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Pristine adventures in the cold

Thomas and Debra King of Solon Springs enjoy hiking on the frozen Upper St. Croix Lake, sometimes with their dogs, Sonja Snow Dog and Scotty Boots. (Courtesy of Thomas King)

Thomas King

We are determined, durable skiers and hikers of lake ice, finding the silent splendor of deep-winter adventures on Upper Lake St. Croix to be our favorite days of the year. So quiet. So peaceful. So pristine.

New glistening snow sparkles in early morning starlight, and in bright sunlight when we ice trek later in the day. Tracks of wolves, coyotes, deer and otters hint at so many new stories to discover. Eagles and ravens in flight guide us on our unbroken white way.

In the calendar year of 2013, Debbi and I completed 119 lake-ice hikes. We did each on different days in Solon Springs, traveling on solidly-frozen Upper St. Croix Lake. Family members, along with Sonja Snow Dog and Scotty Boots, our sister-brother border collie mix sheepdogs/sled pullers, frequently accompanied us.

We walked or skied, often on local North Country Trail links, out to thick, safe lake ice, then picked our hiking or skiing routes based on winds and snow firmness.

Mid-winter air temperatures in 2013 were sometimes at minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, with wind chill factors below that. For each lake trek, we hiked or skied out to or around Crownhart Island in the center of the lake on 119 individual, different days total ... the most we have ever “ice hiked” in one calendar year. We always gear-up thoroughly, remembering our old National Ski Patrol adage: “There is no such thing as cold. There is only lack of proper preparation.” What great and often challenging days they all were.

In spring of 2013, despite thorough preparations to celebrate a special milestone family birthday outside on April 27, our plans were altered by lasting winter days. The dense snow cover in our front yard was about 27 inches deep, so we switched our outdoor potluck picnic and campfire party to a local indoor venue.

Our last brief backcountry skiing trip on the trails and lingering lake ice in 2013 was early morning on Thursday, May 7 — so much fun. An awesome, powerful winter to remember. And just wait until we tell you about our cold-weather lake adventures in 2014.

Thomas and Debra King live in Solon Springs.