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Ice fishing is best where most of the shanties are.

Winter and the Other Three Seasons

By Jim Duke

Ask any snowmobile enthusiast about their favorite time of year and the answer will, without any hesitation, be winter. In fact, ask that same question to a skier, snowboarder, musher and even the fishermen who prefer the thrill of catching their limit through a hole in the ice and the answer will undoubtedly be winter. But what about the other three seasons? What do these folks do for recreation when the temperature climb above freezing and the snows of winter have melted away? The answers might surprise you.

Not long ago, but before the arrival of the coronavirus, I took an afternoon to visit with several of my friends and other acquaintances known to favor colder weather and asked all of them the same questions. The first: “What is your favorite season and why?” Of the nine folks at our little gathering, eight immediately said winter. Half said it was because of the solitude; the other half said they enjoyed the beauty of the snow glistening in the trees as they zipped along the trails on their snow machines. 

The one individual with a different opinion said although she tolerated winter because of her husband’s joy of it, she actually liked autumn best because of her memories from childhood. Her parents would take her apple picking and then make cider; her mom would bake fresh donuts; and they would sit on the porch and watch the colored leaves fall from the trees. She recalled they would ride their bikes along the country road near their home and marvel at the beauty of the season. She quickly added, “But I like all the seasons!”

A snowmobiler’s idea of the perfect trail.
A snowmobiler’s idea of the perfect trail.

When asked what solitude meant, a couple said it was the total quietness of a walk in the woods, something one could not imagine during any other time of the year. Another person said sitting on a frozen lake and anxiously watching the fishing line dangling through the hole. One individual stated, “Solitude cannot be achieved when in company with others … solitude is the oneness with nature, regardless of the season.”

It was obvious that four of the group were avid snowmobilers, but my second question still required them to answer. I asked, “What activity, or activities, did they find most enjoyable in the winter months?” As I expected, six of the nine said snowmobiling but what I didn’t expect were the answers of the other three. The young lady who enjoyed autumn most said although she liked to ride with her husband occasionally, she was just as happy on the ski slopes. The other two agreed that skiing was a fun pastime, but their passion was more toward ice fishing — but not just the fishing, it was getting to the remote inland lakes where there was no open access and no vehicles could go. It was the challenge of snowshoeing in and winter camping lakeside that appealed to them as well as what they both described as the “rustic primitive experience.”

The lady who preferred skiing said she wanted nothing more strenuous than fastening her ski bindings and catching the lift to get her up the hill. She remarked that when she rode snowmobiles with her husband, he did all the heavy lifting, moving, fueling and prepping of the sleds so all she had to do was straddle the saddle and go. Laughing, her husband said that was true and she had never lifted a hand to even start her own snowmobile, much less get it unstuck or even turned around if it wasn’t in an area where she could ride in a circle.

Arlene says she always enjoys biking along an autumn, leaf-covered pathway.
Arlene says she always enjoys biking along an autumn, leaf-covered pathway.

This brought up the question about accommodations and what level of comfort was required by each. Again, the two who liked hiking into the woods to remote lakes said all they needed was a tent, an axe, a hunting knife, a few cans of Sterno fuel and a sleeping bag. They wanted to be able to carry whatever they needed on their backs. They didn’t require anything fancy and admitted they favored smaller, nondescript motels over the bigger, franchised ones, and they appreciated those with dining opportunities either on-site or at least close by.

Other than winter, which season is most popular? Here again, the answers covered the full year and the majority said they liked all seasons. The lady who liked autumn best stuck by her guns and said she only liked fall but tolerated the rest because there was no other choice.

In her opinion, nothing could compare to a walk in the woods on a brisk autumn morning when the leaves had not yet fallen and were still vivid oranges, yellows and reds. She would then return home for a hot cider beverage to warm her up. Most of the group admitted to being hunters as well and said they always looked forward to late fall and the beginning of deer season. The hunt itself was exciting whether they were successful or not, but they always wanted to bring home that trophy buck!

Robert says silence and solitude are what tent camping in the back country is all about.
Robert says silence and solitude are what tent camping in the back country is all about.

The snowmobilers in the group said they didn’t sit idle during the other three seasons and enjoyed their summer motorized toys almost as much as their winter ones; however, they were quick to point out that eating snow dust was much more pleasant that what was kicked up when riding the trails without snow. One of the younger folks said it wasn’t nearly as much fun riding back in the pack, but it was better than just sitting at home. One winter-loving fellow said another very popular pastime in the other seasons is golf — and it is just about as expensive as snowmobiling but not nearly as much fun.

A couple people said they always enjoyed their pontoon boat, had even taken some overnight trips on it in years past and were thinking of doing it again. The lady said she enjoyed seeing different places along the shorelines and liked tying up to a dock at sunset wherever they happened to be. Asked if they would seek lodging during these excursions, both said it depended on the weather; if it was nice, they just stayed on their boat, but during inclement weather they would usually try to find shelter ashore.

So, there you have it — folks who enjoy winter recreation also enjoy summertime activities. The one lady loves fall best did say she tried staying indoors most of a recent winter season, but it seemed like she was wasting her life away by, in her words, “hibernating like a bear.” She eventually had to give it up and get outside again. She agreed it was more fun sharing a ride with her husband than staying home alone. The two ice fishermen said physical exertion, in moderation, was the key to a healthy and happy lifestyle, regardless of the season. Everyone gave a big thumbs up to that statement, and then we all went our separate ways.

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