This week’s ponderings: owls, a movie, whether we should keep working

This column originally appeared in the Feb. 4, 2016, issue of the Portage County Gazette. Owl update: the regal creatures have continued to appear annually in Wisconsin since the original publication. Photo below by Tim Krause. Photo of owl in field by Christina Streiff.

Being a column about recreation, this is also where we consider important questions of life. The word “recreate” is, after all, literally about reviving and remaking ourselves.

Here we ruminate on issues related to play and work, meaning and meaninglessness, our use of time, and whether a colonoscopy is more fun than hiking the Appalachian Trail.

We have both little questions and big questions.  The little ones:  Why do the snowy owls keep coming back, and is the movie “A Walk in the Woods” worth seeing?  We’ll get to those.

The big one, which only readers can answer for themselves, is this.

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“Jewel of Marathon County forests” offers miles of winter fun

This column originally appeared in the Feb. 15, 2017, issue of the Portage County Gazette.

Checking out the scenery at Nine Mile County Forest rec area

Is Wausau too big?

Of course not. The question seems ludicrous unless you ardently love even smaller cities like Stevens Point. 

But over a tasty wheat beer in downtown Wausau with a friend, prior to a Marathon County snowshoeing outing, the question took root and shaped my thoughts on another excellent regional attraction.  

On Google Earth, the Nine Mile County Forest Recreation Area looks worthy of a Presidential Award of Yuuuugeness and Economic Development.

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Heart of winter helps us value community treasures

This column originally appeared in the Feb. 4, 2016, issue of the Portage County Gazette. Like that week, this one had a big snowstorm, but the column is appropriate for other reasons. As I keep archiving my old work, my appreciation grows for our friends who helped build the community into what it is. The local history represented by the Zimmermans and Bev Laska is significant, especially when it comes to places like Schmeeckle Reserve and the Green Circle Trail.

Ron and Donna Zimmerman

Tuesday’s snowstorm was a big block party that brought all the neighbors out for a fiesta of snowblowers and shovels. There were almost as many folks out on the sidewalks as we can see on our  way back from downtown summer festivals.

Observing everyone simultaneously taking care of our city-owned sidewalks is just one more reminder of the good Midwestern community ethos we have here.  It’s also a fine time to recognize some folks who have made Portage County a wonderful place in which to live.

Zimmermans not slowing down 

Visiting with Ron and Donna Zimmerman is like the best kind of snowfall.  Stories start drifting down around you.  You can just sit back and take it all in; next thing you know, you look up and you’re buried in wonderland.

I spent a couple of hours talking to the longtime University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point naturalists at their home east of Polonia recently. “Naturalists” doesn’t nearly do justice to their collective accomplishments and careers, but it might be the easiest way to describe the two of them together.

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Moving forward tough while remembering the past

This column originally appeared in the June 1, 2017, issue of the Portage County Gazette. Most of it is about a day spent on the Ice Age Trail and its connecting routes, but my column often addressed more than one topic. In this case, it was the memory of a colleague I respected a great deal.

Even though last week was a good one, with a fun birthday party outdoors and more hiking on the Ice Age Trail, it was also a week of sorrow, as we lost another great friend of the outdoors.

I was home preparing for my daughter’s party when I heard the news, and it cast a pall over much of the weekend. Still, the party ended up being a fine one, with rambunctious 8-to-10-year-olds running around the yard, driveway and garage, which we had cleaned out for birthday cake and a place safe from the rain that threatened but never came.

Earlier in the week, I had finished 16 more miles of the Ice Age Trail.  As always, it was a wonderful time, made better with the company of a good friend.

We can never take such times for granted, because they always disappear too soon.

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Muir exhibit leaving soon, but Muir Park easy to visit

This column originally appeared in the Oct. 24, 2017, issue of the Portage County Gazette. The Muir traveling exhibit hasn’t disappeared, though — it can be booked through the Wisconsin Historical Society for those interested in exhibiting it.

It’s the last weekend to see the state historical society’s exhibit on John Muir while it’s in Stevens Point, but that doesn’t mean it’s your last chance to get a little closer to understanding what he was about.

The eight-panel exhibit, set up through Oct. 21 in the lobby of the library at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, focuses on Muir’s youth in Wisconsin, his advocacy for the U.S. national parks system and his thoughts on environmental issues.

The exhibit’s next stop is UW-Parkside in Kenosha, where it will reside from Oct. 24-Nov. 11, but anyone can get a slightly different take – and likely a more brisk one – by taking a walk at his boyhood home at John Muir Memorial County Park south of Montello.

Frequent hiking buddy Chris Sadler and I made the hour-long drive to Marquette County to take in the early fall air and see where the 10-year-old Muir learned to swim and loved to explore the natural world.

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