Reflections

Each time the Trumpeter swans dipped their necks into the mirror-like waters of Culbertson Lake, I carefully made my decent down the steep bank. I had stalked these two swans before and even though they knew I have never posed any immediate danger, they still kept their distance. Earlier this year they had eluded my lens by moving into the shadows of the trees. Today provided a different outcome where I was able to slither my way through the maze of downed aspen trees to reach the banks. They quickly recognized they had a spectator and slowly swam toward the beaver hut, away from the lone wolf of the paparazzi on Culbertson Lake.

Two swans a swimming

As the swans made their way around the perimeters of the unthawed portions of the lake, I heard another noise that came from the frozen section. An otter was popping up from one hole to the next enjoying a little spring-time warmth. He too was on the outer limits of my camera and made me think that I might want to invest in a spotting scope and give that a try. I hear that you can use that with your camera to get some great close up shots. That gives me two good reasons to get one now, so that makes it a necessity in my mind right?

Midnight blue ice

otter fun

As I watched the otter I couldn’t help but think about the family of beavers that used to keep the lake levels a bit higher. If you weren’t aware, many times otters chase off the beavers and take over their lodges. The otters, like the beavers, will give me plenty of entertainment this summer that I hope to share with you.

This year’s weather has sure been interesting too. I look up the stats so far this year and the month of January was 6 degrees above normal, and February was an astounding 11 degrees above normal. Both months have also seen over an inch more precipitation than average, but mostly in rain rather than snow. March has been about two degrees below normal on the temperature side of things, but has been ahead on the moisture end once again. This little cold snap is about to end and this weeks temperatures should rebound quite nicely. This warm up will finally allow us to  open the driving range on Monday and the golf courses on Wednesday at 11 am.

The course was originally nice and green when the snow first melted, but the recent cold and wind has turned it brown in most locations. The best looking grass on the course can be found on the putting green. 12 green and 9 green which we had tarps on. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done yet before the course can return to its normal green and pristine condition.

12 green after the tarp was removed

So spread the word and enjoy your upcoming week! I hope to see you swinging the club sometime soon.

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Danger: Thin Ice

Pressure crack opening up on Birch Island

Ice conditions on our area lakes have been deteriorating for almost a month now. Warm weather and stronger sun angles have already pushed some lakes into the final, critical stage of ice-melt. For us, this means dealing with shoreline erosion. When the ice is no longer frozen to the shore, large chunks start to shift around. This shifting is further driven by strong winds, like those we experienced last week. Intense winds can move these ice sheets in manners similar to Earth’s tectonic plates; in some spots sheets of ice will collide with one another, often causing the lighter of the two sheets to be pushed under the other. Other sheets of ice can be forced up onto the shore, creating rapid erosion of the shoreline. All of these processes create more open water, which the wind can then blow around to eat away at existing ice, which in turn creates more ice sheets that drive the process even faster.

Ice push on Par 3 golf course

Needless to say, the end result of the winds this week was a lot of open water on multiple area lakes. What’s crazy to me is that you can still go out to find up to 10 or even 12 inches of ice in some places, but it varies so greatly even on a single lake. I can’t help but dread that we’re going to have some very cold days coming up. It’s my fear that some of these spots of open water will freeze up again with a thin layer of ice and someone will walk or drive a vehicle over them and fall in. I honestly have never seen such varying conditions on our lakes so please consider my warning and pass it along.

Wind sock at attention

Beside making a mess out of our area lakes the wind caused a host of issues for people in the community. Trees that were weak or compromised by something fell victim to the raging winds that hit 50 mph at times.  Parts of the golf course look like a mad-man with a samurai sword went to town through our beautiful course. When our wonderful volunteers assemble this spring for our annual golf course cleanup day I’m quite assured that everyone will go home knowing that their kind gesture was needed and made difference.  For me it is this assembly of member power that signifies the start of a great new season!

Spring will soon be here with all its renewed beauty (Hanscom Lake 2016)

The Color Green

I would have to guess that if someone were to ask my blog followers “what do you think is Steve’s favorite color”, a majority of you might answer green for obvious reasons. The answer to that question is actually blue for about 10 months of the year, but when spring comes around I confess that I turn into a green lover.  For me there’s no better sight than a green blade of grass poking out of the grips the ‘winter midnight white’ as I call it.

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14 green on Feb 23

2017 will forever be remembered by me as the first year that I saw almost the entire golf course look green in February.  This was such a relief for me, as I had worried about the course ever since ice formed on our greens and other low areas right after Christmas.  Normally Poa Annual grass is not a big fan of stress in the winter and would rather die and come back from seed in the spring that fight for is life.  This years early melt however allowed some fresh air to get to the plant and was literally a life saver for some of our turf.

I know that many of you were happy to hear this morning that we missed out on a snow storm that went just south of us, but I personally would have welcomed a blanket of snow to insulate the grass from the ever-changing temperatures this time of the year. But before we all celebrate and grab our clubs and head out to the course, we have to remember that we’re not out of the woods yet. We very may be open by St. Patrick’s day like last year, and might even be our earliest opening yet, but only time will tell.

One thing  is for sure that the changing weather this past week has provided some great sunrises and sunsets and lots of noise from geese and swans already returning for the season.

Sunrise at West Cadotte Sunday February 19, 2017 as we got ready to install the new docks on the ice

Sunrise at West Cadotte, February 19th, as we got ready to install the new docks on the ice.

If you’re looking for something to do these days, come join the adventure club and take a hike around the Village.  The conditions are perfect for hiking right now and those pesky bugs shouldn’t be an issue this weekend. However, my son was down by our creek early this week and already had a tick, so don’t let your guard down and forget to practice tick safety when you are out enjoying the outdoors.

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Irrigation pond already open and taking goose reservations

-Steve

Help Wanted

The past two weeks have once again seen a melt and then return to winter.  This up and down weather certainly is not good for the golf course as ice continues to build up.  Snowmobile trails were shut down for over a week, but thankfully this week’s four inch snowfall has enabled most of the trails around Voyager Village to be opened up again. For snow enthusiasts good news is in the forecast for next week and conditions should continue to improve. The ski club has also been busy and overcame some equipment issues earlier in the week and now have the trails in good conditions.  A skating area has also been graciously established by a member in front of the East Cadotte beach so lace up those skates and have some fun!

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Melt water on greens last week

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Caution: slippery when wet!

 

Unfortunately for the maintenance staff this winter has been hard on our ranks; two full-time employees have been laid up with injuries. This along with budget cuts have been at the forefront of my mind lately, especially since there is never a shortage of projects to tackle year-by-year in our community. I’m sure most of you know I’ve never particularly been the type to ask for help, but right now I could truly use some extra hands. If any of you have time to spare or a passion to help out I would highly encourage you to adopt a hole, beach, flower bed, sand trap, dock, trail or recreational area to help maintain this coming season. I will be creating a list over the next few weeks and will share it with anybody who is interested. Even if just a fraction of our members pitched in for one hour a week, that can quickly add up to hundreds of hours over the season spent improving our community. We have accomplished so much over the years together and I have high hopes that this will be no different. If you have any inquires or even project ideas, please email them to me at stevejohnson@voyagervillage.com.

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Volunteers paved the way for many of the changes that members and guests enjoy today. Here in 2006 they fixed the rough and approach around 8 green.

 

Break out the sleds!

I think that everyone in the Village is waiting to see the cold loose its icy grip on the landscape; even though most of the wildlife around here was certainly excited to see it warm up for a bit, I’m sure it was just as exasperated as we were with this week’s dump of snow.  This last month has had a host of cold days, with this very morning being one of the coldest of the winter so far.  As I ate breakfast the temperature hovered around -23 but as I made my way to work the car thermometer dipped to -30 in a low spot.

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Ruffled Grouse thinking that going south may have been a good idea

As I drove past the clubhouse I couldn’t help but think that some of you would really appreciate a warm swim in our pool.  Sad to say though, the pool is closed until Saturday, January 21 for yearly inspection and maintenance.  On the positive side, it was a good time to have it closed as the air and water are normally kept around 84 degrees.  When it’s close to -20 outside, that’s around a 100 degree temperature difference and requires a lot of propane and electricity to maintain.

Relief is certainly on its way for the weekend and we may actually see the mercury go above freezing next week. This week did see us get some much needed snow for the trails.  We recorded just over 8 inches at the Voyager Village International Airport and the trails are groomed, open and in great shape.  Many of the area lakes now have a foot of ice and I’m seeing vehicles driving on some of them. Of course, this is in no way an endorsement by me for such activities. 🙂 I hope that you enjoy your weekend whether it’s by going outside or just kicking back to watch one of the football games. Stay warm and go Pack go!

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Picture just completed by one of Voyager’s employees: Darryl Vlasak

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Snowmobile trails are in perfect condition

 

 

Wishful Thinking

This past week many of us outdoor enthusiasts were wishing for some snow to improve the skiing and snowmobiling conditions. When we woke Monday morning all that most of us found were roads and driveways severely ice covered.  This powerful storm also brought some furious winds that gust between 40-50 mph.

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Shop parking lot Monday morning.  A tad slick

This storm was especially disappointing to me for many reasons. For starters, most of the precipitation fell as rain and not only made travel by foot or car hazardous but also turned many of our golf greens into skating ponds.  This water and ice coating can be very harmful to our turf so I hope for a early spring.

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Helpful tool to wage war on the ice

The wind turned our golf course into a premium spot for stick picking so please plan on coming next spring to volunteer at our annual spring cleanup day.  The wind blew so hard early Monday morning that some of the salt we put down just blew right off the parking lot and one gust nearly blew me over as I walked across the ice.

The rain may have caused the cancellation of the ski clinic and caused many of us to change our plans for the upcoming week, but it didn’t dampen the spirits of Winter Fest or the Annual Soup Kitchen. The Voyager community shined through at both as happy and hungry residents showed up to take part in the festivities.   I hope to see even more of you in the upcoming year and want to wish you a Happy New Year.

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Broom ball fun

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Ski Club Soup Kitchen Hospitality

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Hole we dug to find Burnett County sand for our icy lots

Old Relics Found

This past week we tried to take advantage of the light snow to we light our community brush pile.  The process went better than the past few years, and as the brush pile burned down I was very surprised to find some old, giant logs at the bottom that must have gotten dropped off during the storm cleanup of 2011.  Their charred presence may lay at the bottom of the pile for many years to come—just like the memories of the storm lay in our minds.

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A good s’more spot

I hope that this upcoming holiday season will bring lots of joyous memories for all members of the Village.  I know that there are some great Winter Bash activities planned the week after Christmas, so please take time to review our schedule and sign up for some fun. This year’s up and down temperatures have certainly created some challenges for some of the activities and their locations.  As of right now, most of Birch Island Lake by the Lodge and the par 3 pond that was used for ice skating last year are a slushy mess on the surface.  I learned from previous years that fighting these type of conditions is not worth it.

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Get your team signed up for this years curling competition.

The present plan is to move to Hanscom Lake right across from our old golf maintenance shop (29191 Hansom Lake Trailway) on hole four.   At this time ice conditions are good and with a few floodings will be really nice.  Everyone is welcome to park at my shop and use the outside bathroom that are used by golfers in the summer, located on the back side of the main, large building across the street.  If we’re around, please feel free to stop in and visit and warm up in our lunch room and have a cup of hot coco if you would like. Please keep in mind that we have no company policy in place that says we can’t take cookies in return for such a warm offer. 🙂

The only problem at this time with implementing the new skating rink and curling area is the predicted storm coming Christmas day.  We will wait to remove the existing snow on the ice until after this storm passes, but the mixed bag of precipitation that is forecast will certainly mess up the good condition of the present ice.  Please call the golf and recreation department to register for all the great events next week and find out the latest details and conditions.

All ski trails are groomed and open but the conditions are not great with the lack of snow. Most areas in the Village are covered with about four to six inches and the sledding hill is groomed and open for business.  Ice conditions on area lakes aren’t great at this point, with conditions varying from two to six inch thick depending on the lake and water. Slush is present on the tops of many of them in spots.  For now we will make the most of what we got and wait for conditions to improve.

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I hope you get a chance to do something you enjoy this holiday season.

 Merry Christmas Everyone!

 

 

Winter wins—but where’s the white?

The battle between two seasonal titans is over; I declare winter the victor even though my calendar says winter officially doesn’t start until December 21st.  Once we reach that date the days will actually start getting more daylight hours again, which most off us will gladly embrace. Fall sure put on a strong showing this year and according to the National Weather Service in Duluth, November 2016 is the second warmest on record since the records began in 1897.  In addition, the September-through-November numbers showed that 2016 was the third warmest fall and 2015 was the fourth.  However, we were much warmer in December 2015; on this day last year we hit a high of 47.

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Goodbye fall, we’re going to miss you!

I personally don’t like such abrupt changes in the temperatures. With little snow cover it is very hard on the grass and flowers that we all love.  Also as the frost creeps down it can damage underground piping and create drainage problems in the spring, as the water is not able to readily drain readily through the frozen ground. On the positive side, I’m sure anyone who ice fishes, skis or snowmobiles is looking forward to more days of below-freezing temperatures and snow. If you or someone you know wants to be a little more adventurous this winter by trying out some winter camping, I would recommend that they talk to a local in Solon Springs (Snowtrecker) that specializes in winter camping equipment.

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Lightweight, 5 star accommodations. Number of reviews: two-Brett and I.

Today we are going to attempt to cover some of our greens to hopefully protect them from some of the winter elements.  This process is slow and takes perfect weather conditions, including little or no wind. So wish us luck and stay warm.

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I can’t wait for snow!

-Steve

Hello December

Lately fall and winter have been playing with us like two kids on a teeter-tooter.  It sounds like old man winter might take charge by the middle of next week so hurry up and finish those last minute outside chores.  Hopefully we can get some cold weather before it starts snowing so the lakes can freeze over.  For me there is nothing more fun than watching my kids skating over the ice having  fun.  The great thing about the outdoors is it’s just sitting there at your fingertips waiting for you.

Hard water fun

Hard water fun

While we were in the transition period around here I took a little R&R time to go with my middle son Brett to Montana to do some wilderness camping, hunting and site seeing.  The unusual lack of plentiful snow did provide some challenges that limited our hunting success but saw some great sights that made me feel lucky to just be there.

Hard water beauty

Hard water beauty

Rock slide delight

Rockslide delight

A view from above

A view from above

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I always start feeding the birds in my neighborhood during this change of season. Every year I challenge myself to tame the chickadees, a few nuthatches or an occasional woodpecker to eat out of my hand.  For me, it’s great therapy from my hectic daily schedule to go outside and stand there, slowly earning their trust.  Having a bird land on your hat, shoulder or hand sends joy throughout your body.   My tip for the day is if you to want to experience this be patient, be persistent, hold still,  have treats in your hand like shelled sunflower seeds or chopped peanuts and again be patient. Once you earn the trust of one many others will follow.  Remember, many of the same birds will live in your area for years so next season will most likely be easier than the previous.

Try it! It will make you smile I promise.

Try it! It will make you smile I promise.

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and even a better holiday season ahead of you.

-Steve

Tee and Turkey Time!

I hope you all got a chance to see the Super Moon this past weekend. I sure did and it was quite impressive. My backyard was lit up like a Walmart parking lot! It would’ve probably been a great time to play some night golf. Maybe we should try to schedule a fun tournament next year around on some of these events?

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Moon Maze

This Thursday will likely be the last time to play a round of golf at Voyager Village, so if you have the time please come on out and enjoy one more round. This year has been an exceptionally long season that provided great playing conditions when it wasn’t raining. I do look forward to the changing seasons and I hear we may get a little snow by the weekend. I think this forecast might hold true seeing as Betty seemed to have a little extra spring in her step this week as she helped us mark the trails on course. I’m always humbled by all of the volunteers who pitch in around our community, so I would like to thank everyone who has helped us make this one of the best golf seasons ever and I can’t wait to see you armed with your rakes next spring.  Don’t forget that most of the pros recommend shoveling snow as a great way to keep your golf swing strong in the off-season, so please come join me this winter as much as possible. 🙂

Next week, I will be taking some time off from my blog to focus on time with my family and hopefully fill up on some great Thanksgiving food.  If you don’t like cooking I encourage you to bring your family and friends out to Voyager Village for the buffet. This meal is always suitable for even the most prominent kings and queens of our community and shouldn’t be missed.

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Pardon me, good sir.

Thanks again and have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

-Steve