Earlier in winter I had been contacted by Ed’s Wilderness Systems to use and review one of his pulks for winter camping. At the beginning of March I was contacted by a representative of Eureka! offering a winter camping sleeping bag for review.
Over the winter I did a lot of snowshoeing but few overnight trips. The weekend of 26 March (right after our return from St John) was a last opportunity to go winter camping with significant snow cover. Skip and I decided to hike into to Gull Pond for an overnight on Saturday. It was my opportunity to pull the pulk and use the sleeping bag.
We had a 2.5 mile trip hike into the Gull Lake lean-to. The 1st portion followed a mostly level road bed used by snowmobilers with compacted snow. We passed tracks left by an otter. Otters often travel overland far from water, but in this case a small stream is visible in the background. The snow clearly shows prints that are ~3″ long with five toes on the front feet and five toes on the hind feet.
When sliding the otter will either coast on its belly with forefeet held along its sides and rear feet held out behind or, as in this case, get a ‘running start’ and slide on its belly across the snow and then continue by pushing itself to reach the end of a slide. Alongside the slide you can see troughs in the snow made by the otter pushing its self with their feet tucked under their bodies. Also in distance so you can see tracks mixed in with the slide.
The range of a typical river otter is fairly large, roughly 10 square miles, with most of that area is within a short distance from a river, lake, or pond.
The 2nd portion of the trail involved ~160’ elevation gain up a rough and eroded trail. This was more akin to bushwhacking as we avoided the gullies formed by erosion and weaved around the trees adjoining the trail. The snow was hard and crusty and initially I was apprehensive about the sled slipping sideways. However, slipping was rarely an issue. The sled tracked straight and the few times that it was unavoidable to traverse a side hill it was not difficult to keep forward motion with the sled.
The difficulty was in going uphill. The combination of a heavily loaded sled (64 lbs) and the hard packed crust made it real work to dig in the crampons on the snowshoes, lean forward and pull. It felt like I was using different leg muscles (calves and sides of my thighs) than I would normally use hiking.
We reached the Gull Lake lean-to and found 3 guys and a German Shepard. They had been there since Thursday and had bountiful gear occupying the space. We took a short rest and considered our options. We could share the crowded lean-to or try and find a place to bivouac or try to hike back out. Counting on staying at the lean-to we did not pack a tent or tarp which made the bivouac not all that attractive. We decided to hike back out. I gulped down 32 oz of water and dumped some of the water I had packed in, to help lighten the load.
We ventured out at 6:30. The snow was so hard packed that we decided to hike out without our snowshoes. It was a quick and easy hike back down to the snowmobile trail and made it back to the cars a little before 8pm as the light was fading.
We stopped off at the Tavern on the Green in Prospect for a beer and wings and watched the NCAA Quarter Finals.
There is a lengthy review of the EWS Snow Clipper pulk on WinterCampers.com.