the far side of Gill Lake at the portage to Sam Lake and less then twenty minutes after that we were back at camp. The broken trail we followed back and the downward trend had chopped over an hour off our journey time back to camp!

We spent the next hour and a half gathering firewood. I searched with Jeffrey for a better supply, finding some dead birch that had fallen and become hung up in a neighbouring pine. It was too dangerous trying to dislodge the birch, the majority of the prize hanging out of reach. I chopped what I could and headed back to camp. Jeffrey brought back some more maple and birch and a good supply of kindling too.

Jeffrey begins the long but now easier trek back to camp

That night we had a much better fire going in the stove courtesy of the birch and I recorded a temperature of 37.4°C beside me, less then a meter from the stove. It got fairly warm, warmer then the night before, but still not warm enough for Sean, who was closer to the ground and furthest from the stove. The other problem was that when we had setup the tent initially, we had done so with the door un-zipped, so that when the tent was dug in, it became impossible to zip the door 100% closed..there remained a hole at the bottom in which cold air flowed in. It felt colder that night too, although my thermometer only recorded temperatures of -9°C outside. Odd.

We had dinner and then hit the hay, all of us tired from all the fresh air and exercise and cold. Jeffery was out cold in no time snoring away, glad I was; for I was furthest away from him!


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