Monday, March 17, 2014

Weeks 26 & 27: Elk, Cross-country skiing, and music

Dawn asked me to be the guest writer on our blog this week. Since I'm a bit lazy and not a writer, I hemmed and hawed then finally agreed. So, here we go. Bear with me dear reader.

The past two weeks have undergone quite a change in weather, for northern Wisconsin, that is, so we decided to finally do some outdoor stuff we had been putting off. Mainly cross country skiing. Each year the largest cross country ski event in North America, The American Birkebeiner (, takes place a few miles from where we are staying. And The Northwoods of Wisconsin has as many ski trails as anywhere in America. Since we've been here we have been meaning to go cross country skiing, something neither of us have tried, but with temperatures averaging below zero we kept putting it off. Finally we had a bit of a warm spell, a week of temps in the high 20s to high 30s. Our warmest day was 54--I almost wore shorts. Dawn borrowed skis, boots and poles from our friend and naturalist at the Cable Natural History Museum, Emily Stone. I borrowed a pair of skis and poles from a neighbor whose dog I have been walking. I rented some boots and off we went. We were told the Drummond Trails were probably the most beginner friendly and had beautiful sights. We set off on a 6 km loop that was rated "easy" for degree of difficulty. 

Although I have downhill skiied in Tahoe a half dozen times over the last few years, cross country skiing is a whole different animal. We both spent a lot of time falling down and getting up. Most of my life, my favorite outdoor activity has been walking or hiking, so this type of skiing was ideal for me. It's a good workout but a lot like a walk in the woods. I loved it and I think Dawn did also. Two days later we went on a guided family nature ski event led by Emily, who is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the plants and animals of the area. About 12 people attended and we would ski for a bit then stop briefly while Emily would give a mini lecture about birds (she pointed out some very vocal chickadees and told us the difference between their love songs and territorial marking), trees, otter (we saw some tracks) and a beaver lodge about 30 feet out from the edge of the lake. My favorite bit I learned was that, influenced by European Catholics, who loved their beaver meat, the Bishop of Quebec in the 17th century appealed to the Pope to declare the beaver a fish so they could eat it during lent and on Fridays. And he did. 

We all then went across the street to the community library for hot chocolate and cookies. It was a very nice Saturday morning: educational, physical, social and spiritual. I think I may take up cross country and give up downhill when we return to CA. Especially since it looks like we'll be living about an hour and a half from Yosemite when we return.

We finally got a chance to hear some live music. We both love music and theater and have been seeing quite a bit of both on this trip, mostly while in Chicago and on the East Coast. We hadn't been to either since our arrival in Clam Lake. We'd been told that The Park Theater is a great venue and there was a band playing that did alternative (kind of progressive rock) versions of Celtic folk songs. Lehto and Wright was the band and they were great. Two guitarists and a drummer. They first played an acoustic set then and electric one. For the electric set one of the guitar players switched to bass and it became a bit more foot stompin, hand clappin, makes ya wanna dance kind of stuff. A thoroughly enjoyable evening. 

Clam Lake is the elk capitol of Wisconsin ( In 1995 the Dept. of Natural Resources reintroduced elk to the area and the local herd currently numbers approximately 175 covering a 90 sq. mile area. We saw 3 elk our first day here, Jan. 13, but had not seen any since nor had anyone we talked to. There is a small island in the middle of the lake and we had been told they were probably hunkered down there. Evidently, the warm weather stirred them because the day the temperature hit the high 30's we saw four that afternoon. The afternoon of the first warm day I looked out the window and saw one walking across the lake toward the shore and our house. It took him a while but he finally came walking right up in to the back yard. I then saw another one come off the island and walk toward the other shore. Soon I saw two more, what looked like a mama and her calf walking toward our yard. They are beautiful creatures and like to eat the deer food so I have to scare them off if they get too close to the deer feeder. The DNR does not want locals to feed the elk so we may have to quit putting corn out for the deer soon. 

If you are still reading, thank you so much. I really appreciate that Dawn has kept our travel blog up for the last 7 months. She has also been the best traveling companion. And thank all of you for following. We will leave Wisconsin in about 2 weeks. And although these past 8 weeks here have been wonderful in so many ways I am looking forward to heading west and seeing our friends, families and animals soon. 

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