Thomas Lake

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Thomas Lake

Postby finnbay » Wed Jan 16, 2008 8:20 pm

From the late 70's until the mid 90's a couple of buddies and I made a couple of trips a winter into Thomas Lake. Had some great fishing. One trip just about spelled disaster, though. Poor decisions just about made us pay dearly.

It was cold the day we took off. -30 and a brisk wind across Snowbank kinda set the mood. However, we were in good shape, well prepared and had made this trip many times. All went well until we left Disappointment on the winter trail. After a little jump across high ground there is a series of beaver sloughs you travel across. Tom was in the lead, I was in the middle and Ross was behind me. I was trudging along when I heard Tom gasp, looked up and could only see him from the waist up. He had broken through to his belt line. We grabbed his sled and held on until we was able to reach down and undo his skis one at a time and plop them onto the ice. He had skied over a feed bed that the beavers had been using and the ice was thin. We made for shore and had to decide what to do. Build a fire and waste precious time? Head back? We were just about at the halfway point. Or go on.

We decided to keep going. Tom figured moving would keep him warm. He had extra socks and long underwear but figured if he got wet again, he wouldn't have anything dry to get into once we got to Thomas so stayed in his wet clothing.

Had the day warmed up, we probably would have been okay. As it was, it didn't get above -20. Normally we stop once an hour for a good slug of water and some gorp, candy bars or monster cookies. Tom was okay while we were moving, but as soon as we stopped he would start to shake. So we hiked it in without our usual stops.

By the time we got to Thomas it was getting close to 3:00. Someone was already camped where we normally set up, so we had to go farther down the lake than usual. By the time we found a likely looking spot it was starting to get dark and the mercury was plunging again.

We had all dehydrated, and Tom was also suffering from hypothermia. In our confused state, we had trouble deciding where to put the tent. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. We'd look at a spot and decide against it and move on. Though we didn't realize it at the time the situation was getting critical. We didn't have shelter, hadn't eaten, it was getting dark with the temperature plummeting and hadn't gotten any firewood.

We were moving along the shoreline of a big island on the southeast corner of the lake. All of a sudden we stumbled onto an honest to goodness sea cave. Some large boulders in front protected it enough so that snow didn't get into the cave. The floor was fine gravel and there was enough room for the three of us to be able to lay down. We spread a tarp on the floor of the cave, rigged another over the front, lit a candle in the back end of the cave and layed our sleeping pads and bags down and crawled in. We sucked down the rest of our water and shoveled in handfuls of gorp and fell asleep. In the morning, the temp inside the cave was +10 while outside it was -40. We were moving mighty slow and the dehydration headaches were incredible. But we had survived by luck and made the most of the rest of our trip. I don't remember catching a lot of fish on that trip, but the stories and memories have been retold many times.

Several years later Tom and I took a summer trip into Thomas and revisited the cave that saved our lives. There is a big campsite near there and you can walk down to the cave from the campsite. I had stayed at that site a couple of times before but never knew the cave existed until that chilly winter trip!

Image
I recently came across this photo of the cave. I took this the following summer after our winter trip.
Last edited by finnbay on Sun Feb 10, 2008 6:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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Postby PaddlerJimmy » Fri Jan 18, 2008 11:37 pm

Cool. I'll have to try and find that cave. I love caves.
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