Places of 2016

It’s that time of year again—the time in late December when I get cozy in our warm house, watch the snow fall, and think about the new year. It’s also time for my annual summary of the places I’ve been this year. This is the fourth year in a row that I’ve summarized my travels, and I like how it pulls everything into a single place.

Work Travel

Work always takes me to new and interesting places, but this year was a bit different and I traveled less than I have in past years. During the first part of the year, I deliberately avoided travel so that I could spend time writing and get a few big reports published (BTW, it worked!). Then at about the time that I was about to start ramping my travel back up, Sexy broke his ankle and I cancelled a few trips.

Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks
Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks

Madison (March & November): This year I went to Madison twice. I made the trip down in early March to facilitate a meeting that I helped organize. In November I was able to attend the Society of American Foresters National Convention; that meeting is always a blast, and it was especially exciting this year since I knew so many people from across the region who were there. The meetings was very busy, which meant that I didn’t have a lot of time to get outside and explore. Luckily downtown Madison is so walkable that I was able to stretch my legs (and get some good food too!).

New Brunswick, Canada (March): I was invited to participate in a meeting on climate change adaptation for foresters in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Again, I was mostly stuck inside during the meeting, but I learned a lot about the forests in this corner of the world.

Massachusetts (March): I finished up a busy month of travel in March with a great trip to the area around Sturbridge, Massachusetts. At the Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary, I got to spend one day checking out an adaptation demonstration site and then the next day we had a field tour in the woods with about 20 foresters and natural resource managers. The weather was gorgeous and springlike, which gave me a nice break from the snow that was still on the ground back home.

Some critter's hemlock home.
Some critter’s hemlock home

Wisconsin (April): I made a super-quick trip down to the College of Menominee Nation in April. On the drive back, I stopped at a National Forest trail head to stretch my legs.

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A trail on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

Northern Vermont and New Hampshire (August): I cancelled some work travel planned for June and July, so it was August before I got to head back east. This may have been my favorite trip this year; it was certainly the most exciting from the perspective of getting out in the woods. In involved flying in to Burlington, Vermont, and driving three hours east to the Maine border and staying in a remote camp with interesting scientists and good beer. The highlight of this trip, swimming in a deep pool on a picturesque river with two friends, was one of my favorite moments of the entire year.

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Northern New Hampshire

New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts (September): Since my travel time was limited this year, I crammed as much as possible into this one trip. After arriving in Burlington, I took a car ferry over to New York; in an unbelievable coincidence, Sexy was on a car ferry in Michigan at the exact same time, also for a work trip! I spend a day learning about the Adirondacks. Then, I met up with a co-worker and visited a few partners in Vermont and bordering Massachusetts. This was the first time in nearly 10 years that I got to go in the woods on three consecutive days, and it was great. After all that, I attended a conference and gave a presentation. What a trip!

Northern Michigan (October): I made a quick trip to give talks at the Michigan Society of American Foresters meeting and a meeting of some Department of Natural Resources foresters. After being stuck inside and stuck in a car, I planned to find a spring along my travel route to get some fresh water and stretch my legs; unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find it.

Minneapolis (October): This trip was to go to the National Land Trust Rally where I helped lead two workshops. It was an amazing meeting with great people and energy. Since I’m getting more involved with the local Keweenaw Land Trust, I was also on the prowl for good ideas to bring back home!

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Between Minneapolis and Madison

Madison (November): I got to go to Madison twice! In the fall, I attended the Society of American Foresters National Convention this fall. That meeting is always a blast, and it was especially exciting this year since I knew so many people from across the region who were there. I ♥ foresters!

Texas and New Mexico (November): This trip involved flying into El Paso, Texas, for a work meeting about an hour away in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Travel snags on the way where meant that my coworkers and I arrived in the dark, and I wasn’t able really take in the scenery until it was time to drive back to the airport. But we did eat lunch outside in a courtyard where rosemary was used as a landscape plant and made the entire area smell wonderful.

Vacations

It’s been a while since I’ve gone on vacation outside the Lake States, but this year I hardly went anywhere at all!

Northern Lower Michigan (February, July, and December): We took a few trips Downstate this year to visit Sexy’s family. We got to meet our new niece in February, and I finally participated in two important family traditions: making Polish sausage and the winter bonfire on Hamlin Lake. That trip was tacked on to some work travel for Sexy. My plan was to go cross country skiing and write while he worked, but I came down with the flu instead. Our July trip was also different than expected, since we were limited in what we could do with Sexy’s broken ankle, but I still biked to Lake Michigan and went for a swim. Our December trip was also short, but we spent two mornings outside stacking split wood for his family to burn during the winter.

Family bonfire
Family bonfire

Western Upper Peninsula (May, July, and October): One Friday night in May, I realized that I didn’t have any plans and decided to join Sexy and his friends at a cabin on Huron Bay. But instead of staying in the cabin, I spent the night bundled up in my new hammock. For my birthday in July, I made a small getaway and biked to the Porcupine Mountains. Sara and I camped on the shore of Lake Superior. In October, Sexy and I spent a weekend in Copper Harbor. I raced in two cyclocross events, and we hiked to the top of Lookout Mountain.

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Camping on Lake Superior

Northern Minnesota (June): Sara and I did the canoe triathlon again this year, which I always look forward to. We’re already planning to do it again next June.

Central Minnesota and Wisconsin (November): I took a vacation between work trips to Minneapolis and Madison. I explored areas that I’d never been to, even though I grew up not far away. As I drove from Minneapolis to my parents’ house, I wished that I had more time to see everything along the way. I stopped at a nature center along the Mississippi River and talked to two old men who were out birding. When I was visiting my parents, my brother and I spent a morning driving around Amish country; we bought string cheese from the cheese factory and a pineapple from the grocery store (because why not?!).

Upstream from where I grew up
Upstream from where I grew up

Home and Nearby

Because I didn’t travel as much this year, I spent a lot more time locally—so much so that I hardly know where to begin talking about all of it. But then a movie line rings in my ears that says, “When you don’t know where to start, start at the beginning.”

Winter is always a good time to stay at home, and so I played hermit. I didn’t ski as much last winter as in previous years, but the skiing that I did to was generally in the woods near our house. Sara and I met up to ski at Courtney Lake; we ended up and the rustically-spectacular Rousseau Bar. I also spent a considerable amount of time moving snow because, well, it’s the Keweenaw.

Courtney Lake ski trail (it's never too far to the Rousseau Bar...)
Courtney Lake ski trail (It’s never too far to the Rousseau Bar…)

As the snow melted, we celebrated with neighbors by making maple syrup. As soon as the weather warmed up, I started biking to work and training for the canoe triathlon. Sara and I met up one morning in May to canoe on Otter Lake, and it was so foggy that we were barely able to see the shore from the water. Sexy and I took a day trip to Copper Harbor in the spring to ride bikes, which I always love.

Canoeing in the fog
Canoeing in the fog

Gardening also took up a tremendous amount of time during the winter and spring. During the winter, I took the Master Gardener class and made raised beds for the elderly as one of my projects. I did a lot more garden planning than in previous years. As the weather warmed, I spent long days working in the gardens, planting berries and vegetables with mixed success.

Garden beds made for my Master Gardener project
Garden beds made for my Master Gardener project

I spent a lot of time this summer hanging out on the porch since Sexy was on crutches. We did, however, go to our little town’s first (annual?) 4th of July parade and kayak on the lake.

We bought a some land and a cottage near the end of summer, which was the major highlight of the year. We spent every weekend there into the fall, cleaning out old clutter, rearranging things, and exploring the property. We had a big party there on Labor Day weekend, which involved a 9-mile river paddle down the river with friends and catching frogs with kids. I spent a night sleeping in my hammock by the lake (and didn’t die).  We lived there for a week in the fall—at least until we used the electric stove and filled the entire cabin with the most awful-smelling smoke because mice had found their way into the insulation (so gross!). As fall has transitioned to winter I started taking down some trees so that we can better wildlife habitat next year and explored the property on snowshoes.

View from the cottage
Near the cottage

Those are some highlights from 2016.

Happy New Year!

A Three-Day Weekend Full of Outside Time

I had a three-day weekend with lots of outside time, but I didn’t take any pictures. Doh!

After work on Thursday, I did a short outdoor workout. Then, because it was gorgeous outside in the evening and rain was in the forecast for Friday, I spent an hour in the garden. I enjoy gardening in the evening, and need to remember to do more of it next year so that I keep my weekends free. I wrapped up my gardening before dusk, quickly packed my things, and went out to the property to sleep outside on Thursday night.

It rained Friday morning, so I spent the morning inside puttering around the house and cleaning. When it cleared up in the afternoon, I went outside to continue working in the garden. My garden wasn’t so great this year (more on that in an upcoming post), so I’ve been pulling up plants as soon as their productivity wanes Continue reading “A Three-Day Weekend Full of Outside Time”

A Last-Minute Camping Microadventure

I slept outside last night. I was all alone. I didn’t die,  and I only really freaked myself out once.

Earlier this year, I decided that I wanted to sleep outside a few nights. I haven’t gone camping or backpacking much during the last several years, and I’ve been missing it a bit. I camped one night earlier this summer for my birthday, but that’s been it so far. The days have been getting much shorter and the nights much cooler the past few weeks, and so my window of opportunity (because I’m a big wimp) has been correspondingly shrinking.

Last night seemed like it might be one of my best chances since the weather was forecasted to say warm all night. The probability of rain would increase through the night, but any real chance of rain wasn’t expected until at least 5 am.

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So a half hour before dark, I ran around the house grabbing up a few things: clothes, sleeping bag, headlamp, and water bottle. Continue reading “A Last-Minute Camping Microadventure”

What’s a camp?

My two most recent posts have alluded to a big change in our household: we bought a camp.

Until I moved to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, (aka the U.P. and aka the Yoop), I’d never heard of a camp. Eventually, I learned what one was, and eventually after that, Sexy and I talked about potentially having one ourselves one day. We had no idea it would happen so soon.

What’s a camp?

Basically, it’s a rustic cabin located somewhere in the woods, potentially far into the woods. I think most people would call them a cabin. Growing up in a semi-touristy part of south central Wisconsin, they were often called cottages and located somewhere near the water.

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But the idea is the same: a rustic getaway. They are generally smaller and have fewer amenities that your average house, although some are certainly very, very nice—a lot nicer than our actual home, I’m sure. But the ones that I’ve been to are small, unpolished, and pretty well worn. Most have running water, although it may be gravity-fed from a cistern. Some, but not all, have electricity, which is often powered by solar panels or a generator that is run when needed. All—at least all of them that I’ve ever been to—have an outhouse. Continue reading “What’s a camp?”

Weekend Reading 

Being a librarian must be exciting. At least, that is, it must be kind of  exciting for those of us who are a little nosy.  I can imagine that it would be fun to see the different books that people check out, and infer—or flat out fabricate—the details of some stranger’s life. Call it profiling, but I think it would be entertaining!

This isn’t a particularly novel thought,  but it only just occurred to me today. I had little extra time between errands so I dropped by the library to see if anything caught my eye. Twenty minutes later I walked out with four books that I suspect say more about me than I even realize.

Two are gardening books. One on gardening through the year by Eliot Coleman, an expert from Maine about whom the instructors of my season extension course raved. The other isn’t exactly about gardening directly, but is rather a cookbook to help use up all those veggies I supposedly* grew this summer. Continue reading “Weekend Reading “

Going Barefoot

I’ve been making a point to go barefoot this summer.

When I was young, I was always barefoot. It was that or shoes. I don’t remember ever having sandals or flip flops as a kid. Perhaps I had a pair of jelly shoes for summer (it was the early ’90s after all), but otherwise I only had real shoes. I never had a pair of slippers for inside use, and I hated the feeling of walking around in just socks, so that wasn’t an option. It was a binary decision: shoes or bare feet.

I remember gingerly walking across our gravel driveway because I didn’t want to bother putting on shoes. I don’t remember having dirty feet, although I’m sure they always were.

The summer before I started high school, I started running. I had always been a non-athlete in grade school, but I found myself having too much energy to sit still. The energy would build and build, until I’d finally go outside and run laps around our yard, barefoot  Continue reading “Going Barefoot”