Exploring winter with Brazilian friends

GOING NATURE’S WAY
By Kate Crowley
We are entering the month when people are getting tired of winter and Saturday with the temperature reaching into the 50’s didn’t make matters any easier. As expected, the temperatures dropped on Sunday and we got snow, typical for this month of transition. If you are beginning to experience the winter ‘blahs’, Mike and I can recommend a guaranteed cure that does not involve flying off to some tropical climes, even though that may sound pretty darn good.  No, what we recommend is importing some friends from the Southern Hemisphere.  These should be people who are not afraid of real winter weather; people like Deise Nizzola and Ricardo Alves.
We have known Deise since 1995 when she came to the Audubon Center as an international intern.  She and Ricardo live at the very southern end of Brazil, so they do have seasons, including winter.  They might occasionally get a little snow, but it is short lived and mostly winter is a cold, damp season.  Deise and Ricardo last came to visit in December six years ago with their two daughters.  Ricardo and the girls had never experienced true winter and they all loved it.  This trip the girls are living vicariously through their parent’s Facebook postings and feeling very jealous.
Ricardo’s hope was to be able to shovel while he was here and as February progressed and the snow melted away we thought he would not be able to realize his ‘dream’.  But a week ago Monday, snow fell overnight and into the morning.  It was a soft, picture perfect snowfall and the two of them sat by the windows feeling happy and blessed.  After an inch and a half had accumulated Ricardo could wait no longer and asked if he could go out and clean the deck.  We handed him the shovel and his normally smiling face lit up.  Deise went out to video his efforts. 

Do you know how it feels to have children show excitement and wonder at those things which in adulthood seem mundane or even annoying?  The wonder of childhood does not have to end with the teenage years.  All of us can reclaim these feelings with ‘new’ eyes.  Deise and Ricardo are filling that role for us. 
Later that morning we headed over to Banning State Park.  By this time the snow had taken on a wetter consistency and we bemoaned the fact that it would ruin the soft, snowy landscape, but the temperature dropped again as we got near the Kettle River and the snowflakes returned.  These episodes of rain, snow melt and refreezing are not what we Minnesotan’s want.  Snow we can deal with, but extensive ice is a new and dangerous reality.  Mike warned the Brazilians numerous times to watch where they stepped, because it is never more dangerous than when covered by a thin layer of new snow. 
We all walked gingerly towards Teacher’s Overlook, which is a great spot to look down on the river.  Mike was leading the way and as he descended a slight slope, I watched as both of his feet flew out from beneath him and he fell flat on his back, with his head snapping back at the last second.  I ran up as he grabbed the back of his head. Sure enough, he’d managed to make a direct hit on an exposed rock.  Fortunately, it didn’t break the skin and after some time regaining his wits he got back up and we all cautiously made our way back to the trail.  He had not been knocked out, nor did he have any amnesia, so he chose not to go to the hospital. (A day later we did and it was determined that he had whiplash, not a concussion). 
He did have a headache but felt that we could still continue on our explorations, only more cautiously than before and avoiding the packed trails where the ice was waiting.  The river was beautiful of course; sheets of ice, dark water rushing over the rocks, and ice flows hanging on the sides of the canyon.  And still the snowflakes fell.  We bushwhacked (a new word for Deise and Ricardo) up the slope and then made our way down to the old Quarry buildings. Mike was breaking the trail and we followed, with our two friends walking more slowly because their cameras were recording stills and videos of this marvelous hike. 
Mike and I talked about the fact that even though we love Banning, we probably would not have gone out on this day to experience its beauty without our ‘out-of-town’ friends.   There is no question that our pleasure was amplified by seeing Deise and Ricardo’s absolute contentment of being in this place under these winter conditions.

Since that day, we have gone on more hikes and driven up the North Shore to Split Rock Lighthouse and each day has renewed our appreciation for this beautiful state, which we are fortunate enough to live in. Deise and Ricardo know how lucky we are and once again, so do we. 
It is too easy to become blind to our environment and the many parks that protect it for all of us to enjoy all year round.  Introducing foreigners to our state is good for everyone involved.  I wish more people could do this. 


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