June Journal: Appointments Driving Me Crazy

Appointments, yes. But what is really driving me crazy is the GFS outlet in the garage that keeps tripping and shutting off power to all the outlets where my second refrigerator, and my freezer are plugged in. Every day a new tactic, trying to isolate the problem…

June 19

We are not having our usual company after church today. We are not going to church. The husband keeps asking if we are doing our normal things and I have to remind him that we are staying home because I have had Covid. I did go out and watch the geese. They are getting big.

The adults are always watching – good parents.

June 20

Today was over 90 degrees and windy. I could easily have imagined I was back in Florida. I passed up helping the Boys and Girls Club with their canoe trip. The cold water would probably have felt good but the heat made me feel sick, even being inside. It’s probably too soon for me to be doing something that strenuous. Glad to stay home.

Except for the chiropractor appointment that the husband thinks he needs. Once again, I had him go in by himself while I sat in the car and watched their hanging baskets twirl and wilt in the heat and wind. They came out to check on timing for another appointment and I said it was okay, but don’t have my calendar with me to be sure.

June 21

Mom, brother Dennis and I are back on our morning meetings, discussing the day ahead and doing some reading. I had two appointments. The first was with our financial advisor, a quarterly update. He’s had Covid too so we were in about the same shape and not too worried about catching it anymore. To be proper we met outside on the patio. It was hot but not quite as bad as yesterday.

The second appointment was to look at a camper that some friends of friends were willing to rent us for the reunion. I drove out to the Schrock’s and met Erik and Julia. Their camper is nice and I think it will make a good abode for my brother Ron and his wife. Once again, I’m aware of my passion for other people’s campers, and how I will probably not ever have one of my own. Whatever…

June 22

Cooler today. An exciting morning in the garden, hand weeding the beets. Some of them are growing good and some are not and I’m not sure what the difference is. But it was nice to be outside and breathe fresh, cool air. Some neighbors came over to say hi.

After spending several hours wishing I didn’t have to go anywhere – I found out I actually didn’t have to go anywhere. The program manager at the Resource Center met with my client in the morning, assuming I was still isolating with Covid.

June 23

I hate it when I have mistakenly made appointments too close together – usually because I don’t have my calendar with me. Wondering how to have the husband at the chiropractor at 12:15 and still make it to my haircut appointment at 12:45. But, guess what? The salon called and said I had two appointments for the same day and one was at 9:45! Once in a while my appointment mix ups actually go in my favor. I took the early one and cancelled the other.

I had time to brave Walmart to pick up prescriptions for the husband and get some groceries. He had been wanting some slippers without a back that he could put his foot into easily, and I found some in his usual size. But no, they felt too small, so later I walked back to Walmart for the next larger size. Again, no. They felt like “shackles” and necessitate lifting one’s feet up with each step. I am done with the slipper game.

Like “shackles”, I’m told.

Welcome distraction – a Zoom call with my daughter in Seattle and her husband. We are working on a newsletter for the family reunion in August.

June 24

Why are my strawberries small and orange? They taste great, even when they don’t look ripe, which most of them don’t. Just in case they aren’t getting enough water, I put the irrigation on them for a good spell.

Highlight of the day – I got invited to go out for fish fry this evening at a restaurant! The husband decided to go too. I was worried about that, but he did okay in spite of being too hot (we sat outside) and not wanting to eat fish.

This week has left me wondering about my mental health. I can’t seem to apply myself to anything. Waiting for some kind of change, I guess.

At least the freezer and the extra fridg are now plugged in where they won’t be shut off every night when the GFS faults

June Journal: Week 3

Life in the northwoods of Wisconsin, one week at a time, in the brief but beautiful summer.

The geese, always the geese…

June 12

I felt tired today, and with an attitude that I can’t quite find a name for. It made me a little less smiley everywhere I went, quieter, maybe a bit sharp in my inner talk and resigned to having to hold it in. No sense in letting impatience, crabbiness and frustration show when it would only make things worse.

Church, family brunch in the party garage, and then my friend Gwen and I got on bikes and rode the trails for 10 miles. That was the best part of the day. That, and the moon which I noticed as I was pulling the blinds shut before sleep.

June 13

Still tired. Still crabby (under cover). I wonder if this is my way of having Covid…. although it seems I would have at least one other symptom. It can’t be Covid this week because I have too many medical appointments for myself and others – precious appointments that we’ve waited forever to have.

At the follow up visit to my foot doctor I told her how the heel pain wasn’t changing all that much and she gave me a few more suggestions. She liked my new athletic shoes. I knew she wanted to see them but I wasn’t sure which shoes to show her. I have clean ones and dirty ones that I wear most of the time. In fact, I probably change shoes four or five times a day, trying to protect my sensitive feet outside and trying to protect the floors inside.

It’s laundry day. Not that I consistently do laundry on Mondays, but that I consistently do it when the baskets are full and there’s no more clean underwear.

Over at Walmart I discovered that I could edit the part of pictures that I wanted printed. Eureka!! For twelve more cents I got a better representation of Simba, one with a head. Mom and I made a collage of family pets for the reunion. We are quite the animal lovers.

June 14

Big accomplishments today were returning a book to Delores, checking the garden, cleaning the garage, and moving furniture in the living room. Dennis is having trouble steering his walker – the path from the recliner to the bathroom has to be wider.

Fenced, mulched, watered and growing.

June 15

After watching an ad for apple cider vinegar gummies (can’t remember why this interested me) I decided to take some vinegar the last two mornings. I didn’t dilute it very much today and it about tore my throat out. I thought that was why I felt kind of sick with a bad headache.

Dennis had been waiting for days to get in to the chiropractor so I took him in the afternoon. I wore a mask and didn’t stay in the room with him but waited outside. Went to Walmart after and picked up a home Covid test.

I HAVE COVID, after more than two years of avoiding it. And it would have to be now, on the day I have a massage scheduled. Wonderful.

Here comes the ‘Rona virus I never wanted to have.

Spent the rest of the day cancelling my life for the next week or so.

The good thing is that after testing, Mom is negative for the virus. She has to be able to keep her appointment on Friday or she won’t be seen until January 2023!

June 16

Second day of headache, even though I’m throwing everything I’ve got at it. The fever is making my eyes hurt. Had I been well, both the husband and I would have had doctor’s appointments today, skin checks. I would also have seen my client at the Resource Center.

I got my SoloStove cleaned out and packed in its case for the bonfire night at church, which I won’t be going to. Emailed around to find another keyboard player for Sunday worship, which I also won’t be going to. Cancelled a visit with my cousin from Indiana which would have been on Saturday.

Spent a lot of time going back and forth from my recliner to the bed, trying to sleep/rest. My neighbor brought chicken soup for us.

Dennis doesn’t seem to have any symptoms and I hope he doesn’t get it. I try to spend as little time around him as possible, but meals are hard. I didn’t want to cook supper so asked him if he wanted a shake. He looked disappointed and didn’t answer for a while, then said “You know I don’t really like steak all that much any more.” We got that figured out to our great relief and satisfaction.

June 17

I slept pretty good last night. The headache has changed and is no longer continuous. It’s now periodic sharp stabs of pain in the temples, and somehow I prefer that. I’m coughing now and still have a low grade fever. I have little interest in productive activity – it’s the recliner and the bed for naps.

Den (brother) took Mom to EauClaire for her appointment with the eye specialist.They did a biopsy and won’t know for several days whether basal cell carcinoma is confirmed or not. They did tell her that this surgery takes a hospital stay and it is not something to look forward to, but might be necessary.

It seems like there are a lot of unpleasant surprises lately and it makes me wonder what we are doing right that makes the family such a target.

June 18

I am determined to be more normal today, and it is working. A beautiful morning outside where I had my breakfast on the patio. Mom came over to sit with me a while and we caught up on each other’s news of the last four days since I’ve been isolating. She doesn’t feel real well and thinks she has Covid too, even though she had a negative test a couple days ago. She told me that if she dies of Covid, we should wait and have her memorial during the family reunion in August. That way she would have some people at her event. Always the practical one… At this point there is no reason to think she won’t be alive and well in August.

I picked flowers. This is what June looks like in Wisconsin.

Grass is getting tall and wild chives are blooming.
Daisy time
The second variety of lilacs, late bloomers
And the iris and hawkweed.

June Journal: Week 2

The geese, again. Look how big the little ones are getting.

June 5

Today was Pentecost Sunday where, in the Bible book of Acts, the promised Holy Spirit was sent to empower all Jesus’s followers. It was a pretty wild day, and a very important occurrence – like the birthday of the first church. The husband was quite disappointed not to hear anything about it in church, and it seemed a little strange to me too. Especially since it is the only biblical holy day that churches remember anything about now. Hmm… Fortunately we heard a message about being merciful in our judgments which seemed to be something we could apply to the situation.

Six of us had family dinner tonight (or supper if you’re from the farm). We don’t do this every week, but often enough that we are starting to think of ourselves as the BlueBloods of Hayward. Our table isn’t as big and we have nothing to do with law enforcement or running our town, but we do eat and sit around talking after. We have our own brand of less dramatic drama and it suits us fine. The critical conversation was about making gravy, which as everyone knows, is not the easiest thing to do.

June 6, 2022

I panic now that it is getting to the end of dandelion season. Lilacs are also turning brown on the edges. Next thing will be daisies, then black eyed Susan, then goldenrod and no more summer. But I need to not give precious time to dreading winter, when it’s June!

All that to say it was great weather today. Things are up in the garden, even though some of it is barely visible. We were out to the “meadow” and got a trailer load of wood chip mulch which I started spreading to keep weeds down. One of the boondockers staying at Denny’s watched me in the garden for a while and came over to say how sorry he was to see me working so hard. I felt sorry for him having nothing fun to do except watching me. The garden is my fun spot, and when it stops being that I will stop doing it.

I took the husband for a wheelchair ride on the paved driveway. He needs to get outside and he doesn’t think of doing it himself. He doesn’t try to walk far anymore.

June 7

I really wanted to get out in the garden again and finish unloading the mulch. Instead I went to town with a list of things to buy. Filled the car with gas and although it took my breath away, I will probably soon be remembering when a full tank only cost $76.

I bought some stepping stones and intend to make a platform for my SoloStove fire pit. It’s a project – more on that when I get it finished, if I do.

I was at Walmart and only beginning the list when I got a call from the husband. He needed some help in a delicate matter. Left with the decision of whether to finish the list or come back later, I went through the checkout and rushed home, although the speed of doing things at Walmart is hardly ever described with the word “rush”. The place is nearly always a zoo during the summer. I went back later.

Before I could get out to the garden, I got a call that my clients at the Resource Center were waiting for me. I thought their appointment was on Wednesday. Rushed over there.

I did finally get to the garden and stayed so late that the only thing I could think to make for supper was a Super Shake. Banana, avocado, yogurt, milk, peanut butter and dark chocolate syrup got stuck in my bullet blender. I could not get the container free from the machine and had to put it all in the refrigerator to wait until more muscle was available.

June 8

Early morning excitement. Denny was able to get my shake out of the blender. I had it for breakfast.

Today there were a few things I felt I should do for Lois and Wendell in Stone Lake. They are 90+ and I know I don’t pay enough attention to them. I am the only one brave enough to cut Lois’s hair and she basically can’t be seen through her bangs at this point. The other thing needing attention was their. landline phone. It was already nonfunctional for a couple weeks and there was a work order out to the company to check it but Wendell had forgotten to tell them that their emergency alert system was connected to that line. It was going to take another ten days until the scheduled repair. Several of us were uneasy with that.

My phone calls to the company got me thoroughly acquainted with their robotic algorithms, punching every option there was hoping to get a real person who could listen to my explanation. I did finally get in line to speak with a rep, with an estimated wait time of 170 minutes. (Thinking to myself, “isn’t that about 3 hours?! Can they do that?”). Don’t ever sign up for service with Century. Link. Just don’t. You’re better off with no phone and no frustration.

The purple oxalis, which endured being inside all winter, loves the cool, rainy weather. These water droplets looked like jewels glued to the leaves and practically begged me to take their picture.

June 9

I finished a good book last night, after some obsessive reading. I woke up feeling the house was cooler than usual and suddenly remembered some windows I had left open. Actually, I had forgotten to go out to check doors and windows and had left the patio open too. And a few minutes later, Mom came in. She saw our lights on way early, and the garage door open, and had tried to call me twice with no answer. She was relieved to find no carnage of any sort (axe murderers abound…). I noted how reading late into the night can disrupt routines. Embarrassment, yeah.

It occurred to me that the problem with Wendell’s phone service might be his equipment, so I went to Walmart and got him a new landline phone. Mom and I went back to Stone Lake to see if that solved the problem. It didn’t.

Stopped to see Mary and Jerry to see their house one more time before they leave it forever. So many parties, so many memories… Ended up buying some of their left over garage sale items. I took a bunch of her fabric which I will now have to figure out where to store. I couldn’t help myself. My mind thinks I still sew, Out of touch with reality I guess.

I went to return the good book to Delores and found out she had tested positive for the virus, not a good thing. I am also starting to feel a little garden sore.

June 10

Found out yesterday that my son-in-law, Ryan, got accepted to the cutting edge trial for treating lymphoma! Such excitement! My phone keeps blowing up with notifications. We are happy to see treatment beginning today, and relieved, and thankful

Today was shower day for the husband. We were both exhausted when it was over. He was cleaned up. I was sweaty. But it has to be done, doesn’t it? Actually, I’m examining that question carefully.

I felt pressure to be in the kitchen in the afternoon, having invited two lady friends for supper and promising Delores some chicken soup cure. But the whole time I was hoping there would be time to finish up the project off the patio with the paving stones.

Last year I spent a lot of money on a retractable awning over the patio. I decided that I didn’t ever want to see that awning go up in flames or melt from the heat of my occasional outdoor fires in the SoloStove. So the platform of pavers sticks out a few feet into the lawn, out from under the awning. I had an hour to work before supper, and had already dug out the sod. I lined the hole with sand and set the pavers. It looks like it’s been there forever. I can’t wait to have a fire now.

My simple soup supper was good. Bread and soup and watermelon, but it does sound a little strange now that I see it in print. It was the conversation with Mom, Misty, and Barb that proved most interesting. I have found two more individuals that someone could write a good book about, if they could just spend enough time with them.

June 11

It’s 6 pm. The sun has finally come out after a normal Wisconsin day of clouds, coolness, and unpredictable sprinkles. I went back and forth between the husband and Mom, reading aloud, listening to a good message about humility and un-called for judgment, and eating. Mom had donuts from the bakery. Dennis wanted vegetables and cheese, and we are going to finish with soup left from last night.

“Garden sore” has turned into “heating pad sore”. I fell asleep in the recliner instead of biking with Gwen. I need a rest.

The evening is more than lovely and I have ended the day with a fire in the SoloStove, on the new pavers. No one else, just me and the cat, Shadow.

I am reading another book and will probably stay up too late. God knows my obsessiveness. He loves me anyway.

The Last Time

The title is a bit scary, but not really, if you consider how many “last times” there are. Tonight I read to the husband for the last time today. I wiped off the kitchen counter for the last time tonight. I had my last spoonful of ice cream before putting the lid on and sticking it back in the freezer (yes, I eat out of the carton). There’s a “last time” to be considered at every turn of life, and that thought alone has got me thinking about the preciousness of each moment.

Today was a great day for taking my last ski outing, and by last I mean that I have met my goal of 25 times this season. I am content for it to be the last – winter has seemed long. There is a lot of water around as the snow melts and it’s good to hear and see the brooks opening holes in the ice. There are lots of signs of spring. I was almost afraid it would be here before I reached my ski goal, but no, there is still snow in the forest.

It’s wet snow in the open places where the sun hits it. Snow gets kind of airy, sticky and rotten when it’s heated. In the shade it cools again and gets hard, icy and very slick and I could feel the difference in the speed of my skis. But the real challenge was all the piles of debris on the trail. The ice storm last week brought down lots of limbs. Pine cones and needles were all across the trail where volunteers had been through with chain saws and taken the big branches off.

This is not the worst mess I encountered, by any means, and it is on the flat and not at the bottom of a hill. Annoying but not dangerous.

Although I have improved in my balance, and my technique this winter, what I’ve really gotten better at is being cautious. The falls I’ve had, and the ones I’ve seen my friends take, have proved to me that things happen so, so fast. I’m now always thinking about what could happen in a given situation, and the risk involved. How sad would it be if, after skiing all season without breaking anything, I would fall and become injured on my 25th, and last, time? It would be very sad.

I thought about this at numerous points along the trail, but especially at the top of one hill on Hilly Loop. I generally like hills and going a little faster now, but at the bottom of this one there was a tree mess. I knew I would pick up speed going down and there would be a sudden slowing when my skis hit the debris. I had already “snow plowed” down a couple inclines and actually side stepped down one, but this time I actually took off the skis and walked down. Yay me.

Once I got out of the pines and into some hardwood areas the skiing was a bit better. I enjoyed the longest distance of any of my times on the snow – only 5.4 miles – but it made a nice finish for my last time. I felt very grateful for the day, the activity, the beautiful weather, and the fact that I was intact and not hurting (in very many places). It was wonderful to be alive, with the possibility of living to ski next year.

Today, I think they call it being “in the moment”. Isn’t that the same as being fully aware of what you’re doing and that it might be the last time you ever did it? Yeah, I think it is. Just sayin’…

Celebrating small victories, last times and being in the moment.

Winter On Its Way Out

Winter is struggling. It knows its days are numbered, but it doesn’t want to give up without a fuss. I know it likely has another storm or two to annoy us, but the longer days (yay! thank God!) and the higher trajectory of the sun are doing their job. We still have two or three feet of snow on the yards but there is melt taking place every day.

Have enjoyed watching this guy out my kitchen window.

I’ve enjoyed many things about winter, and am ignoring those other things, whatever they are.

Poor dear, literally, poor deer.

I skied 24 times, and have only to go out once more to meet my goal of 25. Some of those times could be titled “Freezing with Friends” but many have been perfect winter days and not at all uncomfortable. Skiing – we all know what it looks like and don’t give it a second thought when watching it. There’s a difference when you call it “walking on slippery surfaces with shoes over five feet long”. Suddenly it becomes ridiculous and dangerous. But, I’ve only fallen a couple of times and I have not broken any of my bones!

Soup, rolls, fruit and drink for 10,000

Our February ended with the American Birkebeiner, the biggest cross country ski event in the U.S. I’m in a much safer role for this activity. I help serve hot soup to people who’ve just done 55k on skis and lived to tell about it. Ten thousand bowls over two days – we volunteers have seen enough chicken noodle soup to last for a while.

Reading to my husband, watching Dr. Phil with Mom, early morning briefings over coffee with the family, errands, grocery shopping, a little housework now and then, trips to the clinic for doctor’s appointments, fixing meals, changing light bulbs, paying bills, playing with the cat… welcome to my world.

Which is so tame and safe compared to what is happening over in Ukraine. The people there are more like me than unlike me, with their parkas and winter hats. I think about them most of the day, pulling their suitcases across the border to safety, hiding in the subways with their children, taking up weapons and going out to actually shoot, and many of them dying. They are dealing bravely with their circumstances and I admire them, pray for them.

It doesn’t feel right to watch war on the news, to be a bystander. It feels a lot like being in the Roman coliseum watching the lions being unleashed on the undeserving and helpless. It’s not acting. It’s not a game show or a mini-series. I feel very affected and yet I have to go on working out my less important, more mundane circumstances, watching as one more winter comes to a close. I have to say, it is very strange and disturbing.

I Thought Slow Was Safe. Nope.

Snow looks so… soft, doesn’t it?

For someone who loves being outside as much as I do, winter in the north is challenging. Snow, sleet, and ice can be cold and uninviting. The words slipping and sliding also are also prominent in my winter vocabulary. My somewhat advanced physical (not mental) age would suggest that I avoid all opportunities to slip, slide and fall. So, why on earth would I choose to take up cross country skiing, where slipping and sliding is actually the whole game? I don’t know. I guess I thought it wouldn’t matter if I went slow.

My first clue that slow was not the answer came as I plodded along, breaking my own trail in deep snow – a definite slow process. As I passed a line of spruce trees separating my path from a row of houses, a large Husky came silently bounding out to meet me. I stopped forward motion, startled, and promptly fell over. I hadn’t yet learned how to get up with skis on, hands trapped in pole straps. After trying for 5 minutes, I took the skis off and managed to get upright. Even the dog was surprised, and did we ever leave a huge hole in that smooth blanket of deep snow. That was last year.

More recently I went on an afternoon ski with some good friends who ski anything but slow. They think slow is okay, but fast is fun. They would pass me on the skate track, turn around and come back and pass me again just to keep moving. I felt a slight hit on one of my poles as I was being passed and made the mistake of turning to look.

I have heard even good skiers say that keeping balanced is tricky when they look around them at scenery or behind them to see who is following. This has always been the case for me too. When everything around me is white (snow) I have a hard time finding a point of reference, so I keep my eyes fixed on the track ahead of me and my skis. Like I said, turning around to look was a mistake.

I had a few seconds when I thought I might be able to recover my balance. They were very brief and then I felt my knees hitting the ground and my nose plowing into hard, crusty snow. “Face plant” is what it’s called, and I think it happens because hands, which normally would reach out to protect the face are, once again, strapped to ski poles and unavailable. My glasses came off, losing one of the lenses. My friends rushed to see how hurt I was, but I was already practicing my advanced skill of getting up without taking off skis. I have learned how to do that this year. Progress.

I was not skiing fast, and was very glad to have been going slow, for things could have been much worse. I have to say that in this season of my life, when slowing down can be very important, it is not the only friend that I should consider. Right alongside it is balance, not only in skiing, but also in life. Gives me something to think on… just sayin’.

This is as close to a “selfie” on skis that I will ever take. Even taking pictures can make me lose balance.

My White World (not a political post)

We get snow as a regular winter thing where I live. I realize others do not. But it’s interesting this year to see how many places are getting to experience the mixed blessings of fluffy, frozen rain. I’m watching a bit awe struck to see how it is dealt with (or not) from place to place. I’m actually glad that I live where snow hardly ever makes the news except when there’s not enough of it.

It’s Thursday. Motels and restaurants are gearing up for the weekend influx of snowmobilers, skiers, snowshoers, and fat bike enthusiasts. A snowmobile trail crosses our driveway and sometimes it looks like there is more traffic on it than on the road. We’ve had several snow days lately and there is a good covering on the ground. Yesterday it came down all day and the plows were running constantly, keeping the roads as clear as possible. I traveled out to do some snowshoeing with friends and my car was so covered with snow and ice that I had to give it a bath in the garage when I returned. This kind of thing is normal life in northern Wisconsin.

Normal life includes frequent shoveling.

I deal with a snowy winter in two ways. On below zero days I have trouble making myself go outside. Instead I sit inside and eat, drink tea and stare out the window. On days when temps are above zero I make myself go out. It’s still not easy because there is all that unusual dressing that has to be done. Lots of necessary activities cannot be done with two or three layers of clothing snapped and velcroed in place, so the prep to go outside is as important as having the right jackets, boots, mittens, caps, etc…. My pockets have to contain all the right stuff too – tissues, phone, mailbox key, car key, mask. That’s the short list.

But once I get all that done and am outside looking at this beautiful, frozen world, I am always glad to have put forth the effort. Snow is snow, and the pictures don’t change much from year to year, but I take them anyway. Here is my snowy world.

It takes about 20 minutes to get to this point of standing with skis on, ready to move out.
My outings are often around the greenspace where I live. My grandfather’s barn is one of my favorite landmarks.
The sun rises in the south(east), and sets in the south(west), rarely getting any higher than this. Makes for nice shadows.
This snowmobile track makes for easy going on new snow but I get to cut my own path fairly often.
Having trails through the forest like this are one of the benefits of living in Hayward, Wisconsin.
These are beautifully decorated trees.
The alternative to skis.
Because sometimes the forest is a hard place to ski. My friend Barb has on snowshoes, and Gwen has new skis that are more like snowshoes than not.

Birkie Hike: We Finish!

Just to clarify – I have two Gwens in my life. One is my mother and the other is the friend who has been hiking the Birkie with me. Some who know us have been asking…

November 3, 2021. North End TH to Timber TH, loop. 6.5 miles, 14,828 steps

I asked, “Do you think we really need to go down this hill and touch that road?”

“Yes, of course we do,” Gwen told me. And so we walked down that last hill which marked the completion of our 34 miles of Birkie trail, stuck our poles in the sand, took a picture and started back up the hill. We had walked on the skate side of the Birkie and were looping back to the car on the classic side.

Today was cloudy and cold enough for gloves and hats, but we did end up shedding our outer layer of jackets. At one point near the end, we saw several large white snowflakes falling in the forest so we knew it was in the low 30’s for temperature.

I had spent time studying the map of our remaining section and had printed it out. That meant we only had to question ourselves at a couple intersections where fresh logging roads had added to the confusion.

Rocks and trees are the main features of this forest trail and the subjects of most of my photos. I’ve also started a collection of “meaningful” rocks to mark different hikes I’ve done, so I was on the lookout for a rock. The one that caught my attention was a bit bigger than the pebbles I usually pick up, but it had a pattern to it, and I liked it. Gwen doesn’t stop me from doing stupid stuff, she even carried the rock for me when I needed a rest. We had guesses as to how much it weighed. She won. Thirty-five pounds.

Good job Gwen. This rock will show its pattern more after I wash it up a bit.

Our last stop before leaving Cable, Wisconsin and the Birkie Trail was the Brick House Cafe. It wasn’t that we were hungry, or needed the calories but more that I needed to see if the Chocolate Tower cake was as good as Gwen said it was. I figured we should mark our accomplishment with some kind of splurge, even if we ended up taking it home to put in the freezer (which, by the way, didn’t happen). This cafe is known for its lunches and desserts as attested to by the dozen hunters, and huntresses who trooped in shortly after we were seated.

What I really feel good about, in addition to feeling very exercised, is that I got to be a tourist in my own backyard. I would feel sad not to know what this internationally famous trail was like. Now I know where the trailheads are, how difficult and hilly the terrain can be, and how many more paths are there yet to be explored. I have that sense of ownership that comes with familiarity, and that feels good. The chances of me ever skiing this trail are almost nonexistent, well, they are nonexistent. Really nonexistent. But I have walked it. That’s good enough for me.

Don’t Make Me Mad

A couple of weeks ago I went for a short hike on one of my favorite trails. It’s called a snowshoe trail because it is used primarily in the winter when walkers are asked to stay off groomed ski trails. Our northern summers are short but most of the vegetation that grows here has learned to grow fast and furiously, even in the forest.

The path through the mature woods was great – leafy, shady, very little undergrowth. Now and then there would be a tree down across the path from a storm, but nothing I couldn’t step over or go around. Since the path doesn’t show much wear from foot traffic in the summer, there are also plastic ribbons tied on trees and branches to mark the way.

But trouble started when I got to a section of forest that had been clear cut sometime in the past few years. Smaller trees, mostly birch and poplar, and all kinds of underbrush, stumps, and rotting logs made the path harder to find and harder to navigate.

Then I got to the blackberry thicket. Canes as thick as my thumb were bending over the path at eye level, lots of them, as well as smaller thorny new growth underneath them. I can’t be sure but I think the huge thorns actually moved out to grab me as I tried to lift them out of the way and pass through. It got worse the further I went, until I was too deep in to want to go back the way I had come, but could not see the end of it ahead either. Had it not been for the orange ties, I would have thought I had lost the path completely. My arms were bleeding. I was getting mad. I did eventually connect with a groomed bike path and made my way out.

I was thankful nothing was chasing me. If I had been a rabbit, that is where I would have gone to be safe from anything bigger. I vaguely remembered stories about Peter Rabbit and brambles, with new understanding.

That is when I began to plot revenge. I have a string trimmer but couldn’t see that being too effective on the thick, woody canes. I needed a machete, which I remembered from my days living in Florida. Machetes are everyday yard tools there. To my delight, my neighbor who is a retired surveyor had a machete and was nice enough to lend it to me.

Oh yeah, and a holster to go with it.

After my arms healed up, I returned to the woods. I was filled with energetic indignation. My resolve to clear that path was so strong I completely ignored the possibility of cutting my own leg open and bleeding to death. I approached the offending area, swinging right and left until I began to feel blisters coming where my hand gripped the knife. When I downed the biggest canes, I had to throw them aside and deal with the thorns again, but I won! The path got cleared. I tied new orange ribbon markers. I felt powerful.

I know this is a weird story, but it’s true, and it’s an example of how anger fuels resolve and can actually be a positive force. There’s a lot of anger out and about these days, and some of it can be used for good. But please notice that not once did I think about burning the forest down. I love the forest and I want to be in it. So do a lot of other people. Now others can go along that path safely with me.

However, if in the future, you’re out hiking in my part of the country, be careful of blackberry thickets which can be deadly. Also, if you see ahead of you an old, bloodied person with a machete, you might want to hang back a little.

Machete came with orange ribbon. I was pleased.

Hiking the Birkebeiner: Part 1

(Well, not exactly the Birkie, but right alongside it. Also, “TH” in this post stands for trailhead. All trailheads can be found on Google maps.)

Again, summer is short and almost over so I’m doing my best to section hike the 30 some miles from Hayward to Mt. Telemark. The Birkie Trail is quite wide and has some steep hills. The CAMBA bike trail, which goes over much of the same terrain, winds through the shady woods and is probably a little longer in length – but goes to the same endpoint. I prefer hiking in the woods where it’s cooler and more interesting and up close to nature.

Dot to dot shows the second and third sections we have hiked. The challenge is to do the loops above and below as well, which roughly follow the Birkie trail from Hayward to Mt. Telemark in the Cable area. Total about 40 miles.

I have a friend, Gwen, who hikes with me. I feel it’s an act of God that we found each other since she seems to be willing to do strange (read extreme) things and shares the same love of challenges. And yet, she is not terrifyingly weird. I feel blessed.

It takes two of us in order to have a car at both ends of each day’s hike. Today we were meeting at 7 am at the trailhead and it seemed very early. The sun was barely up and was red orange behind a screen of smoke blown in from Canadian forest fires. We left my car at Gravel Pit TH and I jumped in with her for the ride to County Road OO TH. So far the sections we’d finished had been around 5 miles each from trailhead to trailhead. That’s a very reasonable couple of hours of hiking plus the drive time. This was going to be the longest yet, 7.3 miles, and we thought it might seem a little strenuous going through wooded, hilly terrain. Strenuous meant we justified bringing food along.

Hills, trees, rocks, water, repeat.

It was a perfect morning for hiking. We warmed up but never got really sweaty. Normally we talk a lot while walking, but this trek was long enough that we actually had some silent stretches where we just enjoyed looking around at the beautiful woods and listening to… nothing. No road traffic noise, no motor boats, no ATVs. There were birds. Birds are okay.

Yes, after not hitting that rock, they ride bikes between those trees. Insane. I had to be careful walking there.

For those who are interested in hiking in our area, here is our schedule and times. Whenever the bike trail is one way, I like to walk against traffic so I can see who is coming. Often the bikes are so quiet that they surprise us. During the week, we may not see any bikers at all. On weekends the trails are busier.

Our first section was Hatchery TH to Mosquito Brook TH. 4.6 miles in just under 2 hours

Second section was Mosquito Brook TH to Gravel Pit TH. 5.16 miles in 2 hours 15 minutes.

Third section, which we did today was Gravel Pit TH to OO TH. 7.3 miles in about 3 hours.

This section puts us half way to our goal. All three sections are parts of the single track Makwa Trail. All the trailheads are accessible by roads that they cross. The roads closest to Hayward are all paved but as we get farther from town, we are having to use fire lanes in the woods and they are gravel, but well maintained.

You can see our gravel access road, and the smoke haze from the fires north of Lake Superior.

For me, hiking is like soul food. I get hungry for it. It’s necessary for my sanity and never feels like time wasted.