Column: Nothing is like the smell of open water in the spring

Published 2:37 pm Saturday, April 20, 2013

This past Wednesday while on my usual early morning walk, I was greeted by a spring breeze that treated me to the fresh smell of open water. This was the scent of a lake that had just shed its icy cover and was ready for a fresh start. This is a special smell that only comes around in the spring of the year. There is something invigorating about that scent which is carried through the air in the spring of the year. Although the start of a new season may mean something different to other folks, to me it is kind of like a rebirth or a fresh beginning. The signs of winter are supposedly subsiding, and we are beginning the next chapter of the seasonal book. Some winters, as we are finding out, take a little longer to let go than others. But, we can rest assured that eventually it will happen.

The fresh smell of a new season is in the air, and if you walk outside after a spring rain, the smell is unmistakable and invigorating. There are some smells that I will always cherish: bacon frying over a campfire, popping popcorn will always make my mouth water, freshly mown hay is unmistakable as is freshly cut grass (not the same) — and a new litter of young pups has its own distinct odor. If you’ve ever walked in the woods and been treated to the smell of fallen leaves after a late fall rain, you know what I’m talking about, and of course the aforementioned lakes smell soon after ice-out. These are odors that can make me stop and say to myself, “Life is good.” Yes, sometimes something as simple as a fragrance can turn a frown into a smile.

Speaking of spring, which I still have hopes of seeing, I can remember as a kid how I would embrace the first big melt of the year. Growing up north of town on Bridge Avenue had a lot of advantages for a kid. Bridge had county ditches running along both sides of it that fed into the crick where I loved to spend most of my time as a youth. Glenview Drive was still gravel, and whenever the snow would melt it would form its own ditches that would carry the water to the big ditch and eventually on to the crick.

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This is when we’d build small rafts out of sticks or wood scraps and go to the headwaters of the tributary that had formed by the melting snow. Some of the neighbor kids would join, and we would float these makeshift boats in the gullies formed along the road, occasionally coaxing them along until they reached the rushing water of the ditch.

The water in the ditch could be fairly deep at times, and I can remember a few of those times where it was almost up to the shoulder of the road. That was probably the most exciting time. Because to get through the culverts, it would disappear into a whirlpool. We took pleasure out of tossing in anything that would float and watch it get sucked under the water.

Then, we’d run as fast as we could to wait for it to reappear on the other side and follow it until it reached the slough. We knew there was only a small window of opportunity to enjoy the raging river before it would start to subside, so we tried to make the most of it.

I don’t think that our moms felt that playing by the ditch when the water was high was a very good idea. The one thing about spring that you could count on was the fact that we’d usually never come home with dry pants or shoes. I know that I wouldn’t have enjoyed it if I had to grow up inside the city limits. There were too many things to do in the country, where we always found ways to make our own fun. Whenever I drive past the house where I grew up, thoughts of those childhood friends and those days gone by still come to me. Those are good thoughts of fun times. Remembering how it once was gives me a warm feeling that is hard to describe.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has just finished a three-year investigation into illegal fishing violations in northern Minnesota and has issued the following news release: In March 2010, the DNR initiated a three-year special enforcement investigation into the illegal selling and buying and dumping of protected game fish in north-central and northwestern Minnesota. The investigation has resulted in state charges against at least 21 individuals and federal indictments against 10 others. The fish involved were mainly walleye from some of Minnesota’s most popular fishing lakes: Red Lake, Lake Winnibigoshish, Leech Lake and Cass Lake. The results of the investigation will continue to unfold in 2013. The infractions took place in the following counties; Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Itasca, Pennington and Polk.

Whenever I read about any infractions involving taking game or fish over the limit, it makes me feel a little sad, because these are resources that cannot be replaced overnight.

The much needed moisture that we have been receiving if just what we needed. If you do get a chance to venture out and dodge a few raindrops, there is plenty of waterfowl to observe in the channel by Frank Hall Park. The ducks, geese and pelicans are there in good numbers. It is always fun to stop and watch the wildlife, especially this time of year.

Until next time try and get out and take in a little of the great Minnesota outdoors.

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 in the Tribune each Sunday.