Let's go outside!
February 27, 2023
This past weekend I had the opportunity to do something a little different.
The 4-H Shooting Sports and Outdoor Skills Club in Eddy County spent time in the Turtle Mountain region, particularly at Lake Metigoshe State Park north of Bottineau.
The trip was organized by club leader Mike Brazil, who believes it's important to get youth outside, experiencing the outdoors.
"I look at how we grew up, and then I see how our kids are growing up," Mike said to me Saturday, "and I want them to get outside and experience more things."
So we did. We had four families and a few bonus kids along for the ride, taking in the outdoors in the middle of winter. I personally was outside more in those two days than I have been in quite awhile.
You see, my time in the Turtle Mountains is often spent behind the wheel, going from business to business selling advertising in the travel guide that we produce for that region. Even though I'm on the run, I always enjoy taking the scenic byway and gawking at the beautiful scenery through the windshield.
This weekend I had the rare opportunity to actually experience the activities that we write about every year.
I put on cross country skis and snowshoes for the first time. I sat around a campfire in the snow next to our cabin – burrito-wrapped in a fuzzy blanket on a metal picnic bench – roasting a hot dog over the flame.
A lady named Emily was our guide for cross country skiing on Saturday morning. She is a mother as well, with kids in 4-H, FFA and Girl Scouts. In addition to guiding skiers at the state park, she also works with the Adaptive Recreation Program at the Bottineau Winter Park. This is a partnership between the Anne Carlsen Center and the Bottineau Winter Park where individuals with disabilities can experience all nature has to offer, from skiing, snowboarding and ice fishing in the winter to canoeing, archery and day camps in the summer, spring and fall. The lodge at the park is called Annie's House, named after Anne Nicole Nelson, a Stanley, N.D. native who was killed in the World Trade Center bombing on Sept. 11, 2001.
Emily said we were "right up there" as one of the most entertaining groups she had ever guided. I chuckled, because this crew certainly kept things interesting along the 2 mile trail.
After a lunch break, we tackled snowshoeing. Traversing the hilly "shoreline" of the lake to get back on the trail was the most difficult part of the afternoon excursion. This was the one activity where I didn't bring my camera, and it was probably a good thing.
Once I made it up the hill, I walked along that trail and took in all that nature had to offer. I saw the towering trees above me, heard the snow crunching underneath my feet, and felt the bite of winter cold on my nose and cheeks. The temperature actually rose above freezing and the sun provided warmth that day, so it was a rather pleasant walk.
When I was a kid, our winter outdoor fun consisted of climbing the snow piles dad built up from clearing the quarter-mile-long driveway to our farm. We played King on the Hill, and raced each other down in our plastic sleds.
Hill climbing in snowshoes was quite different. I went down on my knees once, but was able to recover and make it up to the trail. Once I got to the trail, I looked out at the lake below and marveled at the fact that I actually made it without falling or sliding all the way back down!
The kids also spent hours gliding down the sledding hill. They had so much fun in the afternoon that they returned for round 2, in the dark!
On Saturday evening, my family hosted a group potluck meal at our cabin. The big family table with benches on each side was the perfect place to gather, eat and relax.
Throughout the weekend, I also took time to do what I do best – document the activities of people in our community. I took pictures of the families taking in the outdoors, many of them who were just like me, learning new outdoor skills and trying skiing and snowshoeing for the first time.
I didn't put on downhill skis at the winter park on Sunday. Downhill skiing I had tried before, and the last time I did I found myself on my keister with a tow rope t-post between my legs. I lost control coming down the bunny hill at Holiday Mountain Ski Resort in La Riviere, Manitoba, Canada, and the post brought my flailing body to a quick halt. My future husband was too busy busting a gut to help me up. Thank goodness Canadians are so friendly, because another skier brought me to my feet. Maybe one day I'll actually take real skiing lessons and figure out how to make it downhill upright.
Therefore, in the couple hours I had Sunday, I figured my time was best spent capturing the kids' first experience on skis. Only our family had gone downhill skiing before, so there was a troupe of others learning yet another skill for the first time. I was in my element at the bottom of the downhill runs, capturing the smiling faces of all the kids as they came flying down the hill.
The weekend flew by quickly, and before I knew it, I was back home napping on the couch. The combination of late nights and early mornings, with extended periods of physical activity in between, had me exhausted yet refreshed.
We don't get opportunities like this nearly enough, and I look forward to more of them. Winter got a little more bearable, if only for a few days.
It's Monday afternoon now, and what I'm not looking forward to is the drive to Devils Lake this evening. The wind is blowing hard in our area, there's more inclement weather in the forecast this week, and there will be no warm sun in sight on this night drive. Oh, bother.