Taking Back Winter

March 1, 2010

Loch Alva

Feb 14-19, 2010

Paul Maybee

Graham Waugh

Winter: a great time to stay indoors.  Or so I thought.  For so many years, I have restricted my wilderness adventures to three seasons, but this year, I had a change of heart, or maybe I just changed my mind, and decided to go outside.

Day 1: Feb 14

So Graham Waugh and I planned a camping trip in the Loch Alva area which had intrigued both of us since our trip in to Turtle Mountain in May.  Looking out across the hills and lakes from Turtle Mountain, we wondered what other mysteries lay hidden in the green valleys and hills.

Robin Hood Lake

We quickly found a good rhythm walking with the sleds, and because of the well used snowmobile trail heading up the hill, Graham found it easier to go without snowshoes.

Mawhane Mountain Lunch

Mawhane Mountain Lunch

Winter travel is all about layers.  Once we got going on the trail, the layers come off, and as soon as we stopped for a bit of a lunch on Mawhane Mountain, they all go back on again.

Turtle Mountain

The wind has brushed all the snow from the top of Turtle Mountain.  It feels good to be back here, and I’m reminded of that wonderful trip with Graham and Ross in May.  It is especially exciting knowing that this is the beginning of our trip and not the turnaround point this time.

Graham waited until we had arrived to deliver the bad news that my whiskey had leaked all over our thermarests and tarp inside one of our dry bags.  When the work is done at the end of the day, it’s a little easier to take bad news well.

I took this picture because in May, I took this picture.

We set up camp on the NE side of the mountin and several times before bed, climbed the extra 30m elevation between our camp and the top to get the blood to our fingers and toes.  We went up to watch the sunset, which was more of a muted blue gloaming than a radiant show of light.  To me, the tricks this kind of light plays on our eyes is even more spectacular.

Day 2: Feb 15

We woke up on Turtle Mountain to our first morning in the woods, and our first full day of being outside in winter.

Room with a View

We decided to cancel our plans to explore some of the surrounding lakes to stick close to the mountain and just play around the foothills, and just enjoy being there.

Turtle Lake

Turtle Lake, and the unknown

This is where we will be going tomorrow.

Advance Base

This was our lovely home for two days.  Note the shoveled out walkway courtesy of Graham.  It made all the difference to be able to walk on level ground, and sit comfortably in the “kitchen.”

Chef Graham

Bacon.  It makes people happy.



Marsh @ Turtle Lake

Turtle Mountain: Looking Back

Old Hunting Cabin

We were told about this little cabin at the base of the mountain.  Turtle Mountain can be seen just to the right of the cabin at the horizin (if you look really hard).

Log "Cabin"

On the same leased campsite sits this beautiful big log cabin, which looks out over Turtle Lake.  It runs on wind power and surprisingly can’t be seen from the top of Turtle Mountain.

Go Jump in the Lake

We also took turns jumping off the dock “into” the lake.  Ahhh.. the lazy, hazy days of- winter.


Looping around Turtle Mountain, we found another trail, the Steve McKinnon memorial trail which connects back to the main trail to Turtle Mountain.

The Summit Push



Before supper, we went to the top again to warm up and to watch the “sunset.”  As the light slowly faded from the sky, the blanket of darkness brought with it a chilling silence, which only a light breeze dared to challenge.

only a light breeze

We stood looking over the hills and lakes, to where tomorrow would find us- when the frantic cries of a pack of coyotes shot up at us from the lake, piercing the silence.

Now, I felt, we had entered the wilderness.

Day 3: Feb 16

First Light

We woke up at first light and made for the top, both to warm up, and to watch the surise from the top of the mountain.


This was the first we had seen of the blue sky since we left, and it was shaping up to be a beautiful day.  The granite seemed to be glowing in the soft light of the early morning.

Anyone who knows me, knows how hard it is to tear me away from a sunrise or sunset.  It’s equally hard for me to choose which photos to show of the- ahem… lots of photos I have of this and every sunrise and sunset I’ve had the opportunity to photograph.

That being said, if there’s anything that’s able to tear me away from it…

bacon bacon bacon

It’s the smell of bacon first thing in the morning.

back on the old snowy trail

We got an early start today and had everything packed up and were on the road by 9:30.  We had scouted out the trail yesterday and so had only to follow our tracks down the mountain.

sunny hardwoods

I love this photo.  and it makes me laugh.

Another great view of Turtle.

Much of the area has been dammed by beavers, and often there are clearings with silvered dead trees.  We imagined that this area would be much less passable in the summer months.  We’ll just have to come back and find out for ourselves.

Lots of Snow

Lunch break

At lunch time, we found a fantastic spot under a big pine tree to sit on a log in the warmth of the sun.  It was surprisingly warm, especially when on the move, and sitting here for lunch, we could smell the ground being heated by the sun.  You know that smell.  Graham found a geocache here, which we weren’t looking for, but it was frozen into the ground, so we couldn’t check it and leave a note.

crossed paths


This was probably the worst part of our day.  We bushwhacked through this stuff for a few hours, uphill before we came to a bit of a “clearing.”  Just to the left of my sled at the bottom of the photo is a great example of the loops frozen into the ground which were the perfect shape and size to catch the front of the sled and make you stop and have to lift the sled over them.  What fun!

This was the “clearing” at the top of the hill.  Does anyone know what is happening to the bark on these trees?  It’s the strangest thing.  It looks like it’s dried and cracked off, and it’s all very uniform, and it’s happened of every one of them.  Take a close look, I’d love to know.

a well deserved break

I’m a little bit sunburned, but mostly flushed from battering through the thicket to get to this lake.  I didn’t bring a bandana with me, so I used the triangular bandage to cover my forehead from the hot sun.

moose creek

This was my favorite part of the day.  We were using map and compass to find our way through, as the lakes and streams became much less pronounced.  Here we saw fresh moose tracks and droppings, as well as some very large coyote tracks.  It was so pleasant cruising through the hardwoods where we could almost go in a straight line and the sleds wouldn’t catch on anything.

We didn’t really know exactly where we were, and our motto became:

“Your only lost, if you’re hungry and lost.”

the right track

We were trying to get to the Rocky Lakes by the end of the day, and with our fairly limited topo map and compass, we felt like we were on the right track now.  And we were…

into the sunset

But the sun was going down, so I thought we should cut straight to Rocky Lake instead of following the possiby nonexistent and snowcovered stream shown on the topo map.  When we hit the marsh, it felt like we were really close to the lake.  And we were…

But then the marsh ended and we could see the sun through the trees.  We followed it for a while longer, until Graham decided to climb a tree to see what he could see.  We had obviously come past the lake and were now hitting the Valley of Diamonds.

So, we accepted defeat for the day, turned around and set up camp in the bog.  At the time, it seemed like a comprimise, but it ended up being the greatest campsite we could have chosen.

You might say that it chose us.

Continue to Part II


8 Responses to “Taking Back Winter”

  1. K said

    Great photos Paul! The sunrise in particular is spectacular.

  2. holmpage1 said

    Very nice, Paul. A reminder that nature isn’t so hostile as we think, if we’re well equipped and healthy. Love the quote about only being lost if you’re hungry.

  3. Christine said

    Great photography…makes me want to go and play in the snow…..but sleep indoors….sorry, such a wuss…
    another guy with a red beard and blonde hair…
    what is this phenomenon?
    keep on trekking….

  4. nathan said

    hey guys;
    Awsome pictures!! i too am a sucker for beautiful red sunrises sunsets. and the beach and rocks.

    i was gonna check out the rest of yr pictures story but seems that yr link to part two is broken or maybe you just havent posted it yet. let me know if you get it fixedéposted thanks..

    • gypsyproductions said

      Thanks Nathan. And thanks for the heads up. I’ve fixed the link. I don’t know what happenes, it was working, but it seems to be working again. Check it out!


  5. Looks like a great time. I have not yet tried winter camping, so it helps to read about it for inspiration, if only to motivate me to venture out more for day trips during winter (don’t currently have equipment for winter camping).

    I’ve been reading through your blog history and noting you tend to post reports mainly from spring, fall and now winter trips. Is the absence of summer trips due to the lack of blog posts or do you tend to avoid summer because of bugs or other reason? Just curious. In any case, there is something to enjoy in each season (and unique challenges in each as well).

    • gypsyproductions said

      Hello Prairie Voyageur!

      Thanks for your comments. I am very excited to venture out again this winter and now that I am comfortable with winter camping, it opens up the season to a whole new level of adventure, since I don’t have to make it back to my starting point by dark. I would recommend trying it nearby first (this is what I did). I camped out by a waterfall, where I was parked nearby so I could leave if things went wrong, or it got too cold. It’s a great way to test it out. I actually only have a summer tent, but with a good sleeping bag, some hot water and some evergreen boughs under the tent site, (and more importantly – a good attitute!) it can be quite comfortable. Very astute of you to pick up on my lack of summer trips. Yes, I do tend to avoid summer for several reasons. One is bugs. It may sound silly that an adventurer such as myself hates bugs so much, but let’s face it, they can be miserable. Summer tends to be a busy time as well, and I’m more likely to be spending time outside anyway in my garden, or eating all of my meals out on the deck, so I don’t need these adventures to spend time outside. I do love summer, but it does tend to be a time when I spend more time out in my garden, and less in the wilderness. I would be very excited to hear of your trials with winter camping. It is always better and safer to take someone with you, especially with the added danger in the winter months.

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