We’re coming up on the midway point of winter. It’s time to appreciate this season for all it offers. Winter is the perfect time to enjoy inside activities such as watching movies, reading, arts and crafts, and baking, but let’s concentrate on appreciating the outdoors. A retired Wisconsin Dells dentist and winter enthusiast, Dave Clemens, will help us do just that.
Dave actually grew up hating the cold, but after dental school, he took a job in Fairbanks, Alaska. which has only 3.5 hours of sunlight on the shortest day. Temperatures hover around -40 °F. Dave learned that he had to find something to do outside or suffer cabin fever. So he took a lesson from the natives, many of whom prefer winter because of the lack of mosquitoes and the ease of travel. Native Alaskans helped Dave learn to enjoy downhill skiing, ice skating, winter camping, ice fishing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, and cross-country skiing.
Now that he’s in Wisconsin, Dave enjoys challenging himself and enters cross-country ski races. This year he’ll compete in Badger State Games and the Vasaloppet in Mora, Minnesota. His coldest race was at the Vasaloppet with temperatures of -18° F and wind chills at -38° F. It was shortened to 35 km (23 miles), but still was a test of winter conditions. He started by wearing goggles, but they fogged up. He ended up having his upper and lower eyelashes freeze together. His eye opening was restricted, causing him to have only a thin space to peek out. Soon they closed completely. Dave had to take his mittens off and place his fingers over his eyes to melt the ice.
Winter, he points out, can be a test of fortitude or Sisu, to use the Finnish expression, but it’s worth the effort. People need to dress appropriately, and it’s best to carry a cell phone and let people know your plans. Winter sports are a great start, but here are a few other outdoor suggestions.
- Take a day trip to Lake Monona or Lake Mendota and watch the ice boats sail across the smooth surface. You might even catch one of the races.
- Snowshoe in the woods and try to spot early nesters such as a pair of great horned owls.
- Ice fish with jig poles or set up a tip-up.
- Hike after a fresh snowfall and use an animal track guide to identify what animals are about.
- Photograph the impressive ice formations along shores of rivers or lakes or a frozen waterfall such as Bond Falls in the UP. While in the area, check out Eagle River’s impressive ice castle.
- Mark your calendar for February 5 when the friends of Mirror Lake State Park will host a candlelight ski, hike, and snowshoe event. I’ve loved skiing these gorgeous trails by torch light and then warming up with a hot chocolate while chatting with friends around the bonfire.
- Christmas Mountain’s Winter Carnival os also on February 5. It has competitive games, prizes, and fireworks.
- Plan on attending the unique “Book Across the Bay” Saturday, February 19th. Ski or snowshoe the 10-kilometer course across Lake Superior from Ashland to Washburn. The event is held at night and the course is lit by the stars above and up to 1,000 candles in ice luminaries.
I could keep expounding on the joys of winter, but it’s time to call my daughter. We plan to hike The Great Sauk State Trail in Prairie du Sac which hugs the river. We’re sure to spot bald eagles fishing near Prairie du Sac’s dam’s open water. We might even see an eagle dive down for a fish.
Get out and enjoy these invigorating days of winter. It’s a great time of year.