The sky turned white and it snowed (sideways) for 36 hours this weekend.
With the return of feels-like-January weather, I can feel that I have a severe case of cabin fever (it’s a real thing).
noun (informal) irritability, listlessness, and similar symptoms resulting from long confinement or isolation indoors during the winter.
Yes, that’s what I feel—listlessness. A complete lack of interest in doing anything. I have no energy to engage in any of my usual modes of entertainment: reading, going outside, garden planning, conversing with others. Instead, I have spent a substantial amount of time napping and doing essentially nothing.
This afternoon the sun came out and we did go for a short ski, but didn’t stay out too long on account of strong winds.
In retrospect, I wish we’d have bundled up better, taken the snowshoes, and spent more time outside.
Last week I was in Massachusetts, where the weather was comparatively more spring-like. I made a quick trip to a nature area that I’d been to last year, also in late March. There was no snow, open water, and ducks and geese. I cannot tell you how happy I was to hear the familiar quacks of a mallards and to see waterfowl swimming through flooded forest.
It will be another month before we have ducks floating through our flooded woods, and today the wait feels like forever!
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 yearin arow that I’ve summarized my travels, and I like how it pulls everything into a single place.
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, itworked!). 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?!).
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.
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.
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.
I haven’t had too much time to write the past few weeks, so this is just a quick post to hit some highlights of my travel last week. I flew to Burlington, VT, for work and then traveled with a few colleagues to a meeting at a rustic location extreme northeast corner of New Hampshire.
I hadn’t been to this part of the Northeast yet, so I was excited to see it. I was also excited to spend some time in New England forests during the growing season, as most my trips seem to take place in late fall or early spring once the leaves are off.
For the third year in a row, I thought it would be good to summarize the highlights of my travels over the past year. I find it really helpful to have these summaries to help me remember all of the places I went in a single year (see 2013 and 2014 posts).
Most of my travel is for work, which allows me to see so many cool places. This was the second year that my work focused largely in New England, which you’ll definitely see reflected in the list of places I went. Continue reading “Places of 2015”→
Last week I was in Vermont and had the opportunity to check out Shelburne Farms, and impressive historic estate that’s now an educational center for farming. Being early December, much of the place was closed for the winter, including the historic home (truly a mansion!), the barns, and the Children’s Farmyard with actual animals.
The trails and property were open, however. Stepping outside of the Welcome Center at the property’s old Gate House and looking at the map, a woman approached and asked, “Do you know where you want to go? I come here all the time.” Continue reading “Long Walk”→
After a long streak of no-travel, I had a long streak with travel. Three weeks of travel in a four-week period, seven states, lots and lots of meetings. It was fun, but it was exhausting.
The highlight? Experiencing early spring in three different locations.
Spring #1: Walden Pond
During my trip across much of New England, I finally had time to stop in and check out Walden Pond. It was about time, as after several starts and a long year of pecking away at it, I finally finished reading Walden.
I think I largely read it out of obligation—after all, it’s one of those books that everyone seems to reference when it comes to nature, self-reliance, or sticking it to the man. It wasn’t my favorite book ever, but it was good enough and I’m glad that I read it.
I went in late March, and it truly was an early spring day.
There was snow, but also bare ground. This was particularly noticeable on Walden Pond itself, where the ice was melting away from the shore in the sun along the north edge of the lake, while the south end remained solid in the shadows and a few ice fishermen stood out on the ice fiddling with their gear.
Spring #2: The Sand Counties
After my trip to New England and a brief time at home, we went back to central Wisconsin for the first time since last spring. Inspired by finishing Walden and some references to Aldo Leopold at the forestry meetings I attended in New England, I decided it was time to begin rereading A Sand County Almanac.
So on the drive south, I started reading the book aloud as Sexy drove, which is much harder than audiobooks would suggest. When I needed a break, I looked at maps of Wisconsin’s ecological landscapes to verify that I’d in fact grown up in the same landscape as described in the book, making the phenological descriptions of the seasons that I was reading all the more pertinent.
Perhaps as a result of that, and/or some severe cabin fever, I think we spent more time outside exploring the area than we had in nearly all previous visits combined. We walked across much of a field adjacent to my parent’s house where I spent so much time outside growing up. We visited the monkey tree—a large, gawky willow that arches over the crik—that was at one time the world’s best climbing tree. We circled around the edges of my brother’s forty acres in our rubber boots with the dogs. We went to a small lake and looked at hundreds of ducks (his favorite) with binoculars and listened to cranes (my favorite).
At dusk on Easter, we listened for woodcock and watched the sky dance (just like Aldo).
Spring #3: At Home, Finally
After feeling the first bits of spring in other places, I was glad that I didn’t miss too much of it at home. We tapped trees before I started traveling, and I was home for bits and pieces of the change in season. There were signs that spring was coming: melting snow, a mud pit in the front yard, my first bike ride of the year, and even pulling the maple taps from the trees this weekend.
But it really wasn’t spring until today . That’s when I stepped out on the porch this morning and the woods were almost entirely rid of snow. As of today, only the teensiest patches of snow remain—the locations of old banks and piles that are barely holding on. Now it’s spring.
Other signs that calendar spring has been replaced by actual spring? It’s the first day I worked in the garden, raking beds and assessing where to begin this year’s planting. It’s the first day that the water to the hose spigot was turned on, since the need for outdoor running water is now greater than the risk of freezing pipes. It was the first day of sitting on the porch, and not inside, to write.
And, yes, it was also the first day of the mosquito, who knew enough about spring to find me sitting on the porch.
After a good long while with no travel, I’m back on the road—this time for a two-week travel-ganza across five New England states. I’m halfway done and figured it was time to post some pics and highlights from the trip so far.
Connecticut, Part 1
We (one of my co-workers joined me for the first part of the trip) started off with a two-day training in Connecticut to help natural resource professionals integrate climate change into their work.
Typical of conferences and trainings, we had to spend almost the entire day outside. Fortunately, the weather cooperated one evening and we took a really nice stroll around campus in the spring-like weather.
Then, on our way to Rhode Island, we made sure to stop at Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge to stretch our legs and check out the coast. Also of note in the area near Mystic, Connecticut, is a St. Edmund’s nearly 800-year-old mummified arm. It’s in a beautiful little church in a little retreat center on a little island out in the ocean and sits in a glass case near a number of other relics—which is just a really weird practice.
Then, it was off to Rhode Island to meet with partners and visit some field sites. This was absolutely great because I haven’t gotten to spend much time in the woods in southern New England, and I felt like I didn’t know enough during the Connecticut training earlier in the week. , Also, it was my first time to Rhode Island, so I got to cross another state off the list.
It was a great day to be out. It was below freezing, but that was good in that I could often walk on top of the frozen crusty snow. The forests in Rhode Island really reminded me a lot of where I grew up in Wisconsin. In one spot, I felt like I could have been standing in my brother’s woodlot, if only the northeastern pitch pine was replaced with red pine.
Connecticut, Part 2
Then it was back to Connecticut for the Connecticut Land Conservation Conference. Juan Martinez of the Children and Nature Network gave a keynote about engaging across different generations—particularly us millennials that are finally getting old enough to have a greater impact on the direction of the world.
Also of note was that yesterday was the International Day of Forests. Of course I was stuck inside all day and only got to talk and think about forests, but I still celebrated. I “borrowed” a bunch of pins from the New England Forestry Foundation‘s exhibit booth, and then distributed them to the foresters that I knew or met while I was at the conference. Ha!
Now it’s time to head north for the rest of this trip!