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BRAD DOKKEN: A fitting winter finale

Last Sunday was one of those days that make you realize there really is light at the end of the long, dark tunnel that has been this winter.

For the first time in what seemed like forever, the temperature broke the 40-degree mark, and in an occurrence nearly as rare, the wind wasn’t howling.

It was a perfect day to be outside, and the switch to daylight saving time provided an extra hour of daylight to enjoy it.

And enjoy it I did.

Putting my faith in the weather forecast, I’d made the trip to the getaway in northwest Minnesota the previous afternoon. There was nothing particular on the agenda, aside from chiseling through the deep, hard drifts of snow I knew had filled the driveway since my last visit, putting a few miles on the snowmobile and enjoying the peace and quiet the place provides.

The warm-up hadn’t yet arrived last Saturday afternoon, and a brisk south wind was just cold enough to be unpleasant when I set about the task of blowing snow. By the time I’d cleared the driveway, the temperature inside the bunkhouse was 60 degrees and rising.

Clearing snow proved to be a bigger job than I’d anticipated, but there was still time for a snowmobile ride before dark.

The next morning, I woke up before sunrise — far too early to get out of bed in my world — and had fallen back asleep when a knock on the door awakened me. It was a friend and longtime neighbor, who’d seen I was there and stopped by for coffee.

The smell of brewing coffee soon filled the bunkhouse. With the time change, it was about 9 a.m., and the day already was showing all the signs of being a beauty.

 A perfect excuse, we decided, for a snowmobile ride.

We hopped on the sleds after lunch, first trekking cross-country to a groomed trail that would take us several miles east along the Canadian border before winding south and east through deep stands of cedar, spruce and tamarack to state Highway 310 north of Roseau, Minn. The trail was smooth, and despite a short delay to replace a broken drive belt, the miles flew by quickly.

Never had 40 degrees felt better than it did that afternoon.

We stopped for a trail break at a convenience store in Roseau and headed back north to retrace our route along Highway 310 and west and north through the woods to the trail on the Canadian border.

Both of us have left the 50-year-old mark in the rearview mirror, but there’s something about being on a snowmobile that brings out the kid in a person. And so, when we decided to leave the groomed trail and do some exploring on the last leg of the trip, my neighbor couldn’t resist the temptation to climb a gravel pile with his snowmobile, which he did without incident.

I couldn’t resist the temptation to follow him, and when I hesitated at the base of the hill, I buried my sled in deep, wet snow.

Freeing the snowmobile took probably 10 minutes of stomping and pulling and pushing.

By that time, we’d worked up a sweat.

We were about to resume the ride when my friend hit the throttle of his snowmobile and broke through the crust that had covered about 4 feet of wet, heavy snow.

That resulted in another 10 minutes of stomping and pulling and pushing — who says snowmobiling isn’t exercise? — and convinced us that staying on the trail for the remainder of the ride would be the best option.

We put on about 60 miles that afternoon, and the chance to ride on a 40-degree day was a real treat.

Driving west into bright sun about 7 p.m. on the trip back to Grand Forks, I was marveling at the extended daylight when the perfect song shuffled onto my iPod and through the speakers:

“Here Comes the Sun,” by the Beatles.

 “Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting.

“Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear.

“Here comes the sun. Here comes the sun, and I say.

“It’s alright.”

It would be difficult to cram more joy and optimism into three minutes than that song serves up, and I replayed it several times. It seemed like the perfect finale to this long, brutal winter.

There might be setbacks, but spring definitely is in sight.

And I say … it’s alright!

Dokken reports on outdoors. Reach him at (701) 780-1148; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1148; or send e-mail to

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

(701) 780-1148