People have always viewed vacation as an escape. When we were young we escaped from homework, as we grew older we traded our school desks for those of the office and due dates for deadlines. But that word escape has taken on an entirely new meaning. We don’t only long to get away from the small boxes and glowing rectangles we find ourselves tethered to, but we also feel the growing desire to go back to the “the way things were”. The world feels cold, distant; trapped behind hard, fingerprint smudged glass. In this season of COVID-19 and social distancing, it’s more important now than ever to gather the household and safely enjoy some intentional closeness; and what could be safer than escaping into the woods for some winter wonderland fun.
Deep in the north woods that surround St. Germain, Wisconsin the memories of your wintered youth still exist—wrapped in scarves, covered from head to toe in fresh powdery snow, gazing down the wooded trail that leads into a fairytale. You remember those holidays. The hush of cross country skis, the crinkling-crackling crunch of snow shoes, the echoing roar of a snowmobile, that first perfect sip of hot chocolate by the fire. It’s all there, and so much more.
Depending on where you live, winter can mean a few things. For the folks in southern states it means pretending they need to bundle up and light a fire when the temperatures drop below 50 degrees at night, for folks in the cities up north it means slushy, salty brown snow and high gas bills. But there’s something special about actually needing to bundle up and light a fire. It feels good to hear the crackling logs on the building fire join in the sudden rumbling chorus of pine trees in the wind; to look outside at the swirl of fresh powder drifting in the frosty air, knowing the new snow will only add to the enjoyment of tomorrow’s activities. That cozy feeling of relaxing into the warmth only found the north woods. You can find it in the countless cabins that dot the forests around St. Germain, and even in the hotels. Whatever your choice, be sure to pack your cozy socks.
St. Germain has long been considered Wisconsin’s winter wonderland, and nothing encapsulates that feeling more than cross country skiing and snowshoeing. The trails that weave through the thick pine trees and loop around the lakes are beautiful during the spring and summer become enchanting during the winter. You’ll find yourself anticipating the lamppost from The Chronicles of Narnia around every turn. Bundle up (but not too much) you’ll warm up quickly, especially if you set out on one of the longer trails.
Throughout the warmer months St. Germain is a mecca for cyclists. The winding trails are perfect for mountain bikers looking to carve through pine tree lined trails, and the paved routes make for memorable leisure rides. But come winter, the abominable snowman isn’t the only thing that roars through the pine trees. While those who fit their bikes with winter-ready tires can still enjoy some of the trails, it’s the snowmobile that owns the woods when the snow starts falling. You can cut through the woods, the pine trees rushing by will give you the thrilling sense of speed, or enjoy cruising across wide open meadows and frozen lakes. Enthusiasts and novices alike will want to stop by the Snowmobile Hall of Fame which showcases the rich history of the sport, including countless snowmobiles that stretch across the decades.
A hole in the ice may sound worrisome to someone from further south, but in Wisconsin it means ice fishing! The picturesque lakes and ponds that dot every other square mile around St. Germain are prime spots for ice fishing once the temperatures drop low enough to safely drill through the ice. For the uninitiated, ice fishing may sound like a bitter cold activity; but if you bring a simple pop up shelter, some good company ready to chat, a small portable heater, and maybe an adult beverage or two, you’d swear you were fishing on a crisp autumn morning.
There has never been a better time to recapture the memories we cherish from Christmases past. Maybe you look back to your own childhood, all those great winter vacations north that you haven’t taken in a few years. Maybe the little ones are finally old enough to enjoy a cross country ski trip, big enough to ride a snowmobile or patient enough to wait for that walleye to bite. Or maybe it’s just time to gather the family back up, break away from Zoom meetings, sludgy winter streets, and crowded stores and escape back in time when getting this far away with loved ones was the only kind of social distancing you needed.