Minnesota winters can be brutal, but they are not as bad as they used to be due to climate change. There are still stretches of severely cold weather, but not as many or for as long, and days with above freezing temperatures are more common. Being comfortable outside is not necessarily about the temperature. A dry zero degrees with no wind can be pleasant if you are dressed properly. On the other hand 35 degrees on a damp windy day can be miserable. Snowy landscapes are beautiful and provide many options for outdoor recreation and exercise.
Birds come to the bird feeders all year around. I am not much of a green thumb, so it is kind of a relief that I do not have to do any yardwork in the winter. And there are no bugs!! Notice in the photo below my pink glass flower sticking out of the snow near the bottom of the bird feeder. A few days later it was buried under several inches of new snow.
I have memories of walking one mile to school in seventh grade during the winter (uphill both ways…haha not really). During high school there were some bitterly cold days standing outside waiting for the school bus. We would get dropped off behind the junior high and have to walk up a long flight of steps and across a practice field, against the west wind, to the high school building. It was not cool to wear boots to school. One time I missed the bus because I was wearing clogs and could not get up a hill on the way from my house to the bus stop.
Getting up early for work in the dark on cold winter days is part of life in Minnesota. Going outside after work to a bitterly cold car, possibly having to scrape off a layer of snow, sitting on a freezing stiff seat and finding a frozen solid water bottle, is not fun. Now that I am retired, it is not so bad because I don’t have to get up early, and I don’t have to go anywhere if I don’t want to.
I enjoy ice skating. I am not very good at it, but in a relative scale of all people including those who live in warm climates, I am probably better than average. When I was in elementary school in the 1960’s the neighborhood skating rink was huge and always packed. I was terrified when boys carrying hockey sticks would whiz by within inches of me. As an adult, I took skating lessons where I learned some basic skills which really boosted my confidence.
The following photo was taken by my sister on Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. The poor tiny fish was frozen a few inches below the surface of the ice.
In December there was still a massive pile of stumps and brush at our family cabin property, left from trees that came down in the tornado this past summer. Our son and his fiance were visiting just before Christmas, so we decided to have a winter solstice bonfire and outdoor potluck dinner. A couple of other relatives and friends on the lake joined us for a fun evening. Facing the heat from the huge fire provided for a very warm front side, but did not reach our backsides. Someone mentioned the Saturn and Jupiter convergence, and just then we all looked up and could see it in the sky as some clouds moved out of the way.
During high school the family of a friend owned a small second home they used like a cabin on Lake Minnetonka, west of Minneapolis. Interestingly, I don’t have any memories of swimming there, but I do remember fun times snowmobiling in the winter. Later when I was first married my husband was editor for a snowmobile magazine. He had the use of a snowmobile, so I got to go for an occasional ride.
Now that we live on a lake, Wayne bought a used snowmobile for a winter activity, and to use for towing his ice fishing gear out onto the lake. Normally I prefer something quiet like cross country skiing, or in the summer, canoeing or hiking. The snowmobile is loud, but it is fun for a little while, until the jiggling makes me feel like I have to make a pit stop back at the house. There are miles of snowmobile trails in Otter Tail County, as well as in other parts of Minnesota. During non-Covid times, and assuming there is enough snow, it is common for folks to spend hours snowmobiling from one country bar to another along the trail. There might be dozens of snowmobiles parked outside any given watering hole.
My husband has an ice fishing tent, although if it is a “nice” day, he will not even bother with it and will instead just sit out in the open on a bucket while fishing. He likes to scope out some of the other 1,000 lakes in Otter Tail County (the most of any county in the United States). We have eaten several dinners of fresh fish this winter.
There are dozens of ice fishing houses on the lake in all sizes, up to large rigs with TV’s and sofas and kitchenettes.
December and January were mild for Minnesota, allowing for more outdoor time than average. With that said….we left for Arizona, just in time to miss a polar vortex stretch of subzero weather.