Winter storm approaches…

IMG_1183The National Weather Service is calling for a return to winter tonight.  I love the winter, the snow and the accompanying activities that take place. One of my favorite things to do is to run in the snow, or, more specifically, run when it’s snowing.

There is something about big snowflakes landing on me that takes me to a different place when I’m on the road.  When I was in high school, which was a very long time ago, my parents decided a winter trip to our little cottage in Townsend, Wisconsin would be a good idea.  The plan was that we would rent snowmobiles and head off into the wilds of the Nicolet National Forest.  Dad had the understanding from the cottage’s previous owner that a phone call to the Oconto County Road and Bridge department would be all that was needed to plow the road to our cottage, as it was a public road and we were at the end of it, with no one else using it in the winter.  With great anticipation we made the last turn off the pavement onto the dirt road leading to our cottage, only to be faced with 4 feet of snow in our way.

Dad was not a real big outdoors guy at this stage of his life, and his Galaxy 500 was no match for the snow.  We sat there at the end of the plowed portion staring down the quarter-mile of the impenetrable frozen obstacle, knowing that even if we could make it back there it would take a long time for the fire in our fireplace, our only source of heat, to warm up the inside of the cottage in the middle of a cold, cold northern Wisconsin winter.

A little discussion between Mom and Dad ended with the decision to call the Road and Bridge guys and get them out there to clear the road for us.  We drove back into town where Dad visited with them and they gave assurance that they would clear it out the next day.  We got a motel room in Lakewood, a few miles down the road, to wait for the guys with the heavy equipment to clear our path.

The next day we awoke to more snow and cold.  The plan for the day was two-fold: one, I would go running because I was training for track season; and two, we would rent some snow machines and head into the forest.

The run was beautiful, and more than 40 years later I can still see it. Big, fat snowflakes landing on my wool-and-leather letter jacket, my hooded sweatshirt underneath that with the hood up, and the rhythmic cadence of my running shoes hitting the snow-covered pavement.  Running is an activity that can take you elsewhere while you’re still here.  It’s easy to get lost in the experience, and that’s what happened that day while running in the snowfall.

Speaking of getting lost, Dad  – remember, he was not much for the outdoors at this point – seemed to get a little turned around in the forest on those machines.  The boreal forests of northern Wisconsin, having been scoured by the glaciers millions of years ago, don’t have any kind of visible landmarks for navigation, and when trails seem to go parallel and perpendicular to each other at the same time, it was only by the grace of God that we actually got out of there.

We spent another night at the motel before packing up our stuff to get to the cottage.  When we got to the road to the cottage, there was a man operating an enormous front-end loader, making mountains with the snow he was moving so we could get in.  He as no more than 50 feet into the mess when we pulled up to watch.  Dad was good with estimating the length of time something was going to take, and his assessment of the time it would take to clear that road, unload our stuff, warm the cottage and get things running was much longer than his comfort level.  He looked at Mom and asked “What do you think – should we leave?”  She thought that was a better idea than waiting 6 hours in the car for him to finish, and we backed up to the pavement and high-tailed it out of there without letting anyone know we were leaving.  Four hours later, we pulled into our driveway, with nary a word about leaving that poor guy in his loader to work on our road all day only to have nobody but him use it.

I started a love affair with running in the snow that trip, and I still feel that way today.  Tonight’s storm will present an opportunity to run tomorrow morning with snowflakes covering my hat and jacket, but I don’t believe I will take advantage of it.  Cheyenne has this thing called “wind” which shows up in droves this time of year, and the forecast is for 30 mph winds accompanying the snow, making it pretty unpleasant.

Then again, I DO love running in the snow.


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