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Trapped! Cut Off From Civilization


Life in northern Minnesota can be tough to begin with, but when you live 30 miles from the nearest electrical outlet on a back road bordering the Boundry Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) things can get downright rough.  Add in a helpless neighbor and the relentless snow this winter and you have a recipe for disaster.

I wanted to share this story with you as I think it exemplifies what people are not nowadays.  This is just a brief example of the ingenuity of people who live off the grid.

Matt and Steph are friends of the Tin Hat Ranch and they live totally off the grid, maybe not in the way that you might romanticize, but off the grid nonetheless.  They use wood for heat, a Honda EU2000/Batteries/Inverter for the little electricity they use (mainly for satellite internet of all things) and propane for lights, cooking, and refrigeration (when needed).  Cell phones don’t work and by our behest they actually both became HAM’s a month ago and now enjoy communications with the “outside world”.  Matt works in an industry in which he doesn’t work during the winters and Steph is currently “telecommuting”  for her bachelors.  Let’s just say they are doing this on a shoestring budget.  So when winter comes they just, well, wait it out.

As you might be experiencing, this winter has been really tough.  For Matt and Steph it has been an unbelievable winter.  It has been one of relentless cold with temps sometimes dropping to near 40 below zero.  The snow has continued to pile, beyond waist deep, with the first snow of the winter still trapped at the bottom.  Matt usually clears the mile long access road to the main road, the Echo Trail (which is plowed), with his old Honda Foreman.  Things were working out for most of the winter until this last storm which dumped another couple of feet.  The Foreman could no longer get the job done.  The piles of snow on either side of the drive were too tall and immovable, the new snow too heavy.  No worries, Matt and Steph had more than enough food, wood, and propane on hand to last into spring.  Too bad the neighbors weren’t prepared

I don’t want to say a whole lot about the neighbors.  Let’s say they cut their firewood daily and have just enough food to last a week or so.  In short, they have no business living off the grid.

So, it looks like Matt and Steph have a couple of choices.  Sharing with the 4 neighbors is probably not an option because he isn’t prepared for 4 extra people.  Letting them starve just isn’t the right thing to do (even if it would teach them a lesson).  It is possible to “call in” help using the HAM radio.  Lastly he could get creative.

As you can probably guess, Matt and Steph chose the latter.  Matt put on his thinking cap; how do you drive a vehicle in snow too deep to drive?  Well, how did the Egyptian’s get stones from the quarry to the pyramids?  UFO’s of course!!  Seriously, here was Matt’s solution; build a road.  The problem with driving a vehicle in very deep snow is that the weight of the entire vehicle is place on an area of just a few square feet.  The vehicle then sinks and you now have two issues, the vehicle can’t push the snow out of the way and it doesn’t have traction to move forward.  Matt and Steph’s solution was to spread out the weight of the car over more surface area.  Using some scrap wood left from a cabin expansion last fall he built a frame for the truck to drive on, a snow ramp, if you will. They figured that spreading out the weight of the truck would act much like tank tracks.  Only they are made of wood…and you have to move them manually.  Check out how it worked:

Matt, Steph, and their little helpers got busy building the “snow ramps”.



Putting on the finishing touches



Here is the finished product, ready to get the truck out of the woods!



It’s slow going, but working



Matt placing the ramp, gaining another 12 feet.



Working into the night


They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Matt and Steph didn’t get out of the woods in a day either.  In the end it worked as he planned, they are near getting their vehicle to the Echo trail but it is slow going.   I’ve been in contact with Matt this morning and they are planning on making it the rest of the way today.  Stay in touch as tomorrow I will provide an update.

Check out the Tin Hat Ranch’s Dueling Giveaways, we are giving away a Polaris Ranger AND $1,000 worth of survival gear, click here to learn more!

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