10-Jan-2004 -- Our adventure started with me (Josh) somehow ending up at this website and instantly being hooked on the idea of getting involved. I love maps, photos and computer technology and this just seemed like something fun to do. First, I looked to see how hard it would be to get to one of the confluences, particularly, how far do I need to travel. I found one that had not yet been visited and it was relatively close to my home in Winnipeg. There were a few obstacles to overcome even before the actual journey. One, I don't have a GPS or any real navigational experience other than highways in my car, two, the point to visit is in a different country and three, it is about 4 km (2.5 miles) from mainland out in Lake of the Woods. I tried to think of someone with a GPS that would be interested in this trek and realized that a friend of mine, Tony, has a GPS and is also a long time Lake of the Woods summer resident who just might enjoy a trip like this.
It was shortly before Christmas and I saw Tony at a party. As I was trying to describe this to him he was constantly distracted by the social gathering around him and had a bit of a "sounds vaguely interesting, but I have a beer to finish" look on his face. I thought I'd lost him until I got him to a computer. He saw the website and was instantly more hooked than me. Another friend at the same party, Derek, also wanted in, as we all had connections to the lake, and thought this would be great fun. We started to talk dates. First weekend back after Christmas should work.
January 10th was a fine day for a trek out on the ice. We had done some checking on ice thickness and mapped out our starting point so off we went. First concern was the border crossing. Heightened security might have put us in a tough spot getting into the States but when we explained to the customs agent what we were up to he laughed and sent us through wishing us good luck. We arrived at the south end of Lake of the Woods at about noon and tried to get as close as possible to the confluence point with the van. A large ice ridge separation that seemed to go for miles added a few hours to our task as we tried several ways to get around it. We finally decided on a spot about 4 km away from the confluence and already about 1.5 km from shore out on the ice. We knew the ice was safe because there were about 2,000 ice fishing huts (some with satellite dishes) and probably 500 trucks and SUV's. We parked the van and packed up our gear and headed off to the invisible point out on the frozen lake. We met a few interesting characters out ice fishing. Most of them thought we were a bit nuts but wished us luck. We marched straight out to the point, missed it by a few hundred meters and then hooked up the GPS to a set of batteries and started walking around looking for the full set of zero's. Finally at 4:18 we hit it - two sets of 5 zero's. We were at 95 degrees west and 49 degrees north standing on about two feet of ice. The pictures show very flat light and the only two directions that had any reference were south, towards shore, and east where you can make out some fishing shacks in the distance. The views from our spot to the north and west were just a blue/grey wash as you really couldn't distinguish the end of the ice and snow from the start of the sky. The pictures pretty much represent the reality. When you were looking north and west it was difficult to gauge any horizon. We took out our Canadian flag and staked the small patch of ice as a bit of Canada which is probably okay since, when the ice melts in spring, that's where the water will end up.
This confluence point is interesting because it falls in a small area that was long ago part of a border dispute and cartographers nightmare. Lake of the Woods has over 14,000 islands and 65,000 miles of shoreline. The best efforts at mapping it at the time of setting the Canada U.S. border were fruitless and someone in England actually set a border starting point erroneously above the 49th parallel. This resulted in the only part of the US lower 48 that sticks up above that magic line.
We started our trek back getting pretty tired stomping through low snowdrifts and we came upon a good natured group of young American ice fishermen. After a good laugh, "You're those crazy guys from Canada in the van", and a couple of cold beers, they drove us back to our vehicle. A great trip, lots of fun and we have already decided that the three of us will visit the site again from our cottages on the north end of the lake in Canada, but the next time it will be in the summer, in a boat to re-document with some better pictures.