Enjoying those snow-covered moonlit winter nights

Published 6:21pm Saturday, January 5, 2013

Column: Woods & Water, by Dick Herfindahl

It doesn’t seem possible that another year is in the books and looking back, I find myself wondering where 2012 went. With that being said I am looking forward to 2013 and spending more time on the water and in the woods and of course this means more time spent at the cabin. On more than one occasion my son Brian and I have both said that we’d like to venture up north in the winter just to see what a few winter days spent in the woods would be like. I’d also like to spend some time doing a little ice fishing on our lake and on a couple of area lakes that we frequent during the open water season.

To me, there is always something special about spending time in the outdoors on a moonlit night. It is almost a serene, peaceful feeling that I get when I spend a wintery night outdoors with a full moon shining down across a snow-covered countryside. In a way this may make a person feel like they are more connected to nature than at any other time. This is a good time to pause for a moment and just take it all in, although I never really do seem to take enough time doing that to the extent that I get that full feeling; you know kind of like the one that you get after eating a big meal. Something as simple as shoveling snow can be an exhilarating and fulfilling experience. I can imagine that someone reading this last statement might think that I am not playing with a full deck but it doesn’t always take much to entertain me.

When I look back to my childhood and growing up in the country I can probably pinpoint the reason that I enjoy things simple. As kids we would go sledding and a lot of that was done on weeknights. There were a couple of years when we built a fast sled track on the hill by our neighbor to the south. We iced the track for extra speed and boy did you ever fly. You didn’t want to wipe out on that track because there was usually someone flying down the hill right behind you and getting hit by a fast moving sled wasn’t a good thing. Speaking of flying, I had a Radio Flyer sled that was appropriately named because it could definitely do just that. There were two sled options back then, a shorter version for one kid and the longer version for two or more. I had gotten the shorter version for Christmas one year and while a couple of the other kids had gotten the bigger model this didn’t make any difference to me because I had my own sled and with it came the fun.

Yes, winter was a good time to be a kid; snow forts, snowball fights, sledding and trekking to a faraway hill to sled on our version of uncharted territory. Occasionally as I drive on Bridge Avenue, I will look out over the slough to the east and I can still see that hill although, for some reason, it doesn’t seem to be as big as it was when I was 10. I’ve told the story a few times about trekking through the slough to get to that little hill but it is always a fond memory.

In those days we didn’t seem to do anything without pretending to be someone else. When we spent part of a winter day on an adventure walking across the slough, sleds in tow, we’d be one of our frontier heroes like Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone or maybe even Sargent Preston of the Yukon. During football season we’d be one of our favorite football players and if two kids wanted to be the same guy, the oldest one most always won out; usually without a fight.

Yes, it was the simple things that made us happy. Spending a winter afternoon in the slew meant that you’d be heading home wet and cold, and my feet would start hurting before I ever sat down in front of the old heat register. I can still feel the burn of my feet thawing out but that was short-lived and it was usually followed by a cup of hot chocolate topped with one or two big marshmallows. Maybe the way kids entertain themselves today has changed but I’d bet that a cup of hot chocolate with a marshmallow on top is still a big hit with most.

I think that I’m onto something here! Maybe the reason that I like moonlit winter nights is that it reminds me of those days gone by and the simple pleasures we enjoyed by creating our own brand of fun.

According to my grandson, Trevor, the walleyes are still biting on the channel and judging by the number of fish houses on the ice on any given day fishing must be fairly good. I do believe that the idea of the fishing being better on early ice has some merit. I really do believe that the more traffic that you have on shallow water ice the more skittish the fish will become. According to some experts the best bite is usually right before, during and immediately after sunset. Whatever the time of day, I know that any time spent fishing is time well spent.

Until next time, take some time to enjoy the winter outdoors even if it’s something as simple as watching the moonlight as it lights up the fallen snow.

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


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