Minnesota’s Wimpy, Wimpy Winter

It was bound to happen.   A wimpy Minnesota winter, that is.   If the first two weeks of 2006 is any indication as to how the duration of the winter will likely be…well, we might as well start thinking about getting our boats out of storage and dreaming of calling up some ol’ gobbler this spring.   Those times can’t be far off…can they?

Truth is this mild weather should not be any surprise…at least not to me.   December looked promising.   Moments of bitter cold temps and several snowstorms that dumped a fair amount of fluff on the countryside.   Oh, of course, it was too late to help my deer hunting in ’05…but it had the makings of turning into a long, cold, snowy winter early on.

Then I made the fatal mistake.   It was a mistake I made about 25 years earlier, too.   What I did was purchase a pair of snowshoes for my wife as a Christmas present.   That was this year’s mistake.   Years ago I purchased snowshoes for myself and discovered for the next three winters there wasn’t enough snow to use them in each of the successive winter seasons.

I’ve been urging my wife with the notion…maybe we should take the snowshoes back to the store while we can still get credit on them this year.   So far she’s been balking at the thought, because she has a certain fondness for the gift.   Sure, I don’t blame her…the thought of traipsing through a snowy woods like some Adirondack pioneer has a certain appeal…but the practicality is the roughly $125 I spent on the shoes could easily be converted to a new gift with more functional use.

So, blame it on me.   Yes, I purchased another pair of snowshoes this year and THAT is the reason for our crappy winter.   If history holds…the next two upcoming winters are likely to be lousy, too.

Certainly the winter we’ve experienced in the upper Midwest has some pluses and minuses.   On the plus side is the ease in which wildlife has had to use its reserves to survive.   Deep snows usually represent trouble for vulnerable wildlife, such as pheasants, deer, etc.   But this year most of these critters have gotten by easy (fingers crossed that it continues).

But on the negative side are the poor conditions for ice fishing.   Early cold temperatures did not linger long enough to make good ice before the heavy snows came in early December.   The heavy snow putting pressure on new ice does not equate for good ice.   And now with the unseasonably warm temps that have lingered for about three weeks has turned that poor ice into dangerous ice.   Just ask one of the many fools who have lost their vehicles through the ice on some Minnesota lake this year.   It happens and it can be deadly.

In Minnesota, as well as many of the other northern tier states, our winter outdoor pastimes revolve around cold temperatures and weather that cooperates by being normal.   That has not exactly happened this year.

Take the St. Paul (Minnesota) winter carnival, for instance.   This annual celebration depends on winter cooperating.   This year the crappy weather is even threatening to cancel many of the events, such as outdoor hockey events, car races on ice, etc.

As outdoor enthusiasts, we sometimes forget how much we depend on the weather to cooperate in order for us to have our fun.   Take snowshoeing, for instance…if the depth of the snow isn’t at least 8 to 12 inches why even bother strapping them on?

As for my wife, oh, she’ll likely keep the snowshoes I gave her for the holidays…’cause she’s just that type of appreciative woman.   Perhaps she’ll take some solace in the fact she’s not alone.   My guess is, this year there were lots of winter-dependent gifts left under the Christmas tree by Santa…many of which just might have to wait another year before they get much use.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.