HACKENSACK, Minn. -- Once your Christmas trees are turned to mulch and the New Year’s confetti is swept away, it’s official: the dog days of winter are here.
If you’re like me, getting through a January in Minnesota feels like a 365-day rotation around the sun, minus the warmth that you realize is still six months away.
For the past few weekends, I’ve found myself bundled up -- never straying far from a blanket or five -- on the couch, avoiding the white powdery stuff and its frigid gusts outside my door.
However, I couldn’t help but notice something interesting despite rarely leaving my cave dwelling: Minnesotans were beginning their annual embrace of what I was adamantly avoiding.
Throughout the state, winter festivals were popping up celebrating a winter wonderland with gusto and, in many ways, honoring what’s arisen from a life of perseverance in the cold.
As a transplant from the South, I was taught that winter is something you don’t show an ounce of love for. You simply complain and hope it goes away.
But to my surprise, folks of the Northland don’t back down from it; winter isn’t a time to hibernate, it’s a time to party.
And at some point, rather than focusing on the negatives of winter -- hypothermia, death by icicles -- you realize that if you can’t beat them, join them.
So, after dusting off the cobwebs of reclusion, I ventured to Hackensack last Saturday for a winter romp in the woods to Deep Portage’s 41st annual Winter Rendezvous.
Sure, I could’ve gone to some of the bigger winter events in the state, but this one seemed unique in that I’d get an old-time taste of the cultural heritage of Minnesota.
From tomahawk tossing to trap shooting, a melting pot of activities based on the traditions of Native Americans, lumberjacks and voyageurs was to be featured that day.
And with a location like Deep Portage Learning Center, which is located on more than 6,000 acres of glacial hills, lakes, rivers and bogs, the event offered an instant rekindling with nature for those who’ve evaded it this season.
While some participants strapped on snowshoes and raced through an obstacle course on a nearby pond, others played a game with an atlatl, or spear-thrower -- the aim being to throw the spear a farther distance than one's opponent. Some also tossed tomahawks, an opportunity to experience an aspect of Native American cultural heritage.
Reminding me of bygone school field trips to the Jamestown and Plymouth colonies, the Winter Rendezvous was ultimately like a trip down memory lane -- participating and learning about an antiquated piece in time.
And although I would’ve rather been curled up on my couch at times, especially when falling into a 4-foot pile of snow and having to be pulled out, I found that the Winter Rendezvous kicked me out of a winter blues funk.
In many ways, that is the purpose of a festival held in the harshest season of them all. It’s a reason to come out of our homes, shake off the cabin fever and remind each other that, “Hey, I’m still here.”