Winter comes early in north woods
It sure feels like winter out there today, doesn't it? My wife, Cheryl, and I feel like winter started for us three days ago, however. That's because we ventured north for the weekend not to go deer hunting but to visit my parents in Minocqua.
I knew meteorologists were suggesting a little snow in Wisconsin on Friday, but I thought they said it would be gone by evening, when we drove north. We were past Wausau, perhaps 20 miles from our destination, when I noticed light snow in front of my car's headlights. It quickly got heavier. With perhaps 10 miles to go, the highway was already covered.
A big doe greeted us after we made the turn onto my parents' street, where 2 or more inches of snow had accumulated in the woods in recent days, but the animal stayed put rather than scampering in front of us. The weatherman on the 10 p.m. news talked about snow hitting just this neck of northern Wisconsin and that some spots might get 3 to 6 inches. Yikes.
We awoke Saturday to less than an inch, however. Before scraping the driveway, I took our cairn terrier, Molly, for her morning walk. Halfway around our loop of perhaps a mile, my fingers were numb in my leather gloves, and I curled my hands into a fist.
The blustery wind cut through me, and I thought about the deer hunters, including my brother, Tom, and his older son, trekking about in northwestern Wisconsin. They apparently were hunting on land a Janesville man owns near Chippewa Falls, a friend Tom met while working for DuPont in the former Janesville GM plant. I wondered if the snow covering would help gunners see and track deer more than the bone-chilling air would detract from the hunt and chase them from the woods.
Molly stopped to sniff a small clump of leaves frozen to the ground, sticking up from the snow. I gazed at the eagle's nest that sat barren and cold in a tall pine and wondered about where its occupants might be this time of year. A reader told me Friday he has seen a pair of eagles repeatedly along the Rock River in Janesville in recent days. Could the eagles from that nest in Minocqua be the same ones this fellow saw in Janesville?
We continued on. We heard a crack in the woods near Lake Minocqua that sounded like someone putting axe to wood. The naturally nervous Molly jumped. We heard it only once, however; probably the cold-induced pop of a tree branch, I figured.
Molly was pulling as we returned close to home. We saw lots of deer tracks but didn't spot any whitetails on our walk. Nor did we hear any distant gunfire. The only creatures stirring seemed to be two chickadees that flitted across our path and landed in a barren, roadside tree.
My glasses fogged quickly as we re-entered the warmth of the house before I ventured back out to shovel. Mom and Dad fired up the wood burner for the first time this season, and the fire helped take the chill out of their home.
Later, during a shopping excursion in downtown Minocqua, we noticed the small section of lake to the east of Highway 51 and just north of the island community was frozen over, but the larger body of water to the west was still open. By Sunday morning, the latter expanse had mostly frozen over, as well. It will only be a matter of days, I imagine, before ice anglers venture forth.
Brother Tom texted me Saturday night that my nephew Geoff got a nub buck, outhunting his dad, who reported that he froze his “begonias off.”
The weatherman told us that Sunday dawned with a Minocqua temperature of minus 3. Mom checked her iPad and learned it was a warmer 9 above in Janesville. Time to head south.
Yes, it's cold here, but nicer than in northern Wisconsin, where winter starts early and lasts much longer than in southern Wisconsin. Cheryl, Molly and I again got first-hand experience with that this weekend.