03-Mar-2001 -- Well, this was my first confluence attempt. Needless to say, I prepared
ahead by looking at the topo and aerial maps for the region. The confluence point is
about 200 yards from a forest road, and although the area has quite a few boggy,
open clearings, the point itself was under forest cover. I decided to try tackling it from
the forest road straight through the trees, since none of the aerially visible clearings
could help me at all. I'd have a little less snow to deal with under cover, as well.
So I had my route decided before I even took off. The town of Winter, fittingly,
served as my "jumping-off" point - after I left the main road, I wasn't even
sure what road conditions would be like. And my car is definitely not a 4-wheel drive! I
headed north out of Winter on Co. Rd. W, and then turned onto Co. Rd. B. Right after
the turn, the road crossed over the Chippewa River, and it was flowing pretty heavily
due to the recent warm temperatures and sunny days. I had to stop and take a picture.
Then I continued on B for a few miles and turned onto Co. Rd. S. A few miles down that
road, I turned again onto Moose Lake Rd. and drove around Moose Lake. There were
a lot of cabins and resorts on the lake. On the map, I was almost spiralling around the
confluence point, getting ever closer. The roads were getting progressively narrower
and more winding.
At the end of Moose Lake Rd., I finally found Forest Road 174, and it was
plowed and packed (hooray!) Guided by the topo map, I drove down about a mile
down. As I was about to park, though, I noticed a track heading approximately the
direction I wanted to go. Of course, it was only visible from the lack of tree cover, but
I was glad for any help I could get! So I put on snowshoes, pocketed the GPS,
camera, and water bottle, and set off.
The track was well used by deer, but it didn't look like another person had been
there since the last big snowstorm. It got me within about 450 feet of the confluence,
and at that point I had to strike off through the forest. The trees weren't particularly
dense, but the snow was between 2 and 3 feet deep. Even with snowshoes, I sunk
far enough that I had to take real care lifting my back foot. (For those who don't
snowshoe: swinging your back foot forward before it's out of the snow is a great way to
get snow in your boots, unless they go up past your calves.) There were deer trails
criss-crossing all over the place, which helped me somewhat.
Finally, after zig-zagging for a while, I made it close to the confluence point. It's
surprising how long it takes just to go 450 feet through that much snow. I let the GPS
settle down and moved it here and there until I got the five-zero readings I was looking
for. I also took a few pictures of the surroundings, but hey, they're just forest - nothing
different or unusual, really. Finally, I put down all the electronics, stood, and listened
for a while. There were very few birds that time of day; the ambient noises were
dominated by the wind. I heard the squeaking and knocking sound of dead trees rubbing
against each other, and the little crackling of twigs breaking and falling to the ground.
On the way back, I decided to head straight east instead of following my track
back, since it was probably quicker that way, and I'd get to navigate by compass. Again,
it was just a basic tromp through the woods (except that I put a snowshoe down
awkwardly, lost my balance, and fell once!) I ended up back on the forest track within
sight of the main road.
Before I took off, I walked across the road to get a picture of the helpful track.
Right then, about six or seven snowmobiles came around the bend in the road. As
soon the lead snowmobiler saw me out of the car, he slowed down to see if everything
was OK. But I gave him a thumbs-up and waved, so they kept on. But if I had actually
had problems, I would have been glad they were there and willing to help. As I started
back home, I got a little bonus too - a glowing orange sunset.