We are in the Deep of Winter. Looking at a calendar, and for those with even a slight appreciation of the celestial or that have a consistent morning commute, you would note that we are actually almost in Spring, that we are into the 40th percentile of daylength. The land, though, is clearly still in Winter. The fields are blanketed in white and the lakes capped with ice. Here are notes on three “adventures” in the spirit of Deep Winter.
Big Cedar, an Evening on the Ice
Some people say they “don’t like ice fishing”. I say they’ve probably never been ice fishing, or that some critical error was made in their ice fishing experience. Lack of clothing would probably be the most common error. Other deficits could include – good company, appreciation for the solitude and quiet of the ice, some volume of beers.
Thankfully, we had all of those at a small gathering on the ice at Big Cedar a couple weeks ago. Plenty of clothes kept the body heat in. A fire brought us close together and extended our longevity in the cold. Beers contributed to a jovial atmosphere. There was no “jigging”, only tip-ups. These tip-ups provided a couple “flags” every hour and an actual “fish on!” about once an hour, plenty enough action to give credence to the professed reason for being on the ice.
Iron Mountain, UP
Last week I was with my Cousin for a few days in Iron Mountain, MI. It was a spectacular good time together. Here’s a sampling:
-Long slow drives exploring roads, seeing camps, looking for critters.
-A wolf. The first one I’ve seen, while on one of these drives.
-Feeding the “year-rounders” – chickadees, woodpeckers, deer, turkey, rabbits and the like. These non-migrating, non-hibernating critters sure appreciated the sustenance of the suet, sunflower seeds and corn.
-Deer trail “trenches”. There’s a lot of snow in the area right now. Snow makes finding and following deer a lot easier and more interesting. Right now, the deep snow makes the deers’ habits ridiculously obvious and predictable – the deer are grouped up in yards and camps where there is alfalfa, corn or potatoes put out for them, and the deer are traveling almost exclusively via their 1- to 3-foot-deep stomped down trenches crisscrossing the snow.
-Speculating at the farming. “What do you figure they grow in that field?” “Hmm, wow, this hillside looks like it was a whole farming community! I wonder what they grow here now?” “Must be potatoes!” “Probably potatoes,” was the refrain. Judging by the price of deer potatoes at the country gas stations, potato farming may not be the most lucrative business in 2020.
-Breakfast club coffee, local baked cookies for lunch, charcoal grilled steak for dinner, a cupcake pan flight of beers.
-Admiring trees. Towering white pines, sheltering hemlocks, sturdy oaks, stands of poplar (aspen), hillsides of birch, even a few well-tended apples. Trees to chop for timber, trees to mill for lumber, trees to fall on your house, trees to feed the deer and house the squirrels... An abundance of trees of the “Northwoods” to wonder at and admire.
Ski Jump, Pine Mountain, UP
“Why haven’t we been coming all these years!?” – Quote from me, my family and friends all weekend and while back at home the next week.
I could go on about Ski Jump weekend – the small group of people that make it happen year after year, the weeks of site preparation and the months of relationships and politics to ensure the event’s viability and continuity, the athletes that huck it off the jump, the competition itself, the scale of the jump…
Today I just want to comment on the community of Ski Jump weekend.
“Where ya from!?”
“Just a bit north of Milwaukee. Germantown.”
“Oh, great to have ya! Thanks for coming up!”
That was a dozen times every day. Sure, it’s only 200 miles away from here, but regardless, zero xenophobia, zero implications that we were intruding on their event, nothing but the warmest of interactions. I do think and have experienced that people are good everywhere, but I don’t think that 200 miles in other directions, to other states, I would necessarily be brought in with such a fast and exceedingly warm welcome. Some combination of being in the cold air together, beer consumption, a celebratory atmosphere and genuinely easy, happy people made the community at Ski Jump one to remember. Beer was poured, barbeque dished out, spots next to the wood burner made available. We all plan to be back next year to share the good times with family, friends and the easy community of Ski Jump.