When temperatures are below zero, the wind is howling and sunshine is a forgotten luxury where do you dream of going? I know a friend who sets her heart on going anywhere with a beach. Another books a Caribbean cruise. Our German friends find a way to slip to someplace exotic, like The Canary Islands. And some people I know (whom I love dearly) actually move to South Carolina to beat the cold and find comfort in 70-degree weather.
When I married my dear husband I KNEW he loved to cross country ski. I heard often of his involvement (7 times) in the Birkebeiner, a 53 km ski race, held annually in northern Wisconsin. In fact I participated several times in the Kortelopet, which is half the length of the Birke but all of the excitement.
What I didn’t know was that this love for skiing would still be strong 34 ½ years later or that when the temperatures dip and the snow starts falling, his heart heads north…not south. His joy returns instead of going undercover, waiting for the sun and warmth to return.
So where do you think we are right now? Tanning on some Florida beach? Visiting relatives in California? NOT EVEN CLOSE. We are in a darling little cabin, rented for the week, on Little Round Lake, near Hayward, Wisconsin. Of course when we booked this place we had no idea that the temperatures would be -22 this morning and skiing would be out of the question.
So yesterday we took advantage of being near relatives and a chance to do a Northwood adventure. We got all bundled up – long underwear, extra socks, scarves, mittens, hand warmers, huge coats, heavy boots, even Yak Traks and headed out to see some phenomenal ice caves, advertised to be especially beautiful this year, due to the current conditions. To enjoy these caves we needed to park our car in a lot, walk a mile to the caves, hike ½ mile within the caves and then return to our car back a mile. We were all up for the project until we chomped down the snow covered wooden steps to the shoreline. The wind was so strong that we could see nothing. The shore and the lake looked the same. Our mood changed as we realized the wind would be at our backs on the way out but on the return mile hike we would be facing straight on, the full fury of the intense winds. So my brother and my husband both said, no. We can’t do this today.
There were other hearty Wisconsinites heading out on snow shoes and skiis. They were dressed in clothing designed for such conditions with wind blocking fabric. Unfortunately, dressed in jeans and long underwear, we were not sufficiently prepared. We miserably watched one of them head out and disappear in the swirling snow.
Disappointed, we drove off to seek other adventures. Dale remembered that the ice road was open to Madeline Island.
“Oh lets do that,” I spoke up! “What is it?”
My brother carefully instructed me. “Well, they clear a “road” across the ice and you can drive over to the island. Usually one can only get there by ferry but when the ice is thick enough they let cars drive over.”
“Oh.” Visions of us in our car, floating and sinking in the choppy ice on Lake Superior made me stop my enthusiastic talk.
“Have you ever driven this?”
“And I won’t unless everyone is in agreement.”
To help with this little decision, I started thinking about my braveness. Usually I have to be gently encouraged to do courageous things but I do usually give in and find great delight in the adventures I am allowed to experience. I actually thought to myself in this moment of decision, “I went to Mozambique! I stared down Malaria! I ministered to and visited the villages, the huts, of women suffering with AIDS. What do I have to be afraid of? My God is a mighty keeper and he has allowed me safety thus far!”
Brian piped in with an extra bit of soothing news, “And I hear that it only takes 5 minutes for you to die if you are submerged in this kind of coldness.”
“And we are all together!” my sister-in-law added, laughing nervously.
Then we came across this sign:
Ha, of course I had to say yes! This was too inviting to be afraid of. We headed across Lake Superior to Madeline Island in our car.
Some cracks were visible, the guys were happy to point out, but were frozen shut and one of the locals in a little funky coffee shop assured us that the ice road is checked several times daily to assure that no one was going to sink on the way over, as long as they followed the road and didn’t veer off on their own adventurous path.
After a soothing cup of hot chocolate/coffee we got back in our car and headed to the mainland, unafraid, laughing and confident.
So, you who seek the sun, see what kind of adventures you miss? Traveling at your own risk has it’s own rewards, even on an excruciatingly cold day.
(By the way, we are not giving up on those ice caves. Perhaps we’ll find a warmer day before the week is over. Stay tuned…)