News from the Steger Wilderness Center

Blog posts, updates, and more...

Expedition Clothing

Expedition Clothing

by Will Steger at March 30, 2015

Expedition clothing is all about  layers.  Hauling my canoe-sled and gear is a tremendous amount of work. I burn 8,000 calories a day.  Layers allow me to maintain good body heat during hard work and while resting. My Mont Bell fleece and down coats are some of the most important items I carry. Learn more:  

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Update from Will Day 12

Update from Will Day 12

by Steger Wilderness Center at March 29, 2015

Day 12 - March 29 There was a big storm last night. I had to get up and tie the canoe down to make sure it stayed safely in it's spot. When I woke up, it seemed dark until I shook the 10 inches of snow off the top of the tent.   More time on on the Maligne River today. This is a really spooky river-  dark, almost black water hiding lots of large boulders and rocks. It makes for treacherous traveling - especially with the shore ice jutting into the river and the strong, springtime current down the middle.      //   Day 11 - March 28 Crossed Sturgeon Lake today.It's a large lake, about 10-12 miles across. I skied across - the first time on skis during this journey. I experienced some of my most memorable and beautiful moments on the journey today; filled with wildlife immersed in their spring rituals.     Day 10 - March 27 It's been a great couple days of wilderness adventure. Swift currents, stunning waterfalls and challenging portages to find and travel have been the themes for the past two days.     Traveling along the Sturgeon Narrows towards Lake Sturgeon much of today.  The weather has been very cold.   Grateful for the rocks midday that have been warmed by the sun for my lunch stops and for the gorgeous clear skies at night.     To see the map of the entire planned expedition, click here.       Day 8- March 25It snowed all day today so I took the day off. It's too hard to read the ice with the snow covering it. I had to stay within 10 yards of my camp to stay on safe ice.        Day 7-March 24   Day Six-March 23 This area is known for its pictographs.  It has a long history of native settlements due to the abundant fishing and hunting. It's rarely visited as each entrance to the lake has several waterfalls making it hard to reach. I ended up three miles ahead of myself today. Great to have good traveling conditions, but ended up disoriented for a bit. Pretty quickly figured out my location, but reminded me of many other times when it wasn't so easy.     Day Five Beautiful day today. Negotiated three more falls. One was especially impressive. It was created by a whole lake traveling through a canyon with 100-150 feet stone walls on either side. The water cascades through the canyon for one-quarter of a mile.    Day Four Day Three   Day Two Slept on the ice above the water falls last night. I always sleep on the ice if I can. It's cold and you can hear a lot of rumbling and cracking sounds. But it's flat and I can anchor my tent into the ice with screws. Click to listen to Will's Expedition report from today and see his updated route map.     Day One      

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Power System

Power System

by Will Steger at March 25, 2015

I've develop a small, lightweight power system that I use on my expeditions. It consists of a 14-Watt solar panel and battery pack, both made by Brunton. Learn more:  

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Photos from the Steger Wilderness Center

Steger Wilderness Center

Learn About Will's Past Expeditions...

Audio dispatches, blog posts, images, and more...

Solo 2015 Expedition

Solo 2015 Expedition

25th Anniversary - 1989-90 International Trans-Antarctica Expedition

25th Anniversary - 1989-90 International Trans-Antarctica Expedition

2014 Solo Quetico Expedition

2014 Solo Quetico Expedition

Cutting Ice at the Steger Homestead and Wilderness Center

I have been cutting ice since 1967. Back then I lived two lakes from the nearest road and I had just finished building my log cabin (which I still live in today). I remember how comfortable it was having shelter in the wilderness for the first time.

My next biggest need was refrigeration. My solution? Digging out a primitive ice house down by the lake and covering it with a log roof and 4 feet of soil.

IceBallPeopleIn Ely, MN there were still plenty of ice saws and thongs remaining in old sheds used before the advent of electricity when ice was the only source of refrigeration . The old timers willingly parted with their tools knowing that they were going to be put back to good use. I spent many afternoons around their kitchen tables, drinking coffee and soaking up their stories of horse teams pulling sled loads of ice from lakes to huge ice houses that would be used by the community throughout the summer.

Cutting ice at the Homestead since then has not only been a tradition but it is a necessity. My goal when I moved into the wilderness in the late 60s was to be self-sufficient. I wanted to build all of the structures from the rock and wood from the surroundings, clear land for the gardens and forage and fish to meet my needs. And, I needed ice to keep our food fresh.

I have never used fossil fuels for refrigeration, I have only cut ice.

Today we have a first class ice house build from cement blocks with a reinforced concrete ceiling covered with ten feet of soil that nourishes the virgin pines above. The mini-forest above the ice house shade the ground and keeps the earth cool so our ice will last throughout the summer. It works so well that as we start cutting ice this year we much first throw out the left over ice from the winter before.

Ice cutting is labor intensive and our annual event has grown to a what is now known as the Ice Ball or the annual Homestead ice harvest. Lisa Ringer’s four work horses that haul tons of ice out of the lake are the central Spirit of this 60-person operation and celebration.

The day is brisk and busy as scores of people cut and form teams to haul the ice out of the lake and ready to be loaded on the sled. Then there are the stackers who tightly pack the ice blocks in the icehouse. Later, the full icehouse is covered by dry sawdust from the shop. Sawdust provides an effective layer of insulation that dramatically slows the melting. The ice will last from the first week of February, when it is cut, to well past October.  

In the end, the tools are put away for the another year, the horses are bedded down and the party begins.

There are cooks and helpers in the kitchen that feed this working mob.The festivities start with a feast. A string of smiling red cheeked people holding empty plates weaves its way to the counter and the steaming food. Corks from wine bottles are popped, the keg is tapped, conversations flow. Later the music starts, most listen some dance.

As the evening progresses a bonfire is lit once again drawing the grows into the cold air.

In the early AM, when the spring constellations rise, the fortunate sleep in beds while the remaining sleep on mats and cots in the heated wood shop.

At first light the local wolf pack howls.

 

Follow the 2015 Steger Ice Ball -
Click Here
(Footage, Stories and Updates from the Live Event)

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