Dealing with winter in a region where annual snow falls average more than 200 inches. (Originally published in The Whitefish Eagle News, Paradise, Michigan).
February 16, 2007
Okay, I'm officially tired of of plowing, blowing, and shoveling snow. After a very abnormal snowless Christmas and New Year, winter has settled on Whitefish Point with a proverbial vengeance. We've had about fourteen feet here so far, the house and barn roofs are in need of a second shoveling, and I'm running out places to pile it. I listen to news reports about other states that have declared states of emergency over the same (often lighter) snowfalls we're digging out of, and it seems ironic that Michigan's U.P. gets such a cold shoulder from the national news.
I don't mind the cold, although the minus-twenty-seven Farenheit of a few nights back was pretty extreme. Warm clothing and boots keep the people in our household comfortable for long hours outside, and at least the subzero temps help to cool Whitefish Bay more quickly, lessening the lake-effect snow machine. The Bay is frozen over now, and the past three days have been at least partly sunny, and that's a welcome relief from gray, snowy days when we needed a lamp on in the house at ten a.m.
Ordinarily, deep snow is one of my favorite playgrounds. There's something adventurous about snow so deep that snowmobiles get stuck if they venture off-trail, and even skiers have a hard time staying afloat. When it comes to trekking deep snows in tight places, like riverbanks and cedar swamps, snowshoes rule. (In 2004, the President's Council on Physical Fitness named snowshoeing the ideal winter exercise, with hourly calorie-burn rates that top the list of outdoor activities for energy burned per miles traveled). But whether you choose to travel by machine or muscle, I think getting outside to play is essential to keeping a sane brain when the blues of cabin fever come during the dark days of deep winter.
Around here, we've been getting outside all right; trouble is, the two pairs of hands in our household have been filled with some kind of snow removal tool every day for three weeks straight, sometimes from morning till after dark. We haven't had time to do much fun stuff in between moving snow, chopping ice from our huskies' buckets, and cooking ten pounds of chicken or chopped venison in a four-gallon pot to insure that wolves and dogs get a warm supper. Romance has suffered too; when Cheanne and I snuggle on the couch after chores and supper, we just fall asleep. Maybe it has something to do with being of age for AARP benefits.
The snow can stop now. I can't see out of the porch windows, and I think dealing with it may be scaring off tourists. Snowmobilers are justifiably wary of my plow, and a trio of them actually stopped and went the other way on Whitefish Point Road when they saw me chopping packed snow and ice from around our mailbox with an axe.