Halfway through December of 2019, I set off into the boreal forest with the goal of spending a full winter by myself, gathering firewood and food from the land to stay alive.
The start date was actually mid November, and the goal was six months... The initial plan was to load up a canoe with supplies and go to a remote, and undisturbed location up river. But as always: the plan never survives first contact.
The day of departure everything seemed as planned, but the land was way more wintery than what I had anticipated. I paddled a few minutes while my partner, Jennifer, watched me disapear into the distance. But soon there was a bend in the river and ice had started to accumulate and the surface of the river was freezing over. This time period is really dangerous because the ice is extremely weak and a canoeist would have to negotiate many similar obstacles. There is current, the ice is sleepery, there are so many things that can go wrong, and kill me in a matter of minutes. I contemplated my options for a few minutes... Then I started paddling back, and fortunately, Jennifer was still there.
I regrouped for a couple of weeks and replanned the whole expedition. This time I would sled in using snowmobile trails for the most part, and I would travel offtrail for the last section (mostly over ponds, lakes, and rivers). The expedition had to be reduced to 100 days in order for me to sled back while the ice was still strong.
I brought roughly 2000 kcals per day in the form of Navy beans and lard (and salt). In the winter, and in a solo survival situation you burn way more calories than you can imagine! This was compact enough for me to pull on my sled, and moreover, it would keep me hungry and motivated to forage for wild foods, while at the same time giving me a safety buffer against starvation. Afterall, I was going to be completely alone, in the middle of nowhere, with no one to help me out.
The trip in was very difficult and took a couple of days. Pulling a sled on compacted snow is completely different than pulling it on deep snow and through bogs peppered with saplings. Once I arrived to the location I set up a tent I had designed and sewn for this expedition and prepared for the long-haul.
I lived mainly on fish and the occasional grouse. During this time I got to really apply and refine my winter skills. I can tell you that after spending a full boreal winter living in a tent, the boreal cold doesn't bother me anymore.
To be continued...