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Surviving five months of intense cold and snow is tough enough when you're a human being and (supposedly) smart enough to bundle up and not let the embers die out from November to March. Imagine what it would be like if, in this life, you happened to be a wood frog: The hardy amphibian freezes SOLID in winter, then thaws out in spring, ready for courting. Or what about a painted turtle? When cold winds blow, the turtle buries itself in lake sediments – and dispenses with breathing for four long months.
You can learn about the ways other species cope with Wisconsin's brutal winters in the company of author and former DNR naturalist John Bates, who'll be leading Winter Ecology Tours (on cross-country skis and snowshoes) at Minocqua Winter Park in Oneida County.
Bates, whose column "Northwoods Almanac" has appeared in the Lakeland Times for many years, also has to his credit the books Trailside Botany and A Seasonal Guide to the Natural Year for Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota. In other words, this is a guy who knows the territory well enough to explain how bears reprocess urea into muscle tissue while hibernating. In case you wanted to know.
Minocqua Winter Park offers 40 miles of groomed and tracked ski trails traversing hilly, open and wooded terrain. Although the two-hour tours will proceed at a leisurely pace, they're not recommended for very young skiers or shoers, who may have trouble keeping up.
Ski tours will be held on December 30 and February 15, the snowshoe tour on January 18. All tours run from 1-3 p.m. The cost: $15 per adult, $25 per couple, $8 for children under 12. Trail passes are required and cost an additional $10 per adult. Each tour is limited to fifteen people, so it's a good idea to make reservations. Contact Minocqua Winter Park, 12375 Scotchman Lake Rd., Minocqua 54548. (715) 356-3309, or Trails North at (715) 476-2828.
A nice warm goat
It wouldn't be polite to cast aspersions on Santa Claus, the Jolly Old Soul himself. But it's the same old thing every holiday season, isn't it? Ho, ho, ho. Yawn, yawn, yawn. So how about this: Shake up your Christmas traditions and visit Old World Wisconsin – where you can await the arrival of the "Christmas Goat" at the Finnish farmstead.
Yes, you read that right. The Christmas Goat. On November 30 & December 1, December 7 & 8 and 14 & 15, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. you can wander through restored pioneer homes and structures on the 600-acre site owned by the State Historical Society. Buildings will be decked out in seasonal finery, and costumed guides will be on hand to explain ethnic holiday traditions.
All Finns and those of Finnish descent are undoubtedly guffawing over the fact that you never have heard of their quaint Christmas custom. If this insouciance has got your goat, get over to Old World Wisconsin to see if that Xmas goat can be got!
Should you work up an appetite waiting for the Jolly Old Goat, you can enjoy a tasty Danish holiday dinner with ethnic holiday music and more at Old World's Clausing Barn Restaurant on December 7 & 8, and December 14 &15.. Dinner seating is limited; please make reservations for this special dinner by calling (414) 594-2922.
Old World Wisconsin is located two miles south of Eagle on Highway 67 in Waukesha County. Daily admission:$7 adults, $3 children 5-12, $6.30 seniors. (414) 594-2116. Admission for the holiday program is $5.50 for adults, $3 for children 5-12. (414) 594-6300.