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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Fighting the urge to hibernate

Stephanie Ukkola
Posted 11/9/21

This past weekend with my son was a blast. I took him for three hikes in three days. I finally got outside again after a brief “hibernation” over the month of October. I wasn’t …

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Fighting the urge to hibernate

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This past weekend with my son was a blast. I took him for three hikes in three days. I finally got outside again after a brief “hibernation” over the month of October. I wasn’t ready to adapt to the cooling weather but I also knew I couldn’t realistically spend six months locked in my house.
After the last 80-degree day in early October I retreated indoors, unwilling to accept that the sun was lower in the sky, the days were cooler and the leaves falling. I’ve always been a summer person and I was really dreading the thought of wearing jackets and trudging through the snow. Every time I had to go outside, I’d repeat to myself, “I don’t like it here; it’s too cold.” I dreamed of joining the ranks of my snowbird friends or going to see my family who lives in the South (and maybe not coming back).
Despite a fairly warm October I put my bike away and put off the outdoor projects I had hoped to get done before winter because of my reluctance to adjust to and accept the cooler weather. Instead of bike rides I spent my time cleaning the house, playing games and doing puzzles with the kids, cooking, and watching too much television. After what felt like a summer of non-stop busy work in my yard and garden it felt really good to finally have some time to relax. I spent what felt like forever waiting for a frost to come and kill my garden. I love gardening but I was not interested in caring for it in 50-degree weather and I was so ready for a break from it. “Can’t you just die already?!” It finally did on Oct. 21 and I haven’t bothered to do much of anything in there since, aside from pick the last of the carrots, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
Many people say fall is their favorite season, including my partner. People love the colors, the fright, sweaters, scarves and pumpkin spice. I like those things too; there was even a time when I worked on the Duluth Haunted Ship that October was my favorite time of year. It was incredibly fun dreaming up the monsters that keep people up at night and then watching them in action. After having kids, I dramatically lost my enthusiasm for Halloween and love of scary movies, though I still cherish the memories of my “scary family” on the ship.
I guess I regret not making the best of the last warmish days. But, for me, there’s an adjustment period. It took me a long while to accept and acclimate to the cooler time of year. Eventually I came to a point when I realized that I can’t stay inside all winter and I may as well get used to it. Once you get used to the new normal it’s not so bad anymore. After I re-learn how to deal with the 50-degree weather, the 30s and eventually negatives aren’t much harder. Picking out a new light jacket from Piragis is what finally got me out the door.
This weekend I made up for the lost time outdoors and took my kids on several hikes in the Tower-Soudan area. We started at the Soudan Underground Mine State Park. There are many shorter, kid-friendly trails I like to take advantage of. My two-year-old daughter, Dot, is pretty pokey and doesn’t get too far too fast. We have to make a lot of stops for her to explore the world at her own pace. I remind myself that it’s about the journey, not the destination. We had to stop for quite some time while she got out her urge to hit a pine seedling with a stick out of her system. “I’m wapping the tree!” she said. Meanwhile, my son and I made ourselves comfortable and watched a squirrel who was yelling at us from his perch.
On our second walk, I took my three-year-old son Edwin on the state park’s West Tower Mine Trail. We decided to leave dawdle duckling home with her dad. The trail goes by the park’s deepest open pit. Looking into the pit makes me sort of dizzy. It’s so deep it really rattles my brain. I explained to Ed how it was dug using explosives, he liked that. We tried to come up with ideas about how the miners could have gotten down so deep. We experimented by shouting “ECHO” over the different pits and into the elevator shaft to the underground mine.
It felt so good to be able to just be outside and freely enjoy my time. My summer felt like it had been lost to the demands of the garden. On our walk I tried to teach Ed some of the wilderness survival tips I know. I told Ed about what to do if you see a bear or if you get lost in the woods. Oops! Ed started acting scared in the middle of our loop, “I want to go home,” he said. My educational talks freaked him out. We stopped and had a snack and he told me he was afraid of running into a bear. I talked some more about it. I told him there’s nothing to worry about and that there probably are not any bears around anyway. In retrospect, despite it being early afternoon, it was pretty cloudy and dark.
Our last hike we took as a family, on the Ancient Cedar Trail in Tower. Dot and her dad Mack hardly made it to the trail entrance and spent most of their time playing on the snowmobile trail bridge while Ed and I took a short loop trail. The heavy, damp air of that forest makes my heart swoon.
Now that I’ve acclimated, I’m going to try to make the best of what we’ve got and stop complaining. After all, we only have one life to live and most days won’t be 75 and sunny so it’s best to just be thankful for the days we have, no matter the weather or the season.

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