How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Winter

Picture of Mike ice fishing with setting sun in the background

Magical and wild and energizing

by Mike Ostrouschko

In an attempt to find solace, I moved into the northwoods of Minnesota for what was supposed to be a single busy warm season. When Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply graciously invited me to work for the winter, I jumped at the opportunity despite the fact Old Man Winter and myself had never seen eye-to-eye. As my first northwoods winter approached, so too did my prequels to seasonal depression – anxiety, nervousness, and an impending sense of loneliness, all feelings typical of Minnesota winters throughout my life.

Ice fishing was never something I thought I’d enjoy on any level. I recall a morning early last spring atop a frozen lake up the Gunflint Trail bordering the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness; On this particular morning I had the three mile long lake to myself with only a bucket to double as my seat and storage for my other necessities which included, an ice-fishing rod, a hand-auger to drill holes through 24” of ice, an ice scoop to keep the hole clear of ice, and a few lures for the purpose of catching rainbow trout. A deep sense of belonging overcame me as I sat atop my bucket jigging (periodically raising the rod and line to bring the fake lure to life), staring into the mesmerizing beauty of the now-rising sun and its icy reflections across the lake, listening to the extremely loud and eerie cracking of ice beneath my feet (when the ice thaws in the spring, it tends to crack and explode so loudly it resembles small earthquakes beneath your feet). Even when I don’t catch a fish, which isn’t all too rare for me, I find the peace, quiet, and cold to be extremely relaxing and soulfully regenerative.

I quickly found, not too unlike my summers, what I lacked in city winters was wild adventure and having nature’s undeniable beauty within reach at all times. My first cold season in Grand Marais would prove magical and wild and energizing. Life’s constant search for peace, solitude, and calm came to a screeching halt on that first solitary hike into the great white silence; the rhythmic crunch of snow accompanying each step; the slowly falling snowflakes filling the air, reflecting light in ways that seemed to demand my attention and speak to my soul; snow-muffled silence, only interrupted by the occasional approaching blustery gust of wind and the eerie cracking of the now frozen birch and spruce as they sway back and forth. I now find winter to be meditation at its best, and meditation to be a cold winter hike in a boreal forest or a day alone atop a frozen lake.

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