Stand on a Boundary Waters lake in early spring and experience temptation. The surface of the wilderness lake is flat and smooth with well-hardened snow. You could go anywhere, especially on skate skis that would fly across the wilderness. Before the day warms up, the snow pack in the woods is crusty hard. You could walk anywhere. Cliffs rise around the shore, with just enough snow on them for easy access. You could climb anywhere.
With all this temptation, what is a guy to do? Ski, walk or climb...or all of the above?
The Slade and Rauschenfels clan chose "all of the above" on a visit to Slim Lake yesterday.
Slim Lake is in the BWCA, in the Crab Lake portion of the Wilderness. It's right off of the North Arm Road, off the Echo Trail north of Ely. In summer you can drive a quarter mile up a narrow road to a trailhead, but in the winter you park on the North Arm Road, right by a public access for the North Arm of Burntside Lake.
The creek connecting Slim Lake with Burntside Lake was mostly open and rollicking with spring melt-off. It was the most spring-like part of the whole day, since the woods were still full of snow and the bright blue sky spoke far more of winter's cold than summer's heat. That taste of spring and aliveness felt terrific. The portage crosses the creek twice, and both times we lingered at the open flowing water.
Slim Lake is ringed by cliffs, a classic bulldozer job by the glaciers. Hans and I scampered up over crusty snowpack, bare cliff, lichen and white pine to the top of a knob.
And what goes up, must come down:
We were on foot, not on skis. But oh man was the skiing tempting. Wide open lake, flat just softening snow...it was calling out for skis, especially skate skis.
The last temptation of winter would be given another day.