Frosty Adventures: Participants Share Tales of Ice-Camping in Northern Minnesota

Frosty Adventures: Participants Share Tales of Ice-Camping in Northern Minnesota
Jess Villarreal

Exploring the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota

The 2024 Annual Expedition finished earlier this month, taking place in the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota. Over 7 days the brave team explored the icy wilderness while learning winter survival skills.

Lessons Learned 

Spending a week living outdoors in the cold takes skills! A participant shares, “I learned the importance of monitoring and regulating your microclimate in cold weather. I learned so many incredible things I am still in disbelief that this opportunity was given to me. I am so excited to continue to learn about the outdoors and how to make shelters and gather wood for campfires.”

Nature has a lot more to offer than just practical lessons. Immersing ourselves in the great outdoors can teach us valuable skills and have a significant impact on our emotions.

One participant elaborates, “I learned so much about nature! Trees, how to survive in the winter and cold outdoors! I learned the importance of having confidence in yourself, what you set out to do and sticking to that through flexibility and willingness to change based on new perspectives and learned experiences. I learned a lot about myself in tandem with others and what the great power you get from being a part of a team.”

Another team member expresses the resilience they found in community and positive thinking, “…the feeling that I can do hard things. I can always look back when facing something difficult and know that if I got through that I can get through anything. I also learned that I need people in my life to get through any difficult times … because someone has a flaw I don’t need to push them away. I also learned not to complain about everything I don’t like to focus on the positive and keep it pushing. One of the best things I took from it was I’m not alone in having gone through something traumatic, and sharing it with others actually helps me more than I know.”

Cherished Moments

Looking back on the time spent in Northern Minnesota, team members reflected on some of their favorite moments. A particular highlight for the group was spending time with the sled dogs, “Howling with the dogs! The first night out on the ice, seeing the clear glassy ice and the expansive night sky above was incredible and an image that will live in my mind for the rest of my life,” shared one participant.

One adventurer shares the magic of stepping onto the frozen lake for the first time. They express, “Stepping out onto the frozen lake for the first time and hearing the ice form and crack, waking up in the middle of the night while sleeping on the frozen lake and listening to the ice, it sounded like whales under us.”

Other highlights included cutting trees, spending time with the team, and being disconnected from cell phones.

Challenges on the Ice

The expedition was not without its hard moments! The snow, ice, and cold bring an emotional element to an already physical demand. Tough conditions can make it difficult to keep a positive attitude – everyone tried their best! The energy and time it took to cook, clean, build fires, and camp in the snow was tolling. Participants worked to pace themselves and their energy.

Participants agreed that the trip was difficult and wished they had trained harder for the adventure, “I had no idea what I was getting into but it was way harder than I thought it was going to be.” Similarly, another team member expressed, “I don’t believe I ever thought of all the hard work that went into an expedition, so the first two days took some getting use to.”

Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough snow to dog sled or cross-country ski as originally planned, “Although we did not get to go dog-sledding and cross-country skiing, the time in Minnesota, with a team, in a new and challenging environment absolutely met my expectations.. exceeded them, really.” Another participant shares, “I still would like to go dog sledding and cross-country skiing but I also was so glad I went on this expedition. I will never forget this New Year!”

Advice for Future Expedition Teams

Are you interested in joining the Annual Expedition in the future? Here’s what the 2023 team would tell someone wanting to go on this grand adventure:

  • Go! Try out for it, work hard and invest in yourself because adventures like this only come around once in a lifetime and you’re worth that type of experience!
  • It is a lot harder than you imagine but you will not regret it.
  • Continue to nourish your body and continue working out on a daily basis. We only have one body and we have to take care of it for our lifetime. This trip reminded me when we take small breaks from self-care it has a huge impact.