North to Winter


-38. What else to say about that number? Cold enough to button the rear flap of our long underwear, for sure. The ridiculous cold temps spawned an outdoor parlor trick demonstrated from far north Canada to southern Illinois: Fill a pot with boiling water, bring said pot outside and toss the contents into the air. Instant snow. Bbbrrrr.... A handy tool around here in southern MN, too, where we have only a lightweight blanket of five or six inches hiding the ground, with some places blown bare from gale winds. Frost has plunged six feet below our feet.

But north lies winter. Snow has fallen in copious amounts near our Wisconsin cabin, and to that powdery playground I traveled, just after Christmas and a recent dumping of white fluff. Targeted a section of the North Country Trail on the ridge above Cedar Island on the Brule River. The snow was DEEP, almost too deep even for snowshoes. Still sunk to my knees and loved it. Slow going and low mileage, but this was a day for that. Just take it in, stop often, and be glad to make first tracks in the woods.


Trip highlight: A rest break on a downed log, clear blue sky hosting a late afternoon sun, its light at just the right angle to refract color from crystals on the snow. Typically sparkling like diamonds, this time I saw red and green, orange and blue and yellow. It looked like Christmas lights scattered all across the top of the snow. Never seen anything like it. A very unexpected and pretty distraction. It was one of those moments, in one of those places, when you can breathe deep of the sincerity of the forest's embrace, and even if just for the span of a sigh, be at peace.