Conquered

Well, it’s finally our one-year wedding anniversary tomorrow, so I have officially taken the wedding cake out of the freezer to defrost. I don’t even know why I froze it to begin with. Somewhere along the line someone told me that you’re supposed to freeze the top of your wedding cake to eat on your one-year anniversary and I just blindly followed that advice without even wondering why I should put perfectly good cake in the freezer to get freezer burned for a year. I am so much more excited about getting the freezer space back than about eating the year long frozen cake.

Not long after we celebrate our anniversary we’ll head off on our annual trip to the “North Shore”. The “North Shore” is the North shore of Lake Superior, which runs all the way along the arrowhead (That’s what we call that pointy part of MN). It’s filled with state parks full of waterfalls and rivers and rapids and sinkholes, light houses, beautiful views and hikes, trails to the Boundary Waters, and resorts. (And let’s not forget, “Betty’s Pies”!) Many people visit in the Summer or Fall, and we’ve done that too, but we like to go in the Winter.

It’s our Christmas present to each other. One year we were talking about gifts, and we both decided that what would be really nice, would be to go away for the weekend. Throughout the other seasons we are out of town a minimum of a couple weekends a month, but since we don’t go to the lake in the Winter (Campers are not really made for Winter), cabin fever sets in shortly after the holidays.

So started a tradition of going to the North Shore in January, and giving it to each other as our Christmas gifts. Last year we went to the Bahamas instead, for our honeymoon, but otherwise we’ve been going every Winter for eight or so years.

It is an adventure. If you’ve been following my tweets you have probably seen some of the pictures from Winter wonderland. Every year is different. Some years there’s no snow and we can’t ice skate or ski, or some years there’s lots of snow but its twenty below so lacing up your skates outside almost kills you.

There’s a certain amount of satisfaction you feel when you take on the cold and win. We bundle up and head out into the cold- for skiing, for hiking, for ice skating, for snow shoeing, fishing, and sightseeing. When you’re working hard, like I always am when I’m cross country skiing, it can be twenty below out but you still end up peeling off your hat and undoing your jacket. Just don’t stand still.

I was not always a fan of winter sports. I have always been a hiker, so it was me that first took J to the North Shore to hike all the state parks. He joked that he had never “spent this much time walking in the woods without a gun”. (No hunting in state parks!) It was only fair then, when J suggested ice skating that I give it a go. Plus, I figured by encouraging me to do it he was also taking full responsibility for my care in the event that I fall and get a brain injury. He took me one day to the skate store, and helped me pick out a pair of skates. From there we went directly to the ice rink. He helped me lace them up and gave me his hands when I stood up for the first time on my new skates. I hadn’t skated since I was a little kid. Once I stood up I didn’t move and I was like, “Isn’t this enough for one day?” but J was not going to let me off that easy.

J is an excellent ice skater. OMG I get the heart flutters when I watch him out on the ice. (Which I do a lot because I am a fan of taking breaks) He likes hockey, so he’s been skating since he was a kid, never stopped doing it like me. He can skate circles around me and he’s much better at stopping.

Once I committed to ice skates I wanted to be able to do it without J having to hold my hands. I started going once or twice a week to the ice rink without J (Back before we lived together), to practice on my own and fall down while maintaining my dignity because no one was watching.

I would put in my ear buds and skate around and kind of feel like I was back at the roller rink as a kid. All the little kids there, on the other hand, probably called me “the weird old lady who comes to skate on Wednesdays” behind my back.

I’m an ok ice skater, but I have never mastered stopping fast. I can just turn really sharp. For this reason, I thought it might be a good idea to try figure skates. Oh, I forgot to tell you, I learned to skate again on hockey skates because J thinks they are the best and I kind of agree. So anyway, I borrowed my sister’s figure skates, thinking a toe pick might be just what I needed.

I was on the ice for maybe one minute when I rolled my ankle. J tried to catch me, but I went down on the ice, hard, on my arm. My arm was fine. My rib was broken. If you have ever had broken a rib you know how it ruins your life for a while. You can’t move without it hurting and laughing is out of the question and I like to laugh. I was more comfortable standing than sitting, so I stood around a lot holding my side.

Eventually, I ice skated again, in my hockey skates. (I gave those damn figure skates right back to my sister) It’s safe to say I am not as daring as I once was, and I have accepted that J will always skate circles around me. (Really sexy circles, though) The ice rink at the resort is kind of small and made for hockey, but I’ll get a skate in either way. Every time I do skate outside I always think to myself, why don’t I do this more often?

Which is not always the case with cross country skiing. Cross country skiing was something J also wanted try so we first skied at a local park where we could rent skis and the trails are groomed. We accidentally took the hard route. I fell down like five times going downhill, no lie. I consider myself to be a very good sport when it comes to skiing. One of the last times I fell, I saw J cover his mouth and turn his head to hide his laugh. (I know, people laugh when other people fall down all the time, why are we like that? It’s like we can’t help it) In return I made him carry his own water bottle because I was tired of falling on it in my hoodie pocket.

When we first skied the North Shore, it was so beautiful in the woods and peaceful and there were not a ton of people and the trail was not too hard. I really enjoyed it. But later, I felt like I pulled an inner thigh muscle (whatever its called) and I limped to dinner. Since then, I require we do all other physical activities before we go skiing because I might not be able to do any of them afterwards. Because we went to a tropical island last year instead, it’s been two years since I skied. This means that my feet will hurt and I will be huffing and puffing. But at least I won’t be cold!

Every year we also always hope to see a moose. J saw them a lot on the farm growing up, but I have never seen one in the wild. Where we live is too far south for moose. We have tracked moose trails through the woods in our snow shoes, and driven all the way up the Gunflint and Sawbill trails, and also all the way up to the point of the arrowhead- but still no moose. It just gives us a reason to get out and keep trying.

And if we survive the day (Read: I don’t die skiing), we return, exhausted and tired but also happy and invigorated, to our room. We’ll enjoy the wood-burning fireplace, the hot jacuzzi, the sound of the waves (Lake Superior doesn’t freeze- “not for forty years” the lady at the resort told me last time), the beautiful views of the lake from every window, and feel like we beat the cold one more time.

Winter, conquered.

Nic

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