Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘snowshoeing

Cold Start

leave a comment »

In the purest definition of my life memories of what “up north” during a Minnesota winter entails, we have been enjoying gorgeous deep snow scenes and seriously cold temperatures. It stays below zero all day long for days at a time and there is no sign anywhere of the fallen snow melting on the ground. No slush on the rural roads. Just hard-packed snow with occasional areas of sand dropped at higher traffic intersections.

The first day of January offered clear skies and plenty of sun, the common denominator for extremely cold temperatures. With no cloud cover to hold a little of the earth’s heat, the air feels like it is aligning with the temperatures of deep space above.

Delilah’s thick fur coat keeps her comfortable all but the bottoms of her paws. She isn’t a big fan of standing around in the cold. In fact, even if we are walking along with her, she wants to pick up the pace and hustle to get wherever the heck it is we intend on going.

After multiple snowshoeing adventures this weekend, I think she has figured out that the initial extra time she is made to wait at the beginning while we are strapping on the odd contraptions to our boots, comes with a payoff of opportunities to romp in the deep stuff shortly after.

We bushwhacked right from the driveway into the wooded contours of the southern edge of the Chippewa National Forest yesterday and I guided Delilah to select a navigable route atop a ridge, every so often aligned with the tracks revealing deer had already done the same.

It is a treat to watch the glee of Delilah’s leaping through the deep snow. She has no choice but to leap, actually, since it is deeper than her legs are long.

The only setback she experiences is the need to pause once in a while to chew away the snow that balls up between her toes. I can imagine that feels just as annoying as the snow that collects under the cleat of my snowshoes in certain conditions. We didn’t have that problem with the cold powder snow this weekend.

It was a cold start of the year 2022, but a grand one for us. Here’s hoping it proves to be a hint of greater times to come.

It was truly precious to kick off the new year in such a special place with our even more special friends and hosts, Barb and Mike Wilkus.

We will spend the rest of today on the road, heading home to see how the horses are doing in this coldest weather since they arrived with us last April. Having dreamt about horses this morning, I’m feeling a heightened urge to get home to see ours.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

January 2, 2022 at 10:14 am

Hello 2022

leave a comment »

Happy New Year! Good Riddance, Old Year! Let’s hope the coming year will bring the ultimate demise of the current global pandemic so we can better focus on dealing with the growing weather calamities caused by the ever-warming planet. We find ourselves under the spell of a deep freeze of -31°(F) this morning here just north of Grand Rapids, MN.

We celebrated the last day of 2021 yesterday with a hearty snowshoe hike in the woods on nearby Wilkus’ property before the temperatures plummeted well below zero.

They have christened the property with an acronym’d designation garnered from Barb and Mike’s grandchildren: Maggie, Allie, Jackson, Jack, and Caleb.

It is a perfect name for the magical plot of varying elevations with thick tree growth and a pond nestled in a bowl surrounded by a prominent ridge.

With almost two feet of relatively fresh snow accumulation creating iconic winter landscape views, we let Delilah bounce ahead to break a trail that we widened with our snowshoes.

For some reason, I kept noticing a mental image of a steamy cup of hot cocoa forming while we clomped through the powder. Barb made my dream come true after we got back to the cabin.

As you might imagine, Delilah was in her glory, pouncing about like “T-i-double guh-er” of Winnie the Pooh fame in the deep snow.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

It took extra effort to dissuade her from a fixation on a tree in which she spied a nut-weilding squirrel energetically climb. So many new sights and smells for her to explore.

She didn’t seem all that fired up about our staying up late to hoot and holler over the Times Square ball dropping in New York at 11:00 p.m. our time. As long as it was midnight somewhere, it was good enough for us to call it a night.

May the new year treat you all with big love in all the best of forms that can be manifest!

Peace!

.

.

Written by johnwhays

January 1, 2022 at 10:36 am

Rare Interaction

leave a comment »

We interacted in a social way with other humans yesterday! Late February 2021. A milestone. Duly masked for appropriate social behavior in a pandemic, we hosted our friends, Barb and Mike Wilkus to share an appetizer, visit the chickens, and then travel to Pepin for a snowshoe hiking event at YMCA’s Camp Pepin. Afterward, we returned to our house for a light dinner, dessert by the fire, a little banter, and …blink, blink… the night was over.

There will never be enough time to catch up on the year of social interaction we have lost since the pandemic swept the world.

Hanging with friends will never feel fully satisfying until masking is no longer standard procedure.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Despite the limitations, we happily absorbed every second of the gift of friends who love the outdoors and are up for adventures. Camp Pepin was decked out with ice lanterns along a groomed trail and campfires aglow in the woods for an open house event intended to rejuvenate interest in camp activities that the virus outbreak has squelched.

As the dusk of the hour consumed us, we came upon a familiar scene of a deer carcass that had certainly fed a variety of wildlife.

 Looked strikingly similar to the one we found in our woods, antlers, and all.

The weather was perfectly comfortable for winter activity and the treasure of enjoying it with precious friends was a wonderful treat.

It sparks a glimmer of hope for visions of increased opportunities on the horizon in the months ahead. Do we dare begin to make plans again for renewing our old level of interactions with other people as vaccinations reach a greater majority?

That will be one step toward making it happen. Let’s all start making plans now for as normal a summer as possible to help galvanize the future reality we want to happen.

I am emphatically hoping it can play out sans masks.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

February 21, 2021 at 11:29 am

Contemplative Shuffling

leave a comment »

It appears that even deer recognize the benefits of walking the labyrinth path. Before we entered, Cyndie took a picture of the footprints on the path.

It looked impressive to see them so perfectly following the trail but after the first turn the deer tracks veered off across the paths and disappeared into the woods. I picked up from there and plodded along on snowshoes to lay down the proper series of turns and pass-throughs to reach the center.

By the time I finished, the overcast daylight was beginning to wane and the color of the image took on a different hue.

There were multiple turns where my double-stack of stones had toppled and were frozen to the ground in the middle of the pathway, but the primary route is now fully established in the base layer of snow. May it remain visible for the duration of snowfall through the end of the season.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

December 27, 2020 at 11:00 am

Best Part

leave a comment »

I might be putting my “great-north-winter-lover” membership in jeopardy, but the best part of my day yesterday was the six minutes when it almost stopped snowing. That pressing feeling of concern over whether the roof tops of all our buildings will cope, how we will ever get our paths cleared again, and if the Grizzly ATV and its aging plow blade will endure the abuse I’ve been putting them through, lifted just long enough to allow some precious moments of relief.

Then it was back to the harsh reality of plowing and shoveling snow up against piles that are already so tall that we are barely able to add to them, while new flakes quickly covered up the progress being made.

Walking Delilah anywhere other than on the driveway now requires snowshoes. Even then, the blowing snow has filled in many of our previous paths to the point of oblivion, and I had to abort a plan of trekking around the outside of the hayfield, because it was too much work fording the deep snow.

Since Delilah breaks trail out in front of me, she was more than happy with my call to bring her back to retrace our steps toward the house. At one point, she picked up a scent of interest just off to the side, and I paused to see what she would do.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

One step into the depths was as far as she got. Apparently the smell wasn’t worth further effort.

It’s official. This is now the snowiest February since the weather watchers started keeping records. Why stop here? Might as well make a run at most snow in any month. We are told there is another snow system taking aim for us this weekend.

I can’t imagine what we are going to get when March arrives. Historically, that is when the biggest snow dumps used to occur. Maybe the shifting global climate has moved that phenomena up a month.

We can only hope.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

February 21, 2019 at 7:00 am

Missed Again

with 4 comments

If you take a lot of pictures, you know what it’s like to miss a shot. Like most things, there are more misses than hits when it comes to the spectacular capture. If you want to nail the perfect picture, beyond some good luck and good equipment, you need a lot of patience.

I came up short on all three yesterday while out on a walk with Delilah. Cyndie wanted me to give our little shepherd a workout to burn off some extra energy, so I strapped on the snowshoes and headed out to pack some of the trails that haven’t been walked since the last snow storms.

Delilah didn’t get the deep snow workout I had intended, because she was just light enough to stay on top of the wind-packed, partially melted blanket of beautiful snow, but I had a plan for that. We would be hiking many routes and doubling back on several of them.

If I can snowshoe both directions, it makes for a better packed path.

The first time we approached the road from our southern fence line, two hawks were up to something, putting on an air show with vocal enhancements that intrigued Delilah greatly.

From there we continued across our driveway and traversed what we call the “north loop” trail that pops out at the big willow tree famous for tripping Cyndie up when she stomped on the rake. Normally, this route would be followed by traveling up the driveway to the house. Delilah was locked into that program to such a degree that my instruction to turn around and head back in the other direction was met with quite the expression of complete confusion.

It’s was laughable, especially because that was quickly followed by a sprint that said, “Let’s do this!”

As we returned to the road from the opposite direction, it wasn’t a hawk that caught our attention, it was a big eagle flying away. With my eyes skyward, the silhouette of another white-headed dark bird perched in a tree was easy to catch. Even though I was limited to what my pocket camera could achieve, I stopped Delilah and tried to zoom in for a photo.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

It didn’t provide much in the way of opportunity, so after a couple shots my attention shifted to Delilah at the end of her long leash in front of me. She was staring across our field, holding a gorgeous pose that was definitely photo-ready.

As I lifted my hand with the camera and my finger reached for the shutter button, I missed and pushed the power to “Off.”

Delilah moved as I fumbled to get the power back on and the spectacular sound of large flapping wings made a couple of snaps into flight. That beautiful bald eagle pushed hard against the air to soar into the sky away from us.

It won’t be the last beautiful photo I just missed.

.

.

Please No

leave a comment »

Not again. This morning, we are wondering what we will find when the door to the chicken coop is opened. Yesterday, Delilah once again broke a hook holding her leash and this time attacked the Buff Orpington hen.

I was up on the other side of the house splitting wood when my phone rang. Cyndie’s voice immediately revealed something was wrong.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Intent on making my way through the entire pile of logs stacked at the base of the big oak tree, which first required sledge-hammering them out of the frozen block they had become, I had already fought off several urges to take a break and do something else.

I couldn’t deny the urgency implied by Cyndie’s call.

Rushing down to the sunny southern end of the barn, I found Cyndie standing with the chicken in her arms. She wanted me to hold the bird so she could search for visible injury that would explain the blood on the ground. Finding nothing, she took the Buff back and asked me to look.

I suggested she give the hen a chance to stand on her own and we could watch her. The Buff stood just fine, but that is when I noticed blood on the beak. It appears the injury was internal.

We are hoping maybe she just bit her tongue. She was breathing and swallowing, with some effort, and the bleeding did not appear to be continuing more than the initial small amount.

If she survived the night, the next goal will be to witness her drinking water and eventually eating food.

As soon as Cyndie had reached the dog and saved the chicken, she marched Delilah up to the house and shut her inside. When we came in for lunch, it was pretty clear the fiercely carnivorous canine was aware she had displeased her master. Her body language was all about remorse.

It was hard to not continue being extremely mad with Delilah for hurting the chicken, but that moment was now in the past.

I decided to take her out for a heavy-duty workout. Strapping on snowshoes, I headed off to pack down a path on our trails that hadn’t received much attention since the last few snowfall events.

Since Delilah has a compulsion to be out in front and pull, that meant she was breaking trail most of the way and expending more energy than normal, which worked right into my plan.

Much to Delilah’s surprise, I also had a plan to double back in the direction from which we had just come, giving me a chance to pack several of our paths a second time.

Each time that happened, Delilah would race to come back toward me and then pass by to get out in front again, pulling against the leash to which I gladly added drag.

I’m pretty sure any energy she got from engaging in the attack was long gone after her unusually intense afternoon walkabout, but I doubt she fully grasps that our earlier displeasure was because the chickens hold protected status.

We’re not confident, but we hope we’ll still have three chickens to continue teaching Delilah to leave alone, despite her irresistible canine instincts.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

February 11, 2018 at 7:00 am

Which Way

leave a comment »

In the months following Cyndie’s knee replacement procedure at the end of November, I admittedly neglected the labyrinth. Contrary to previous winters, this year I haven’t bothered to walk the path each time it snowed. On Sunday, Cyndie mentioned that she wanted to use the labyrinth again. It was time to tread that pattern.

It wasn’t as easy to execute the proper turns as I had hoped. With the rocks mostly buried, I needed to start from both the outer entrance heading in, and then from the center, heading out, before I figured out precisely where I needed to be.

dscn5763echdscn5766ech.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Once I had figured out the correct route, as we walked the path and chatted I began to notice a lift in my spirits. Cyndie pointed out something I had completely overlooked: she was walking on the snowshoes with her new knee. It was a noteworthy achievement.dscn5770e

I also discovered something else that was occurring.

My neglect of the labyrinth for the previous months had been intentional, giving me one less thing to tend to during Cyndie’s convalescence. During those months, I felt a small sense of pleasure over not spending any energy on it. What I didn’t realize was, ignoring the labyrinth was contributing to my feelings of hopelessness.

There was this duality again. (See comments with Jim on my post “Being Me.”) I didn’t want to have the labyrinth, and I did want to have it. Both feelings were present at the same time.

It feels like having Cyndie and the labyrinth both functional again is helping me to find my way once more.

dscn5772e

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

February 7, 2017 at 7:00 am

Teamwork Challenged

leave a comment »

Yesterday, I experienced a classic example of a frequent challenge Cyndie and I have been navigating to varying degrees over the 35+ years of our life together as husband and wife. Our minds sometimes tend to operate out of sync from one another, despite our best intentions.

dscn5761eIt was a beautiful winter day outside, with a lot of blue sky and sunshine, a comfortable temperature, and minimal breezes. We headed out to give Delilah some exercise by letting her run loose in the pastures while throwing discs for her to chase. We walked right past the horses, cutting through their paddock to get out into the hay-field.

On our way back in, Cyndie said she wanted to pay a little visit to the horses. While milling around with them, Cyndie decided to scoop some of the fresh manure under foot. That inspired me to grab a pitch fork and clean the edges of the large pile we have been creating during the snow season.

When she was done cleaning up, Cyndie said she would take Delilah out for one last session of running loose in the back pasture. In a very short time, I was commenting on their quick return.

“Delilah’s tired and I’m getting cold, so we are going to head up.” she reported.

I told her I would finish what I was doing and then follow them shortly. Earlier, Cyndie had asked me what shovel I had used in the past to make a winter path through the labyrinth. I told her the trick is to just walk the route wearing snowshoes, implying we could do that later in the day, after lunch.

As I walked up to the barn to put away my pitch fork, Cayenne turned and approached me for some loving. I soaked up her attention and lingered for what seemed like a long time to me, staying engaged as long as she maintained interest. It’s funny how much hot breath, wet nose, and sloppy tongue seems perfectly acceptable when a horse is choosing to nuzzle and mingle. I searched for a sweet-spot of scratching for her, moving between her ears, neck and chest.

Eventually, what ended our little love fest was Legacy, coming over from the other side of the overhang. I don’t know what reason he had to finally interrupt, but I tried spending a little time with him to see if he was just hoping for similar attention. Since he’s not as accommodating to hands-on affection, it comes across more as though he just doesn’t want her to be getting all the fun.

I finally made my way up to the house, ready for a break and some lunch. Stepping inside, I found no one there. Cyndie must have gone down to the labyrinth already, I thought to myself. Looking out back, sure enough, I spotted Delilah moving around down there. I rallied my energy and decided to join her.

First, I looked in the garage for the snowshoes, but couldn’t find them anywhere. Did we leave the second pair at the lake? Oh well, I’ll grab the plastic shovel, just in case I can find a way to use that to help. The shovel wasn’t where I keep it, either. Frustrated that I couldn’t execute my plan, I walked down empty-handed.

I arrived just in time. Cyndie said she needed my help with figuring out where the turns should be.

Imagine this, it turned out she had brought down the second pair of snowshoes and the plastic shovel, in case I wandered past on my way up to the house.

Now, why didn’t I think of that?

Welcome to my world.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

February 6, 2017 at 7:00 am

Regal Eats

with 2 comments

My, oh my, are we ever living the high life this weekend. Maximum leisure, luxurious surroundings, and food delights so regal, it seems like there should be servants delivering them to us. There are no servants. Cyndie and Barb are the ones creating the spectacular culinary delights. It’s a challenge to find ways to burn as many calories as we are taking in.

Despite some recently posted “no trespassing” signs on the edge of my favorite woods to the north or our property, we conjured up a route to skirt around toward the large tracts owned by a forest products corporation. As the temperature climbed to uncomfortably warm for our winter clothing, we snowshoed through the increasingly heavy white stuff on a great adventure of discovery.

There are a great variety of animal tracks, one of which I suspect looked like it may have been a big cat. I haven’t heard if there is a likelihood of any around here. We found graphic evidence of a porcupine at work. They gnaw the bark off of trees, doing permanent damage. It’s a bit jarring to see an entire tree skinned alive.

DSCN4483eDSCN4485e.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

We trekked through the woods to old service roads and junk piles with old appliances and the smashed shell of a vintage car. The hood ornament looked like a 1940s Oldsmobile, based on a quick search. The engine had been removed. (Update: Further searching brought us to a 1937 Ford Coupe as the most likely match.)DSCN4489e

After slogging through the heavy snow, we took our rest on the deck, literally on the deck, because there was no furniture. While languishing in the early season sun bath, we decided to have lunch out there, too.

The coffee table and a few chairs from the porch were put to use for our impromptu picnic. More delectable food!

More food meant more exercise was in order. This time we dressed down a bit, better prepared for the summer-like temperatures, and headed out without snowshoes, down our driveway and out on the lake.

After all that walking, more food was in order. Cyndie wanted to christen her brand new pasta maker, so pasta it was. Many hands and several iterations, one teetering on failure, produced an ultimate result that was stellar. Seriously, a meal fit for a King. And his Queen. Two Kings and Queens, in fact.

DSCN4495e

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

February 28, 2016 at 9:45 am