Here's the video I made of the Joshua-Tree trip I took last December. The trip was memorable in many ways. Despite having been to over thirty countries, I had never been to California. It was quite the experience. I also experimented with time-lapse for the first time. I hope you enjoy it!
The coldest invasion known to CouchSurfing was upon us in Duluth, MN. This year's highlights included a walk through Pattinson State Park to see the frozen Little Manitou Falls and a mineral-laden river, a potluck at an art gallery, a walk on the beach next to Duluth and the Knife River further north, and of course the famous Betty's Pies and the ice bar. I was happy to see the more even split between Wisconsin and Minnesota this year, with the entire bar crawl occurring in Superior. It was another fun event and a great way to end a week of travel.
I drove northbound through the frigid cold for most of the day. I wanted to get to Thunder Bay, Ontario and didn't think I'd make it at first because the roads were terrible. At times I had to slow down to 25 on the highway and still was sliding around and had almost no visibility. But before long the roads cleared and I was on my way. Lake Superior was frozen enough around the bay near Ashland that cars could drive on the ice, but as I went further north the lake was still in liquid form. It's been another strange winter.
I first met Lloyd in Bolivia back in 2005 and we really hit it off. He and his wife started a hostel in Thunder Bay in the early 1970's and spent the next forty years traveling, sponsoring new Canadian refugees, and welcoming guests to their hostel (among many other things). I visited him once in Thunder Bay in 2006, but hadn't seen him since.
Lloyd and I checked out the lake, which had just frozen in the last few days, and we did some driving around, at one point finding an abandoned streetcar. It was -38 C (-36 F) my first day there, so we didn't have much motivation to explore the great outdoors.
Even though it was the dead of winter, some interesting guests stayed at the hostel. First a guy from Newfoundland and his friend from Georgia (the country) showed up for the night. They were loggers on their way to a job but needed a new engine for their truck. The next day they gave up looking around Thunder Bay and decided to try driving to Winnipeg and look for engines from there. I have no idea if they made it.
Then a young man who was a chef showed up late at night. He too was driving across the country to a new job, but he had all of his worldly possessions in his car. He got into an accident near Thunder Bay and totaled his car. He threw everything into a U-Haul and drove to the hostel. Then he found out that he could catch the bus early in the morning and decided to take what he could and leave the rest behind. There was a pile of stuff in the driveway when we got up the next day, and Lloyd and I spent hours going through it. Most of it went either to the dump or the Salvation Army, but I drove home with a new pair of ice skates. The poor kid was almost in shock when we saw him, so that must've been some job he had to leave everything behind like that.
It was great visiting Lloyd again – he's got friends all over Thunder Bay and has all sorts of interesting stories to tell. Next time I'll visit in summer, though.
The Hoofers Outing Club in Madison does an annual cross-country ski trip in Delta, which is kind of between Hayward and Ashland, but really in the middle of nowhere. They must do something well, though, because this was my third time going there. On the drive up I listened to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in the car and realized that we should've listened to it on the way home from the West Coast, starting in Barstow.
I was one of the first to get there, so I had some time to ski around the little lake in front of the lodge with four dogs close behind. As more people arrived, we skied across the bigger lake to get dinner. It was -5 degrees for our ski back late at night, and we were accompanied by the eerie whale-like noises of the ice expanding, with no sounds of human activity nearby.
The weather may have been cold, but northern Wisconsin hadn't gotten much snow all winter, so we had our work cut out for us in finding somewhere to ski. We made a good choice in going to Mount Ashwabay, which has both downhill and cross-country trails. Not being a great skier, I stuck with the easier cross-country trails and got a nice workout. The trails hadn't been groomed since the snowfall the previous night, so we got to break them in. And by the time we got back to the parking lot, the warming hut was open. It was an all-around great day of skiing.
Back at the lodge, we had dinner and a few hours to hang out at the Animal House, which is over 100 years old and is more rustic, though a bit bigger, than the other cabins.
The real reason to go on this trip is the sauna, a great way to relax the muscles after a hard day of skiing. And the best way to sauna is to stay inside until you can't take it anymore, then run outside and roll around snow and really get it searing all over your body, then run back inside the sauna. Repeat four times, rinse, and you're good to go. Trust me.
For our second day we went to After Hours, which is a nice recreational area with cross-country trails that crisscross each other every few hundred feet. They had just gotten snow and it was freshly groomed, so it was another fun day. With a high of 30, it was almost too hot, but we would soon be begging for such warm weather.
The temperature plummeted at night, reaching -5 by the time we left the lodge the next morning. We decided to check out Valhalla, another recreational area near Ashwabay, but where the trails don't tend to get groomed very often. The trails turned out to be fine, and with a slow, sustainable pace, we never got too cold. And unlike the last time I was at Valhalla, there were no snowmobiles, so it was nice and quiet.
My big challenge on our way out of the lodge was to get a group photo. The temperature had reached -16 and it was snowing and windy, so I knew I wouldn't have much time. We all ran in front of the Animal House and I snapped off a bunch of pictures with my remote. I think the results turned out pretty good.
Before heading home, we stopped at Delta Diner, which has become a tradition on this trip. The diner has only been around for about a decade, but it's almost reached legendary status in the area with motorcycle and classic car clubs stopping by regularly during the summer. And what better way to end this trip than with a big, delicious breakfast?