Winter returns to the north woods

Published 6:57pm Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spending time at the cabin in April is always an adventure to be remembered, and this past week has been no exception.

As I wrote in last week’s column, the first trip of the year can always present new challenges. This time, I headed north with Mark Runden to do some work on the cabin, and we also hoped to do a little fishing for some perch and crappie. We stopped at Frontier Sports, which is a grocery, deli and bait shop in Marcell. I happened to ask the fellow that was working where the crappies were biting.

He said, “Alabama,” so I knew that wasn’t a good sign. He said that the water hadn’t warmed up since the ice went out, and nobody was doing anything yet. The baitshop guy remembered selling a dozen crappie minnows a couple of days earlier – that was not a good omen.

The first day at the cabin we encountered a cloudy, misty morning followed by a sunny and pleasant afternoon. Life was good and all the reports calling for snow on Sunday and Monday seemed like misinformation.

We awoke the next morning to a sunny day, and after making the morning coffee I set out on a walk up our drive to the highway. It was a great morning for a walk, and there were fresh deer tracks and signs of wildlife were everywhere to be found and heard.

As time moved ahead it got cold, cloudy and windy and soon the rain had started. It wasn’t just windy but nasty wind and when the rain started it didn’t quit until evening when it turned to snow. The wind was out of the north, and it never quit blowing during the night.

We awoke the next morning to six or more inches of snow with all of the trees covered with snow and ice. It was quite a beautiful sight to behold but we soon discovered that instead of having to chop our way in to the cabin like some times in the past, we’d be chopping our way out. There were several trees that had fallen across the driveway during the stormy night.

We didn’t attempt to start our lumberjack imitation the next day but waited until we needed to go to town before attacking the fallen trees. There were a couple of times while we were outside that when the wind was calm a tree would just fall from the weight of the snow and ice. This is nature at work, and it lets you know that there are still things that man cannot control.

The beauty of the winter wonderland that we were treated to was something special. There is nothing like being in a cozy cabin with the wood stove blazing while the wind, snow and rain are wreaking havoc with the outdoors. These are times that I could only dream about experiencing as a kid growing up north of Albert Lea.

There were many times when it was snowing and blowing out that I’d close my eyes and imagine that I was sitting alone in some remote cabin in the woods in front of a cozy fire. The only thing missing from that picture was my imaginary faithful dog lying on the floor beside my chair. It may seem funny to some but to me it’s like living the dream, and it’s the simple things like this that make it all worthwhile.

Awakening to freshly fallen snow is one thing, but to have every tree in the forest engulfed in snow and ice and all the branches hanging down from the weight is an indescribable sight.

Looking down the driveway you could see the pine boughs hanging so far over the driveway they were almost touching the ground. It was almost like looking into a tunnel. Just walking around outdoors could get you plunked on the head with a clump of snow falling from a tree.

Watching and listening to wildlife is another thing that I really enjoy. Our resident loons have returned and numerous ducks, geese and also a pair of trumpeter swans have been frequenting the lake. I don’t think that there is a sound that says up north more than the call of a loon.

Going outdoors early in the morning and listening to the birds and waterfowl as they begin their day is a great start to any day. I had filled the bird feeders and, after about a day of waiting, a pair of purple finches appeared, soon followed by some chickadees and juncos. There always seems to be a red squirrel that will find its way to the feeder. Although I am not a fan of squirrels being too close to the cabin, they are still fun to watch.

Spending time at the cabin with Mark is also an experience in some mighty fine dining because he loves to cook and could easily be one of those guys on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.”

Fishing wasn’t going to happen on this trip but it will be on the top of the list next time up.

Until next time, enjoy the outdoors. There’s no time like the present to start making those outdoors memories that will last a lifetime.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers because they are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.

Dick Herfindahl’s column appears each Sunday in the Tribune.