Posted on: Wednesday March 24, 2021 Hiking Stories Winter

It’s a different world in Frontenac from our hike two weeks ago. The snow has melted, leaving a thin sliver of ice running down the trail. Shake’nBake and I swap our snowshoes for microspikes. My bag is full and heavy- not with food for once, but instead with all the layers I’d normally wear over my t-shirt. It’s too warm for even a sweater.

We came to Frontenac in November for a week, at the very beginning of winter, and now we’re here on the last weekend of cold temperatures. It feels like a perfect parentheses for our winter adventures. I’ve loved getting outside in the snow and learning new skills, but I’m ready for summer and warmer days now.

We hike to our campsite. It’s 11km, which is normally nothing. But we’ve been stuck to short distances, trudging through deep snow. Now that seems much further than it did six months ago. We cross streams of meltwater, branches over the flow encrusted with ice. I’m so happy that we won’t have to melt snow tonight.

Our camp is on the shore of a still frozen lake. All of the snow has melted off, and cracks spiderweb through the ice. It’s still cold. The low tonight is minus eight, so we warm ourselves by the fire before retreating to the tent. I lie awake half the night, listening to the ice move and shift. There’s a deep, sonorous note, like whale song, and then a crack, thunder loud. The lake seems more alive than in the summer, when frogs croak all night long, and fish splash in the shallows.

It’s not my bladder or my stomach that forces me out of bed in the morning. Instead, for the first time in months, I’m too hot. I throw off my sleeping bag, and go to sit by the lake in the sun. I read while I wait for Shake’nBake to wake up. Finally, he stirs, and we head out. We hike the Slide Lake loop, part of which we did in November. The trail runs over narrow spits of land, and loops up over sunwarmed boulders. I hike in my t-shirt, and worry about sunburn. We sit and eat lunch on a rock overlooking the lake, icy surface turning to slush in the noon heat. We don’t worry about getting cold. It’s fantastic.

We decide to cowboy that night. I haven’t cowboyed in a long time. I pull my warm sleeping bag up around my ears, and lie looking at the stars. One falls, streaking overhead, and I make a wish.

It feels like a long way back to the car in the morning. My thighs are tired from clambering up rocks and crawling my way up hills. I know I have a lot of work to do before the GDT this summer. The weather is beautiful though, so I ignore my aching legs. The trail alternates icy and dry, until a kilometer before the car, where it turns to mud. I pick my way through the middle gingerly, feeling guilty. Still, the mud keeps most people away, and we see no one until the parking lot. I lament bringing snow boots instead of sandals for my car shoes. I guess it’s time to swap our winter gear for summer.

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Eloise Robbins (Fun Size)

About the Author

Eloise Robbins (Fun Size) is a writer, triple crown thru hiker, and adventurer. She is a lover of the outdoors, hiking, canoeing, and most of all mountains.

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