Ways exist to cope with cabin fever outside the spring thaw

Published 6:00am Sunday, February 2, 2014

Column: Woods & Water, by Dick Herfindahl

The weather seems to be a constant part of any conversation these days and rightfully so. We seem to be caught in a vacuum of sorts; It’s either below zero and cold as the Dickens or when it warms up it snows. Either way, it reminds us we are living in Minnesota, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

Looking out on our backyard deck the other day, I watched as one of our resident squirrels was busily digging in the snow hoping to find some birdseed that fell from the feeder. My granddaughters, Emma and Ava, were visiting so I called them into the room to see the squirrel. As the girls watched the bushy-tailed rodent digging for food, my daughter-in-law Miranda exclaimed, “That squirrel is as big as a cat!” And she wasn’t exaggerating. We have some pretty healthy squirrels in the neighborhood, and luckily they aren’t living in my attic, garage or shed this year.

With the fun winter we’ve been experiencing, I would suspect quite a few people have been infected with the dreaded cabin fever virus. There is no sure cure for that, outside of a spring thaw, but there are ways to cope with it while we suffer through the winter.

There were many times over the years when I found myself in the sporting goods department of a local store ogling open water fishing lures and dreaming of sitting on a lake somewhere watching a bobber bounce on the waves. Daydreaming is one of the most inexpensive ways to put your mind in a warm place, even if your body can’t make the trip. Reading a good book about an outdoors adventure is another way that I like to put myself anywhere other than in the driveway shoveling snow.

There are also various sportsmen shows that are held throughout the winter that can surely pacify the need to see open water. There are also many outdoor festivals and fishing contests held throughout the area. Events like The Big Freeze, which will be held in Albert Lea on Feb. 15, includes a polar plunge, snowshoe shuffle, disc golf ice bowl, snowmobile radar runs, skydiving, kids winter carnival, sleigh rides, chili cook-off, Take-A-Kid Ice Fishing Geocaching, live music and more. Most events are held on Albert Lea and Fountain lakes.

There is also ice skating at local outdoor rinks, most of which have open warming houses on weekends. If you don’t have skates and have the urge to give it a try you can go to the city arena on most Sunday nights and skate for $4 — or $3 if you have your own skates. That’s pretty cheap for an evening of fun entertainment.

Another fun winter outdoors activity is sledding. How many folks don’t have a sledding memory or two from their childhood? When I look back at those winter days spent north of town, I recall spending many Saturdays searching for that perfect hill. My neighbor, Kim Dilling, had a nice hill at his place, but it was short and had a few oak trees to maneuver around. I can remember many days dragging my Radio Flyer sled to a hill on the south side of the slough. That hill, to my surprise, is still there today. But for some reason it just doesn’t seem as big as it did when I was a kid.

As I grew older, I became more mobile — thanks to my drivers license — and my sledding grounds expanded. I received a toboggan for Christmas, and this fueled my need for a bigger hill with more speed and thrills. The horse pasture on the Joe Juve farm had a nice long hill that was dotted with oak trees, but it was one that I could maneuver. We had quite a few fun sledding parties on that hill where the high school now sits.

Those were good times. Simple times. We’d have cold hands, cold wet feet, runny noses and a cup of hot chocolate topped with a marshmallow or two. Yes, maybe those fond memories of the fun of winters past are the real cure for the dreaded cabin fever.

Meeting to include musky management proposals

The February meeting of Crossroads Chapter 54 will be 7 p.m. Feb. 12 at the Eagles Club in Owatonna. Our speaker will be John Underhill. He will report on the DNR roundtable plans for fisheries. This includes any proposals for musky management and musky lakes.

Plans for an early spring musky banquet will also be discussed. Meetings are the second Wednesday of every month. They include informative speakers, updates, door prizes, a raffle and lots of musky talk. Meeting-goers are not required to be members. Bring a friend and help improve musky fishing in Southern Minnesota.

Sadly it doesn’t look good for some of our area lakes, which are showing signs of winter kill. I don’t really buy the quote the DNR had in Wednesday’s Tribune about not approving the application for aerators on Pickerel Lake because the game fish would still die off and the rough fish would survive. Didn’t they kill off the lake so there would be no rough fish? If that’s how aerators really work, then what’s the point?

Until next time, stay warm and get out and enjoy a little Minnesota winter fun.

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.