Sam Cook, For the News Tribune
I saw a car roof going down the street this week. Just a black roof, zipping along like some hulky drone. Somewhere beneath it, I assumed, was the rest of the car — behind a Himalaya-like snowbank. Oh, here came the whole car now, clearly visible where it passed through an intersection. Then it was gone again, just the roof gliding on down the avenue. That's how high the snow banks are after this week's nearly back-to-back-to-back-to-back snowfalls. Two to 4 inches. Three to 5. Three to 7. Day, night, day. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
A friend and I were hiking along a Duluth trail the other day, talking all the way. This is typical of what my friends and I do. We never gather over coffee. We rarely go out just to have a beer. Most of the time, we move and we talk. We walk and talk. We bike and talk. We paddle and talk. We ski and talk.
The dogs discovered the frozen fox first. They nosed about its stiffened body where it lay on the ice of a Duluth stream. The fox had frozen so hard in the January cold that neither the Lab nor the German wire-haired pointer expressed much interest.
It's 9 below zero outside on this January morning. A raw wind, barrelling out of the Dakotas, rakes our huddled city. Waking up, I lie under the weight of a Hudson Bay blanket thinking: I want to go paddling.
The day had gotten away from me, but I knew the yellow dog needed a good trot. In the dark of a January evening, we made for the 660-acre woods. An hour's loop would do it. I clipped a little red light to her collar to alert any oncoming fat-bikers. I strapped 300 lumens of headlamp around my stocking cap. The moon wouldn't be out, and the headlamp would make it easy to follow the trail.
You might call it simply reflecting on the year just passed. I call it "The Annual Report." Sometime early in the new year, I think it's valuable to look back on the past year and see how it went. This isn't an exercise to get ready for tax filing — the tedious gathering of receipts and other pertinent data. For me, the Annual Report is a way to evaluate how I spent my most valuable commodity — time.
CLOVER VALLEY — The word had spread fast once the snow came — "Korkki's groomed." Korkki Nordic, perhaps the quaintest little ski trail in the north, was buzzing a week ago after the first big snow of winter. Outside the handsome little chalet on the Korkki Road between Duluth and Two Harbors, eager skiers stroked the season's first wax on their skis. A family of skiers was just coming off the trail led by two hard-charging grade-schoolers. More skiers poured in from the parking area.
The tracks came off a shoreline of jack pine and onto the frozen lake. They headed toward an island a couple hundred yards offshore. Wolves had made the tracks, judging by the size of the paw prints. The big canine imprints had frost and a bit of snow blown into them, so I knew they were at least a day or so old. I took some comfort in that, as the yellow dog was loping along ahead of me on this morning ski-about on Boulder Lake north of Duluth. A few ice anglers were out, seeking walleyes or perch, but at this morning hour the lake was mostly quiet.
WINDOM, Minn. — We were pheasant hunting in southwestern Minnesota last week when my friend saw a semi on a country road hauling 20 big, round bales of cornstalks. You've seen the bales — the ones that look like Shredded Wheat biscuits dotting a field but are head-high when you get up close to them. My friend recognized the rig. He knew that one of his nephews was driving it, headed for the homestead where my buddy had grown up. The pheasants could wait. We had to stop in for a visit.
A few years ago, when I was in my mid-60s, I decided to buy one of those crazy-looking fat bikes — the ones with the oversized tires that allow a person to keep biking Duluth's wonderful trails all winter.