On New Year’s Eve, most people gather at social events with friends and families, eating warm food, dancing, laughing and sharing the night with people they care about as the midnight hour draws closer. That was not how I spent my New Year’s Eve. Before 2011 began, I was asleep, alone, on a frozen Minnesota lake only a few miles from the Canadian border.
I chose to spend my New Year’s—and my 19th birthday—on a one-week dog-sledding and cross-country skiing expedition in the Minnesota Boundary Water Wilderness Preserve as part of the Outward Bound outdoor education program. When I told my friends and family on campus and back home in Kansas about my travel plans, I was met with a combination of surprise, shock and concern about my sanity—especially the last one. Although many of my friends and family were familiar with Outward Bound, with several having completed their own expeditions, most were baffled by my decision to attempt an arduous wilderness expedition in the heart of winter.
I went on my journey with seven of the finest people and 11 of the best dogs I have ever known. The experience that we shared was one of the hardest challenges I have ever undertaken. Most people do not realize the difficulties of living, much less working, in a cold environment. Our bodies were regularly under attack from the elements and keeping our core body temperatures elevated was a constant chore. The weather during my expedition was actually, relatively speaking, warm, with temperatures ranging from the