Thursday, February 28, 2013

Southern Girls go Ice Fishing

From Wikipedia:

Ice Fishing is the practice of catching fish with lines and fish hooks or spears through an opening in the ice on a frozen body of water. Ice anglers may sit on the stool in the open on a frozen lake.

Many anglers will go out with 2.5 inches of good ice for walking, but the recommended is 4 inches, 5-6 inches for Snowmobiles, 7-12 for light cars and 14-16 inches for full-sized vehicles. Care must be taken, because sometimes ice will not form in areas with swift currents, leaving open areas which freeze with much thinner ice.

Many cars, trucks, SUVs, snowmobiles and fish houses fall through the ice each year. 

***Disclaimer***
I know that a lot of folks reading this won't comprehend it, because you were born and raised north of the Illinois border and this is just what you do. So try to understand...those of us down south cannot wrap our heads around walking five feet out onto a frozen lake, let alone playing on it, skating out there, driving a snowmobile or (Heaven Forbid!) an expensive automobile. For the next five minutes, pretend that you were raised on a tropical island, and winter lake activities contradict the common sense of a human being.

*****

Friday night found us at yet another watering hole, asking the locals for a nighttime snowshoeing destination. While warming up with some adult beverages, I chatted up the patrons next to us to find that - behold! They planned on ice fishing the very next day on a nearby lake. They cordially invited us to join them, provided me with a description of their fishing site, and I promised we'd meet them out there the next morning.

Michele morphed into our designated driver for the weekend. Over breakfast I casually asked if she was opposed to driving her car out onto the lake - something I have never done. We've heard enough horror stories about cars breaking through the ice and I literally have nightmares about it (something I didn't tell the girls). My question certainly caused her to pause.

"Well? Hmmmm. Can't say I've ever been asked that before. I'll have to think about it. Can we just drive over there, check it out, and then decide?"

"Of course. And if you're not down with it, we'll find another way."

So off we went to Pitlik's, a nearby resort where cars drive onto the ice and the following weekend would find hundreds of vehicles on the frozen lake for the annual Sugar Camp fishing jamboree. In the back of my mind, I knew there would be open water near the entrance to the lake. What surprised me though was just HOW close the open water between Sand and Dam is to the driveway. As in, within ten feet of where we'd make our way onto the ice.

Backtracking and formulating Plan B in my head, I offered Michele an out. "If you don't want to do this, I totally understand. I don't know if I could go through with it."

"I'm not worried about my car."

"You're not?"

"Nope. Cars can be replaced. People can't."

Sentiments in the backseat ranged from 'Wahoo! Let's ride 'em, Cowboy!" to "I don't like this, I don't like this!" to Dead Silence.

But...the water. It taunted us menacingly, daring us to defy the logic and rationale that five intelligent, successful, beautiful, talented women possess any other minute of their multi-tasked, over-extended lives. It cried to us like a siren, teasing us with the thrill and adventure of something risky and dangerous.

"If I could just see someone else drive out there, I'd be okay." I sensed our joy driver was unraveling at the seams, and I honestly couldn't blame her. If Mr. Musky knew I was about to drive his Tahoe onto a questionable amount of ice, he'd throw me into that open water and hold me under it until I stopped squirming.

But then...someone all jacked up on nerves and caffeine in the backseat hollered, "Here comes...a thing! Yes! Here comes a thing!" And what, exactly, is a thing? That which is only seen in the Northwoods.

I give you, the "DUCK YOU" mobile.
Apparently it even spews fire from the mouth on front, according to our fishing guides.

Michele glanced back, and encouraged Hollie to get into the middle row of seating for a better escape route, should she need to bust out of the sunroof and swim to safety. From that point onward, I don't think a single one of us spoke. We squawked. And screamed. And flapped wildly. Animation reached an all time high in her Ford Flex, which weighs in at a hefty 5130 pounds. Not to mention five grown women (shut it), snowshoes, extra winter clothing, boots, well...you get the idea. We were pushing 6000 pounds.

"SAFETY FIRST!" she gesticulated wildly, thrusting her hands downward in a stabbing motion. "WE NEED SHARP OBJECTS TO BREAK THE WINDOWS OUT!"

 "Um, how about we just roll them down?" suggested a weak, about-to-vomit voice from the back.

"YES. GREAT THINKING. WINDOWS DOWN AND SEATBELTS OFF!"

With the rest of us screeching like nails-on-a-chalkboard, Michele made her way to the edge of the ice. Our rant jumped at least 50 decibels. Certainly to an intolerable level for anyone on their morning stroll around the resort.

"LET'S DO IT! LET'S PUT THELMA AND LOUISE TO SHAME!"

"OH...
...SHIT!"

"WAHOO!"

"HAIL MARY, FULL OF GRACE..."

"OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD...WE'RE DOING IT...WE'RE DOING IT...WE'RE DOING IT."

"EEEEEEKKKKK!  WE'RE DOOOOOINGGGG IT!"


"DON'T LISTEN TO THE CRACKING OF THE ICE! DON'T LISTEN TO THE CRACKEN!"
"DRIVE FASTER! WE WON'T FALL THROUGH IF YOU DRIVE FASTER!"

"LOOK!!!  THERE'S A SNOWMOBILE IN THE PASSING LANE!"

"WHEN WE STOP I WANT YOU TO ALL EXIT QUICKLY AND RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN, AWAY FROM THE VEHICLE!"

"...HOLY MARY, MOTHER OF GOD, PRAY FOR US SINNERS NOW AND AT THE HOUR OF OUR DEATH!"

"WHERE DO I GO? WHERE DO I GO? WHERE DO I PARK? SHOULD I STOP HERE? IF I GET TOO CLOSE TO THEIR RV WILL WE CRASH THROUGH TO THE BOTTOM?"

"WE DID IT! WE'RE HERE! WE MADE IT! WHOOP WHOOP!"

We descended upon our friends' quiet, solitude-filled outdoor winter haven like a bunch of cackling hyenas. Nervous energy had us whooping and running around their fishing holes, falling over ourselves, pulling on coats and hats and gloves, high-fiving each other and spinning in circles. They all smiled and warmly welcomed us, probably secretly wishing this pack of crackheads would go back to Crazytown so they could fish in reverent peace.
We inspected their gear, asked juvenile questions, bugged them for a group photo, explored the inside of their Frolic, and played with their auger.
Hopefully, while relishing in the fact we were all alive, we remembered some manners and used pleases and thank yous.

In all honesty, Dan, Pat, Dan and the rest were extremely patient and kind with us. Their newest group member even taught Hollie the ropes...
...which they all found funny since she just learned how to ice angle herself that very morning.

I was busy recording evidence for Michele to prove her bravery to her husband later on...

 ...when I heard the squealing ascend at least two more octaves.

"SOMETHING'S HAPPENING! I THINK I HAVE SOMETHING!
I...THE FLORIDA GIRL...
CAUGHT. A. FISH!"
Miss Hollie did indeed, catch a fish.
And contributed to their future fish fry.
She even kissed her trophy.
By then, Michele's frayed nerves risked snapping. "WE'RE OUTTA HERE! PEOPLE! GET BACK IN THE CAR!"

With some quick thank yous and hugs all around, we were off. She sped along the frozen lake, and finally breathed a sigh of relief and nearly shed a tear upon reaching solid earth, ensuring our thirteen offspring would continue to have matronly influences in their lives.
We survived. After that stunt, we felt we could conquer the world. Instead, we settled for dog sled races and snowshoeing. 

Thanks for your patience with my ridiculous rants on our nonsense. It was just so much fun and we all wanted to share it with the world. The horse is dead now though. No more Girls Weekend posts.

I'll be back next week to share a much more serious story about a recent intervention with a family member.

Har. Har.

XOXO,
Jen



Friday, February 22, 2013

Calling all Chickadees

What started as a lovely afternoon cross-country skiing through the spectacular Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest...

...in a balmy eighteen degrees...
...unexpectedly turned into something cool.
Cooler.
Coolest. Thing. Ever.
The unscripted, surprising moments of the Northwoods keep me coming back over and over. And I thrill in sharing those incredible experiences with my friends.
As we approached a clearing in the woods on our cross country ski adventure, hundreds of tiny chickadees descended upon us, eager to taste my homemade granola bars.

The little woodland creatures made me look like a rock-star tour guide,
and kept us in the jolliest of moods for the rest of the day. You can even ask Barry over at Knocker's about that.
When my friends later asked me, "Jen, what was your favorite part of the weekend?"
Without hesitation: "Feeding the birds. Channeling my inner Cinderella. Wishing I could've made seven dwarfs appear to really jack you all up."
If Prince Charming had bounded through the woods on a horse, that would have really blown them away. Instead, all I could offer was Bird Man.
But at least he can handle a camera.

To say I wanna go back and feed them more nom-noms is the understatement of the year.

XOXO,
Jen

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Seventy-five Pounds of Shit

Two of my dad's favorite sayings - the list is long and distinguished - are something along the lines of, "You know Jennifer, you ain't got no wisdom 'til you're 30 (grammatical errors intentional)," and "You know Jennifer, you can't put ten gallons of shit into a five-gallon bucket."

Well since I am now the ripe age of 40 and am certainly dripping in wisdom, I can finally prove my dad wrong on something. You can easily fit seventy-five pounds of shit into a five gallon bucket, as long as you bring along four motivated friends who are determined to experience all the Northwoods has to offer in Wintertime. We know how to pack it in and stay on schedule.

Before we arrived, I started a round robin to determine what everyone wanted to do and see over the weekend, since the list of possibilities was endless. Mr. Musky and I talked about it over coffee the morning I left, and he asked me for one favor.

"Hon, please don't take the snowmobiles out."

"Why?" with pouty face in full effect.

Large sigh. "Because I haven't even been out on them myself yet this year. And your friends are inexperienced drivers. What if someone gets hurt? Or crashes a sled? And who always gets them out of the garage and ready to go? Do you even know how to back them out?"

"Yes. Of course I do!"

I'm such a liar.

So I agreed to keep the sleds in the garage. But...what would you imagine was the single most important thing that Hollie was dying to check off the list?
Snowmobiling, naturally.

So after I wasted five minutes trying to figure out how to get the suckers in reverse...
...and a quick prayer...
...we were off.
Check. And Mr. Musky wasn't even too mad, since Hollie knows her ATVs and she was the other driver.

We also got some quality sledding time in. First in our backyard, just to warm them up for the bigger sledding experience the next morning. I encouraged them to go belly style, then leaped on their backs so we sailed down the hill faster. It definitely helped them plunge into bladder-defying antics the next day.
Who knew I was such a prankster?
Ask Kim about "Scary Shower" sometime. She thought an earthquake was crashing the cabin walls down on her while she rinsed her hair. See, our bathroom is conveniently located on the other side of the laundry room, and the back of the shower is exposed and just begs for a body to bang on it when someone's in there doing their thang. Hee hee. Cabin fun brings out the pranksters in all of us.

But in the end? The good 'ol fashioned train provided the best sledding excitement.
 And Ice Hole lived up to its warming expectations.

***

The 8th annual Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Championship on Dollar Lake proved a bit of a magnet after cross country skiing. Perhaps for the sights, perhaps for the sponsor's beverages.
Photo courtesy of the Eagle River Chamber of Commerce
A husband or two may have been a bit concerned about the thousands of hockey players in town.
Rightfully so.

***

When forced to choose between tubing or dog sled races, the girls unanimously selected the pups for an adventure they'd never before seen. When we arrived to the races in Land O' Lakes, I was busy fiddling with my camera so the gals chatted up some dog owners next to our car. Amelia was so sweet and shared loads of info on her beautiful Siberian Huskies: Dove, Rocky, Faith and Laika. Amelia's mother, Diane, raced them for the first time ever, and I was honored to catch her coming around the first turn of the course.

One of these beautiful doggers gave birth to a litter of puppies just weeks earlier - proof that postpartum mamas can do just about anything. 
After watching a few more teams race by and marveling in the fact that temperatures in the 20s were nearly too warm for the canines, we grabbed a bite to eat then headed over to Afterglow Resort in Phelps - Amelia's hometown. A resort rich in history and offering "silent sports" to its guests and visitors, Afterglow is my favorite winter destination for snowshoeing, and it was on the top of Michele's list of things to do. We tried this spot out several years ago together, and we were thrilled to see that our trusty guide, Star, was still there and ready to join us on another romp around their majestic lake.

Star, Jen and Michele circa 2006.
Beautiful Star today, 2013.
Also there to help guide us were Bozo...
...and Summit.
These delightful doggies make snowshoeing so enjoyable, and also peaceful. Because they all know the way home in case the humans get themselves lost.
Which can certainly happen when Ice Hole is involved in the effort.
I have yet to tell you about our cross country skiing excursion and the ultimate - how five intelligent women convinced themselves to drive out onto Sand Lake and ice fish. So come back later this week for some more of our Girls Gone Wild weekend.

More like Girls Gone to Bed Early weekend.

XOXO,
Jen