Snowbird

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Last week it was my intent to talk about what I liked about winter as a boy and young man and compare it to now when I am in my 80s. Got so wound up in the 1950s there was no room to write about the present. It did remind me a lot of great stories, which I will share during this winter.

Today, winter is no longer one of my favorite times of year. Now, it joins spring as a good time to go south. Of course, that is what I do. After I retired, I spent eight years living year-round at my Trail Creek cabin. Now I am an absolute snowbird. Spend most of the summer at the cabin and go south to Columbia Falls for the winter, when hunting season ends. Of course, I venture north for Thanksgiving and Christmas at Sondreson Hall, plus a few social events and maybe a photo trip on a sunny day. No more winter camping or snowshoeing.

This year has been no different. I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner at the Hall with new hosts Dick and Janet Leigh and Christmas Day when Jan and Alice Caldwell and Mark and Margaret Heaphy hosted their 10th consecutive Christmas Dinner. With the help of Irv Heitz, who delivered a pickup load of boughs, the hall was resplendent with greenery and bulbs and the singers were tremendous. Joining the experienced voices this year was the Wernick’s handsome grandson, Curtis, age three I think. He stole the show! He did not just sit on his dad’s shoulders either. He knew the words and joined in – even letting us know when they sang the wrong Santa Claus song.

I did miss a few social events that I usually enjoy. Grahams Christmas Party, Irene Brooks dinner party and the bonspeil (curling) as well as visiting the Ogles, Hoilands and other longtime friends.

I understand that there was no beach party this year, but the Ogles hosted a grand chili feed at their house instead. It is ironic that there was no fire and picnic at the river after all these years. That tradition was started by the Hoiland family after the Ogles “crashed” the party on snowmobiles it grew into a big thing with two campfires – one for warming and one for cooking. It was held in any kind of weather, even 10 degrees below zero. This year, we could drive vehicles down to the beach and would not have needed snowmobiles for that last mile to the river.

Although my generation no longer really recreates outdoors in the winter anymore, the younger generation does – at greater risk than we had.

Today’s snowmobiles go faster and higher than in my day when no one had a snowmobile. Already at least four young lives have been snuffed out in avalanches this winter and the ski technology is so advanced that even skiers can reach high avalanche areas in the backcountry. I think even if I were young, my winter adventures would be more like snowshoeing at low elevations and camping at exotic placed like the head of Lower Kintla Lake.

What do you think? Try and be safe out there!

Larry Wilson’s North Fork Views appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.

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