February Goodness: More Snow

February had this one last day to show up with something good and it decided that snow would be its choice. I walked over to Mom’s to say good morning and the walkways were bare and dry. I came home an hour later wading through several inches of very loosely packed, huge snowflakes. It was clear that shoveling and plowing would have to take place again. February is known for being indecisive about its weather.

There are many features in this field, none of which can be seen. White, white, white.

It was worse by the time we traveled to the church. The highways weren’t completely plowed. The confusing thing about new snow is the way it seems to erase important things like where the roads and ditches are. Everything is just white and more white and even the air is full of flying white. The husband’s remark, “maybe we should have stayed home today?”

But I was kind of glad that I would have at least another day of skiing, possibly a whole week. We ended up with about 8 inches which was just enough to fill in all the ski trails I had made the last time I went out. It was a different kind of snow too – so very wet that I could not get the skis to slide at all. The walk was much like traveling in very large snowshoes. I only went for a mile but the scenery was amazing and the experience of being out while the snow was coming down was worth it.

My feet are kind of like snowshoes, right?

I knew this month would most likely be a difficult month, unless I purposely looked for the goodness of God in it. Winter seems too long in February, especially a pandemic winter. A good friend’s death seemed imminent and, indeed, has come to pass. I seem stuck in some patterns I want to move out of. There are things I want to do that seem out of reach. February is a month of waiting for change. I know that if I wait long enough, change is certain, and for that I am glad. Change is part of God’s goodness.

March 1st, tomorrow, in the year 2021 has never happened before. It is brand new, like our snow today. There are good changes to plan for, dream about, pray about, and bring about. Looking forward to it, just sayin’…

February Goodness: Volunteering

I can hardly believe February is nearly over! So many good things to report, and many I missed writing about because I was busy living them…

What an amazing event! And I have gotten to volunteer to help with it, in a very small way, for the third consecutive year. The American Birkiebeiner is the largest cross country ski race in North America and the third largest in the world, and it was created by a visionary man who lived right here in Hayward, my home town.

Part of my amazement is the way the race has adapted to pandemic times and become even more available to sports enthusiasts all over the world. The Birkie went virtual. There were still over 8,000 skiers participating this 47th year of the race but half of them were not here in person. Yesterday I got to watch some of them as they passed the Fire Tower Aid Station. Unlike other years, they had to bring their own water containers and food, but we dispensed water and electrolyte drink and watched out for those who might need medical attention.

Our cozy aid station with drink systems in place. Challenge was to keep the hoses from freezing.
Volunteer and Birkie employee, keeping the fire going.

It was a perfect skiing day with temperatures getting into the 30’s and barely any wind. Many skiers remarked about the snow being just right. What they complained about were all the hills. There are few places that have the kind of hilly, glacial terrain found in the 43 K forested trail of the Birkie, so skiers have a challenge to prepare for it. I talked to one man who thought he had prepared but was seriously considering cutting his distance in half after reaching our aid station.

Most skiers would expect to be skiing down hills like this, but not in the Birkie, no, no, no. Every “down” is partnered with an “up”.

What did I and the others on our team do? We set up the aid station with water hoses, touch-less dispensing systems for water and drink, got the fires burning for those needing to warm up (but seriously, there were people with shorts and T-shirts in this race and they still thought they were hot) and served as the cheering audience. No spectators were allowed this year. I mixed up several batches of Noom in the 10 gallon coolers, answered questions (like “how much farther do I have to go?”) and held ski poles while people filled their drink bottles.

It was a great day to be outside. We started at 7:30 am and were done by 2 pm when most of yesterday’s skate skiers had passed our station. As I watched some of the last stragglers wearily climbing Fire Tower Hill, I remembered my Grand Canyon experience, and was glad I was going home in my truck and not skiing another 12 K out in the forest wilderness of north Wisconsin.

These were the elite, early wave skiers. The later ones did not power up this hill with the same energy.

I will probably never ski the whole Birkie Trail – it’s not on my list – but I would like to hike the whole thing. Maybe this summer will be the right time to do it. Tell me if you want to come along. It will be epic, in one way or another, I promise.

Something Good in February

It’s 2021, it’s February, it’s still winter. I’m challenging myself to find something good to be celebrated every day this month, in the interest of mental health. I need help, and thinking on good, deserving things is going to do wonders. Yep.

A lot of my southern friends have felt sorry for me, having to live “up north” in the winter. I will be the first to admit that the winters are long and can get pretty cold, but there are bright spots to being here.

Entering Wisconsin from the southern border, most of what one sees are farms, lots of farms, and small cities and towns. About 2/3 of the way north, things change and when you finally reach Hayward, you find… trees, lots of trees. Real forests, that go on for a long ways.

Mosquito Brook runs through the forest. There were no mosquitoes. None.

Thirty years ago when I was living here, logging was a huge industry. I used to see the logging trucks, fully loaded, on the roads, and wonder how there could be any trees left in the forests. That was years ago and there are still as many, if not more, logs being hauled out. The forests are so well managed, and so BIG, that there is no apparent shortage of trees.

Back view of sweet machine

And now for the bright spot. Today I got to go out in the forest with my brother on his snowmobile. We rode tandem for two hours. On the way home we switched places and I got to drive. Miraculously, we did not fall off the trail. The experience is a cross between riding a boat in choppy water, riding a dirt bike on rough roads or maybe a bit like posting on a horse with a rough trot. All done out in the forest, at speeds between 0 and 30 (40) mph and at temperatures usually below freezing. We call it winter recreation.

Recreation is pretty big here in the Hayward area because there aren’t a lot of other ways to make a living. People take ice fishing, snowshoeing, skiing and snowmobiling very seriously. There are about eight snowmobile clubs in this northwest corner of Wisconsin that have found ways to get from here to there, mapped them, created apps and invited the “world” to get up here and have fun in the snow. On good weekends the motel parking lots are full of trucks and trailers from as far away as the Dakotas, and the sound of snow machines is in the air. The trails are groomed often. Some are like the “interstates” of the forest and some are “one laners” complete with mile markers and signage.

Not exactly crowded out there, but we weren’t alone either.

My brother’s new machine has heated seats, hand grips, and the throttle (for that cold thumb). Even the helmets plug in and stay warm. It’s a very comfortable, maybe even luxurious, ride. However, they haven’t yet learned how to make them quiet. We live close to a major trail into town and I hear the snow machines a lot. I can only imagine what the deer, bear, wolves and coyotes are thinking now that their forest homes have been invaded.

Groups of snowmobilers travel for hours, stopping for “refreshments” and fuel at designated resorts and bars, bringing a lot of business to our area. All this happy influx of business hinges on two requirements. There has to be snow, preferably quite a bit of snow, and it can’t be so cold that it’s no longer fun but dangerous. This winter has not been bad so far, but we have February to get through yet.

I did enjoy my ride today. The forest was wild, the trail was full of twists, turns, hills and ravines – just beautiful! Most of the time I had no idea where we were, but I was glad to be there anyway. Something good happened today, just sayin’…

Sunday Recess

I’m glad for a day off from A to Z postings because I have a few photos to share.

My walks last week were so reviving! Spring is on the way, in spite of Friday’s snowfall. Most of that has melted.

There are robins everywhere, hopping around.

It was 59 degrees warm one day!

And this is what spring in Wisconsin looks like.

Stay well and hopeful.

Up North: Polar Vortex

20190201_0930204603926757973377261.jpg
My super warm (super crazy) hat, drying out by the door.

Wanting to get my definitions down “cold”, I looked up the word vortex. It’s a whirling mass of water or air that sucks everything into it’s center.  I’m guessing that the word polar means the air is circling around the pole, North pole in this case. We’ve all seen the maps on the weather reports about the circle dipping down into regions it doesn’t usually affect. That’s what happened this last week.

I don’t want to make light of a weather event that resulted in loss of life. Those things that come unexpectedly like storms, tornadoes, tsunamis, forest fires, etc… and catch people off guard are always going to be a problem for the unprepared. But frankly, we hardly noticed the vortex here in Hayward.

It’s winter and everyone expects it to be cold. When it’s more dangerous than usual, a few things get cancelled and we stay inside a little more. The one outstanding consequence for us, particularly the husband, was that even the mail delivery was cancelled one day. Obviously, whoever made up that postal creed about “neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night can keep these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” did not live in northern Wisconsin. Nope.

The polar vortex was here for about three days. On one of them we had an appointment with a nurse at the court house. She was there as usual. We got in our vehicle, which is kept in a heated garage, and drove there and kept our appointment with no difficulty.  On the way out of the building I noticed that someone had ridden their bike there and parked it in the bike rack. Personally, I wouldn’t have done that in below zero temps, but that just shows you what people do up north when they have to.

20190131_0705014043566032863893153.jpg
The weather station. 74 – 32 is 42, right? I don’t know why they make us do the math.

My biggest decision these days is whether I want to be too warm when I’m in the house or too cold on my frequent, but brief, trips outside.  Almost all days I wear two layers on my legs, wool socks and shoes with a good thick sole. I do layers on the top too, but count on shedding them inside. Sweatshirts, down shirts, fleece jackets are hanging in the closet, handy, and on the backs of chairs, on the beds – wherever I happen to be when I get too hot.  Sometimes when I get an irritating flash of heat, I look at our indoor/outdoor weather station and it will be 78 degrees or higher inside.  What a problem to have…

People like the husband, who are pretty much limited to walking as their form of exercise, have it rough in this weather.  We don’t have an exercise bike or treadmill that he’s comfortable with, so I have to take him somewhere to walk. We go to the local hospital where the hallways are wide, with handrails and frequent places to sit, eat or use the rest room. We can walk for nearly a mile if we visit all the connected clinics and facilities. They are getting accustomed to seeing us at the assisted living Bistro where we often stop and have lunch. They serve the best $3 soup and sandwich in Hayward.

One of our oft-used mottos up here is “if you don’t like the weather you’re having, wait a few minutes for it to change”. This weekend it’s supposed to be 41 degrees and raining. It will probably get icy and melt some of this nice, dry snow. I’m actually hoping they’re wrong and it will stay below freezing.

I know I looked forward to our first winter back in Hayward – the afternoons reading, the evenings sitting by the fire with my knitting, the quiet snowfalls, the dazzling white, bright and sunny days. I’m trying to think of those things instead of wondering when the lilacs will bloom, or when the garden can be started. It’s best to stay “in the moment”. Just sayin’…

Birkie Trail, Next 6 miles

This is the second weekend that we have put on our hiking shoes and taken to the trail. After a week’s work, we really enjoy a good long walk in the woods. We skipped a shorter section in favor of a longer hike than last week. We will go back and pick it up someday when we have less time.

The trees were still more green than colored. There were only a few brilliant ones, but that didn’t keep it from feeling like autumn.

I was a little obsessed with the fungi, but you’ll see why. Strange stuff.

Enough talk. I just want you to see what I saw.

Makwa Trail, here we come.

First spot of color.

The trail skirts this lake except for here, where it gets a little crazy. This is a single track bike trail.

Moss abounds. Lovely, right?

Time for some fungi.

More fungi.

And more…

And this one!

This little guy, about head high on the trunk of a tree, amazing!

Can you spot the camouflaged picnic table?

One more.

No, one more.

Some trail worker forgot their saw.

I spent a lot of time looking at the path because it was always so lovely.

About mile 6 we left the single track trail and did a mile on the larger ski trail. We (the girls) were getting tired and the ski trail was straighter and smoother.

Up North: Fall is Coming

I feel it. What I saw out in the meadow and wetland…

The flowers of fall – we always called them wild asters – the last before a frost. Spots of purple among the greenery.

A lingering daisy, a summer holdout.

The meadow that was a sea of lavender is brown with dried Canadian thistle.

Gold to enhance the purple, drifts of goldenrod… and a flower we called “butter and eggs”

The beavers have built dams to create ponds for themselves.

Heron hiding spots.

Colors and textures of autumn are clothing the land.

Life and death in contrast

The higher water levels (thank you beavers) have caused tree kill around the ponds, but even these silhouettes are beautiful, I think.

Nature’s delicate lace.

Milkweed, nearly ready to burst its seed pods.

Grasses that bend with the breeze.

Water, hurrying on it’s way somewhere

Day sinks past the horizon, taking summer with it. Fall comes peacefully, relentlessly.