This has been a tough winter for those of us who like to get outdoors. I have always claimed that my rule for participation in winter activities—whether it’s snowshoeing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, or just going for a walk—is that it must be 10 degrees above zero. I have broken that rule a multitude of times this year.
If I waited for a day with temperatures of 10 degrees above zero this winter, I would never do anything fun. So I have been out and about in the bitter cold on a number of occasions, most recently as a snowmobiler in the 11th annual Snowarama for Easter Seals.
My husband Chuck and I bundled up and headed out on the fabulous Grand Portage trails with about 120 other riders. I say about 120 riders because I’m not sure how many riders took the same trail as us.
We were among the riders who braved the long route to Windigo Lodge, Trail Center or Hungry Jack Lodge and back to Grand Portage Lodge, while others took a shorter route. The shorter route took riders up the beautiful ridgeline overlooking Grand Portage and included a stop at Grand Portage Trail Center for a bonfire and S’mores.
Chuck and I decided to make the long trek. I chose not to ask what the temperature was. I was determined to enjoy the day, no matter how cold it was. We were rewarded with trails as smooth as butter, letting us sail up and down the hills and around corners at exhilarating rollercoaster speeds.
It warmed up a little bit as the day wore on and a light snow fell, decorating the trees that overhang the trail. We were disappointed not to see any moose on this
ride, but we saw plenty of tracks, caught a glimpse of a couple of deer and spotted a very healthy-looking fox on Poplar Lake.
During the 116-mile ride, I had some time to do some thinking. The beautiful scenery and the lull of the engine are soothing. I sing songs or compose poetry in my mind while cruising along. I toy around with ideas for News-Herald features or Unorganized Territory columns. I think of fun activities for my Girl Scout troop or projects for my grandkids. Of course I can’t write anything down, so I seldom remember these wonderful ideas later. But I greatly enjoy the thinking time on the trail. It’s almost a motorized meditation.
But I do remember one thought from this most recent ride and that is how proud I am of the people who take part in Snowarama—and all the other charity rides and events that take place every year throughout our region— despite the challenges of winter weather.
As we rode along, I recalled that for three years, Chuck took part in the three-day ALS Association of Minnesota Blackwoods Blizzard “Never Surrender” Tour, which raises money to fight Lou Gehrig’s disease. Several other local snowmobilers took part in the Blizzard Tour for seven years, riding from Cloquet to Ely to Two Harbors and back to Cloquet. Although there were no Cook County riders on the ride this year, in the past Cook County riders raised thousands and thousands of dollars to assist those stricken with ALS. The 2014 Blizzard Tour raised $710,000.
On our Snowarama ride, I thought about my editor friend Lynn from the Twin Cities who was riding that same frigid weekend in the annual Mud Dog Ride for Rein in Sarcoma. She rode from her home in the Twin Cities to the Shooting Star Casino & Hotel in Mahnomen, Minnesota, using the ride as a platform to raise money to fight the rare and deadly cancer. The Mud Dog Ride has raised over $25,000 to fight sarcoma since it began in 2011 in memory of outdoor writer Eric Skogman.
And of course, on the Snowarama ride, I thought about the money raised for Easter Seals kids, to help children and young adults with disabilities live more independent lives. This year Snowarama riders raised $36,000 to bring the 11-year total raised in Grand Portage to $292,750.
There are many other groups and organizations that also go the extra mile to help others—the Polar Plunge to benefit the Special Olympics, for instance. Several brave local participants will be taking the plunge shortly after this issue goes to press. Mush for a Cure is another amazing event, coming up soon on the Gunflint Trail, which raises thousands of dollars to fight breast cancer.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. We are hardy, generous souls in Minnesota no matter the weather. I’m proud to be one of you. Stay warm and ride on!
A candle loses nothing by
lighting another candle.
Father James Keller