Saturday, February 22, 2014

Day 286 - Turkey Bowling/Running a Snowshoe Race

I have never been turkey bowling or run a snowshoe race. While neither of these things was on my list of new experiences to tackle during the course of my “I have never...” year, the timing of a series of events landed me in the unique position of experiencing both in the same day. After making a trip to the Northwoods with my friends, Amanda and Megan, and Amanda’s mother, Kathy, on the tail of strong winter storm yesterday, we prepared to gain the new experience of visiting the Apostle Island Ice Caves today. Unfortunately, we woke to find the National Parks Service had closed access to the caves as a result of high winds and more than a foot of snow, which left us scrambling to find a fun way to experience something new and make the most of our day. Our search ultimately led us to the Frozen Tozen winter festival in Boulder Junction, and opened the door to a day of experiences I won’t soon forget.

Well, there's something new...

When we arrived in Boulder Junction this morning, we were surprised to find a sleepy town showing hardly any signs of ongoing festivities. A brief search of the town’s few blocks ultimately led us to a small park on the outskirts of the village where a few cars lined a small narrow parking lot bordered by a few banners reading “Frozen Tozen.” Although the event appeared to have very little by way of festival-goers, the four of us were quick to unload from Kathy’s truck and explore the grounds.


The setup

Amanda getting ready

Walking down the only path leading beyond the parking lot, we encountered a group of roughly 20 people milling about a park space defined by an ice rink supporting turkey bowling and shuffleboard events and a pavilion serving food and offering a fire pit for visitors to warm by. At first, the lack of attendees was a bit of a concern to me, but I quickly realized the low attendance gave us free reign to take on as many of the events as we wanted to experience while we were at the event. In turn, we quickly found ourselves heading to the ice rink to grab a frozen turkey and play some frames of turkey bowling.

Lining up...

Megan taking a toss

Winding up...

Now, I will be the first to admit the idea of throwing a frozen turkey at ten bowling pins at the other end of an ice rink is more than a little odd, but after trying the experience today I can honestly say this was one of the most entertaining bowling experiences I have ever had. As Amanda, Megan, and I each took our turns heaving a netted frozen turkey through the open winter air to clobber pins waiting some 20 feet away, we couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness and excitement of the event. Additionally, the game involved a fair share of challenge for each of us as we concentrating on high scores while doing our best to control our feet on the slippery surface of the ice. The result was more than a few open frames and a decent amount of close calls as we did our best not to fall at the end of our approach. As with anything, though, we all became more comfortable with time, which spurred our competitive sides as we laughed through the end of the game. To our surprise, a woman that had been observing our effort approached us after our final frame and asked if each of us would be willing to do brief interviews for a Northwest Wisconsin new station. Realizing the opportunity was too good to pass up, we happily obliged.

The release

Megan behind the lens

Our scores

Becoming a local celebrity

Following our interviews, the four of us regrouped as an event coordinator announced the festival’s snowshoe race was approaching. Although I had only been on snowshoes once before, the enthusiasm of my company, including that of Amanda who had never snowshoed before, gave me more than enough inspiration to give it a try. As a result, we promptly headed back to Kathy’s truck to gear up for the snowshoe event. None of us fully new what to expect from the race, but our effort on the bowling rink made it obvious we would make the most of the experience. Our feet strapped into our snowshoes, we gave one another a final check and marched our way near the start of the snowshoe race for the second phase of today’s new experiences.

As the start of the race drew nearer, a steady stream of people began entering the park as the start of the race drew nearer. Eventually, nearly a dozen people in snowshoes gathered around us and began throwing on their sticker tags for identification at the finish line. Following suit, the four of us threw on our race labels and gave one final check of our equipment just as the race groups were announced. With Kathy slated to run in the heat before us, Amanda, Megan, and I watched on as she lined up with about half of the participants and took off along a snowy, forested trail at the end of a starting countdown.

Before the snowshoe race

Eager to have our chance at the course, Amanda, Megan, and I inched closer to the start until our group was called, which resulted in us lining up in the middle of the pack for our heat. As we waited for the countdown to the race, we chatted with some of our fellow participants and plotted our strategies for taking on the course. Although I knew it was likely foolhardy, I decided I was going to give the race my all for as long as I could, hoping I could keep my legs working for the full length of the mile long race. Of course, time would prove that would not be the case.

The countdown to the start of the race came quickly as we chatted and readied our positions on the line. At the call of “Go!” Amanda, Megan, and I each started working our legs quickly through the fresh snow, with me making tall, long strides to work to the front of the pack. That effort resulted in me taking second place early, but the odd resistance and drag produced by the snow rapidly pushed me into a state of fatigue. Doing my best to keep my feet working, each step felt like I was running through sand up a hill, and my body wasn’t prepared for it. As a result, I made it a little more than a few hundred yards before my pace my slowed to a walk and I was left struggling for breath.

As evidence to my failed strategy, Megan and Amanda passed me at a brisk walking pace a short time later, giving me a few passing comments and chuckles as they walked ahead. Although it was clear my all-or-nothing approach to the race failed miserably, I was content taking my time as I continued down the course through white pines laden with puffs of white snow. In the late winter sun, I was surrounded by the beauty of the Northwoods. It was quiet and serene, like a drawing on a postcard or in a storybook, which was more than enough to make me smile.

Megan watching our Wausau news debut

Our successful conclusion of the snowshoe race led us to grab something to eat before returning to the parks various events. We spent the rest of the afternoon playing shuffleboard, racing one another on sleds, and returning to turkey bowling. As the afternoon drew toward evening we made the most of every moment at the Frozen Tozen festival. In turn, the whole of the experience was something unique and memorable, largely thanks to my amazing friends and their equally adventurous spirits. There is no doubt we made the most of today, and in doing so we created some amazing moments at an entirely unexpected event. In the end, I can honestly say those are the experiences I love most, which makes me happy we had everything that came with today.

IHN Bonus: So... this is a place

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