Quinzee Building


  1. Native hunters used to build snow huts (Quinzees) to escape the elements….Shelby and Daniel build Quinzees because there is snow.

    Winter campers use Quinzees as a shelter for toasty sleeping conditions….Shelby and Daniel plan to create a village…if our snow holds.

How to build a Quinzee

  • Pile up the snow (do not pack it—it is better insulated if it is lofty). This can be powdery dry snow: the science behind it has to do with snowflake structure and fracture—when snowflakes of different temperatures are displaced and piled up a sintering process occurs, causing the snow to bond. Or you could use our friend Jim’s explanation—when you throw the snow flakes into the air, they scream and latch onto one another.

  • Wait for it to harden. If it is cold, this could take 1-3 hours. If it is warmer, 24 hours. If the weather is really wet and warm, the quinzee is never really ready, and has been known to cave in on a toddler, a preschooler and Granny (but obviously the experience didn’t scar them for life!)

  • Sometimes we find 6-12 inch sticks and stick them all over the outside of the Quinzee—for the digging out process (when you hit a stick with your shovel, you know to stop digging). The kids prefer to judge by the color of the walls—when they start getting thin, you can see the diffused sunlight—the walls become blue.

  • When you dig, plan to get wet. If you are winter camping, you want to make sure the door is not facing the wind—and you want to dig up at a slant for the entrance—so that the cold air can sink and exit as you warm the place up.

  • It can help to dig on your back on a sled—so that your digging partner can slide you out periodically. A sled can also transport snow out….

  • When you have hollowed out your Quinzee, you can light a candle inside so the walls will glaze up.

  • If you plan to sleep in the Quinzee, you’ll need ventilation through the ceiling. Most folks don’t cook inside one—definitely you’d need adequate ventilation to avoid dangerous carbon dioxide levels.

  • If you plan to spend the night, be sure to bring a shovel inside with you in case of blowing or drifting snow—over your exit. Even when it is cursed cold outside, it can get balmy inside the Quinzee!!

Snowy Day

We have snow! Saturday was an all day snow, Sunday night we got some more. Last night we tromped out under a full moon to cut down a Christmas tree. 8-10 inches in the woods–that’s a lot to play in!

Remembering a Fall Canoe Trip

At the beginning of October Andy and I set out with our good friends Dave and Nancy to explore the footprint of the Cavity Lake Fire.

We had a wonderful time. These are still the woods that we love. When the 1999 wind storm occurred, we were afraid the woods would never be the same. We were right. The thing about the wilderness is that it NEVER is exactly the same.
I believe this blowdown area photo was taken in one of the Kek ponds.
We visited many lakes that were touched by the fire, but the impact was minimal. In this photo taken on Little Sag, it is hard to make out the burned areas, the brown fall colors, and the green areas. The fire was like a mosaic on Little Sag—some of the northern shoreline was affected, most of the lake was not.

There were a few lakes—Peter, Jasper, Paulson (Jap) that were burned. Initially we quietly mourned the loss of the trees on these favorite lakes. As we explored, we found ourselves amazed at the ability of nature to recreate itself—it truly felt like spring -even in October. Some of these areas are likely to be closed for camping next year—we won’t know until further evaluation in the Spring. Definitely a sense of renewal and rebirth.

By Sue Ahrendt

Skating on Round Lake

Yesterday Andy and I did a “test skate” on Round Lake.
We knew our ice rink was safe and thick–the rest of the lake looked like a polished black mirror. So we put on life jackets and brought out the auger and headed out. We knew the spot near the middle that was open water about 10 days ago, so we eventually drilled there. The ice was 3 inches thick out there, which is not safe according to the DNR. It was enough to hold Andy and me and Denali the dog as we peered in the hole, but not safe enough to send our kids out—- So Andy and I skated around the entire shoreline—beautiful. And when the kids and their overnight friends came home, we set some boundaries—where we knew the ice was at least 4 inches thick.
Still they had a huge romping time on the clear black ice. When we were coming inside, our 3rd grade friend Will said his face felt wet…..apparently the cold fun enabled him to ignore the gash on his chin. Upon further examination, we realized that he would probably need stitches. Will never lost his sense of humor as he said goodbye to the other kids: “I’m gone with the wound.”
While it is a long way from Tuscarora to the Emergency Room, when we got there Dr. Nancy was waiting for us, Will had 3 stitches and we were home within 3 hours of leaving. Will was a trooper, and I was glad for such personalized service -and thankful that we live in a place where people know me, and Will, and even that his parents were in Duluth for his dad’s knee surgery. That makes for one smooth friendly mini-emergency. The kids are hoping that today’s rain won’t ruin the black icy playground!