It may seem at times like the worst of times, but, really is it? If you think about it there’s not much we as “the people” can really do except be social distant in every way.
Being distant is what can be the fun part. Where can you get distant and safe and still enjoy yourself better than in nature? With so much to despair about there may be no better get away than outdoors away from the maddening crowd. Living up north has some advantages when it comes to nature. We may have long winters with long cold nights but then we also have long cool springs when nature is ready for us to get out and have fun.
A lot of us think it’s the best season. Spring when the lakes are still solid and the sun is shining for 12 hours a day and the snow has shrunk into the perfect warm rock napping nooks on the south facing hillsides. So, what do Elyites do to get out in this shoulder season. We ride bikes on the area lakes outside the Boundary Waters and wax up the skate skis and glide over the ice to distant destinations inside the wilderness.
As a fat biker, I mean a guy with a fat tire bike, I’ve been out on Burntside Lake almost every day this past week. I have friends who do 20 miles in a few hours but my few hours are more leisurely riding slowly close along the most wild shores I can find. Close to home is the west end where the wild islands seem to float in boreal sea of white ice. With a new inch of soft snow on the melted down lake the going is almost silent, like biking on satin. Curving into every bay of every island and mainland shore it feels to me like slalom skiing on a mountain or behind a motor boat.
I see “stuff” this way that the exercise biker or skate skier might miss. Tracks of the birds and mammals that were active overnight are just about everywhere. The long slide of the otter shows her bouncing from one entrance hole to the next.
There are myriad little tunnels under the snow made overnight by a vole seemingly wandering around in random circuits in search of what? Cut across to another island and I’m following the straight focused trail of last nights fox and friend in their interminable search for prey.
Up ahead a dark blotch on the ice looms just out of focus. This time of winter can be the best season for wolves to feast on hapless deer. I’ve found two fresh kills this week along the west shore. Each appears to be the work of a lone wolf who chased its prey out of the woods and onto the ice where the kill was made. Each, not more than 30 yards from shore showing just how vulnerable a deer is on the ice with the predator at a great advantage. It’s bloody and gruesome but also a rare look into the drama of life that plays out every hour of every day in nature. It’s just the most stunning find of the day on my bike but at every turn of the shore there’s the track of another forest denizen who wandered out on the open ice in the moon light.
Stay safe out there people. But, take time too to find your hidden shore or by bike, canoe or ski and enjoy this really scary but really special time we have.