Dwight Peck's personal website

Winter 2023-2024

A photographic record of whatever leapt out at us

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Back to Wisconsin for a special party and a wintry reconnoitre

15 December 2023 - 1 January 2024

Four days on the Interstates -- Melvin is always cool, sleeps in the back the entire trip, whereas . . .

. . . Choupette tends to harbor grievances, but she's on best behavior for this trip, chemically induced.

First night, after a six hour drive over the Alleghenies, we're in the La Quinta near Lexington, KY. La Quinta is virtually the only mid-price chain that is normally genuinely 'pet friendly'.

After a relaxing bar dinner at the Barrel 53, we're dashing back across the highway for a more or less good night's sleep.

Up early the next morning, six hours again to the Drury in Champaign, Illinois, then another long day to another fine La Quinta near Madison, Wisconsin, for dinner at Erin's Snug Irish Pub with our friend David Wells, then four hours straight up I-39/Rte 51 to the family's enclave on the lake in the Northwoods, the last hour of it in a brief mini-blizzard.

That's Kristin's cottage at the end of the point at Mussent Point. Kristin's been coming here for her entire life, but the rest of our party (i.e., me) has only been joining in regularly for summer months since 2010. Some members of the clan live here all winter, other migrate to the Florida Keys for a good part of it, and some others (like us) come along only in the summers, which are much more comfortable than the winters.

So there's a certain fascination to seeing the place in the dead of winter -- for a short stay.

Kristin's cottage is vintage and has been added to several times over the decades, but alas it's uninsulated and uninhabitable some eight months of the year. Thus . . .

. . . we'll be bunking into one of the four guest rooms in the matriarchal cottage, the central hub of the whole gang's social comings and goings.

At the end of the point, that's the original boathouse, built in 1938 and a proud honoree on the National Register of Historic Places (U.S. Dept of Interior).

We're making a quick and quiet raid into the gelid interior in hopes of finding a warm coat, because guess who got all the way here from Virginia wondering whether he'd remembered to pack his own. And hadn't.

That's the point of Mussent Point, looking very different denuded of all of its tangled waist-high vegetation.

The back bedroom and bath, with (obviously) no running water at the moment

A bleak wintry lake

The livingroom/diningroom and an added back porch

We've been told that the lake is suitable for walking on now (not that we're planning to try it). In any case, those assurances were withdrawn a few days later.

The next house along the row facing the lakeside

Our feline companions spend eight months of the year incarcerated in the condo in downtown Staunton, and four months roaming round the Mussent Point property (and sometimes, unadvisedly, off it). They seem to be surprised and curious to be here in the off-season, especially never having seen snow before.

Melvin is entirely at home with the snow and the temperatures and can spend quality time poking round, possibly wondering why there are no insects to harass.

He must have feet like galoshes.

The boathouse with its empty pontoon boat slip. The venerable old Grumman float boat is in drydock.

Looking from the boathouse dock to the north end of the lake

Mussent Point per se, with an abnormally low lake level and a hydrobike dock that we don't use much anymore, having discovered that just dragging the bikes onto the shore and tying them up is far easier.

Over the past 25 years or so, we've dreamt of finally witnessing Mussent Point in its wintry garb, but we've never summoned the courage to subject ourselves to the monstrous northern Wisconsin weather. Luckily, though it's cold enough over these days to make us 'Virginians' stamp our feet and clap our hands together, by local standards it's generally been mild.

In fact, when one morning one of the extended family noted that it's great that the temperature had finally given us a warm day, we replied 'Are you crazy? It's 33°F out!', to which she replied 'That's what I said!'

The middle cottage along the shoreline

The cattle guard and high plastic chickenwire fence surrounding the property, to keep the cats in and, more importantly, the deer out.

We're in the larger guest room at the far end of the main cottage, and Choupette must familiarize herself with its possibilities and opportunities.

All summers the old thing flies these days, and now we find that that's true of winters as well.

A pleasant 'family room' sort of thing on the second floor of the main house, though it's seldom used these days, we're told.

Too many of the younger generations have graduated and tend only to come for holidays and special occasions (like this one).

This small study, adjacent to that family room, has been lent to us for use as a workroom for the duration.

The cats are settling in in the manner to which they're most accustomed.

The rather forbidding flat expanse of ice covered by the new snow

The cats are now well settled in.

They're both mainly of the curled-up sleeping persuasion.

Cousin Rob's surprise party

Kristin's Cousin Rob, everybody's best friend and President for Life of our lake association, and our longtime daily hydrobiking pal, has been poorly, and we've come along to join in a surprise dinner party to cheer him up, 19 December 2023.

The restaurant here in town, a number one favorite of nearly everyone in the extended family, had to close down during Covid, to everyone's chagrin. They're transforming the place now and will be reopening soon as some sort of bakery and daytime café, but in the meantime they've agreed to lay on a special dinner for all of Rob's friends and family who can show up.

And here they are, having been stretched out across the road to blockade the forest road with funny hats on and waylay the car bearing our guest of honor. After drinks all round, we're settled into one of the rooms and the staff is getting us started.

Kristin's here of course, and Rob's brother Woody and his wife, and . . .

Elke and Dave, and a lot of the younger generation at the far table . . .

. . . with Joellen and still more family members, including . . .

. . . Dave, and Rob's sister Leigh from Wyoming, and . . .

. . . an old friend, Kim, a distinguished musician, and Rob's wife Elke from Austria.

As mentioned, Cousin Rob has been feeling poorly, for sure, but with never a complaint and extraordinary courage.

Our daily hydrobiking hours on the lake every summer have always been closely punctuated with jokes and tall tales, so it's always time for a few more (photo by Kim).

Somehow, my punch lines always get trounced by a better re-punch line, one that . . .

. . . merits congratulations.

Kristin's brother George approving, and her mom wishing not to be in the photo (too bad).

Time for some old-time reminiscences

Siblings Woody, Cousin Rob, and Leigh

After an extraordinary dinner and congratulations to the staff, and various closing remarks, we're all headed back out into the monstrous cold.

It's hard to stop gazing out across the lake -- flat, and sterile, and patently cold, and perhaps dangerous. Rob and Elke's house is on a bluff a mile away, more or less in the dead centre of the photo.

Pinky, aka Sweetheart, aka The White Cat, has a fairly complex relationship with our lovely little pets, and sometimes it's best just to drive him away.

Joellen's winterized cottage, with a line of four guest rooms and two bathrooms down the far end, and the brief length of second story rooms (the 'first story' in Europe), including our little working room on this end.

Choupette is sort of overjoyed to be outside again, but she detests the snow on her little talons. Doubtless, though, she's noticing the utter absence of potentially fun prey like chippies and mice.

Sweetheart and Melvin, for some reason, are bothered neither by the snow nor by the (to us) murderous cold air.

That meeting was resolved amicably, and Melvin is off on a reconnaisance.

He either doesn't realize that he's standing on about a metre of frigid water or doesn't care.

When Melvin explores the terrain, he's very thorough.

That's a lonely raft buoy that, in warmer times, would bob up and down but is now stuck.

Oscar and Cathy's boathouse next door, like many on the lake, is served by an 'open water' arrangement to keep the ice from wearing away the pilings.

Melvin naturally wants to investigate, so we must dissuade him forcefully without crashing in kneedeep ourselves.

Prepared for any more snowstorms that should come along . . .

. . . but there has been no more snow.
(It's been suggested that in a normal winter, the snow pack would be shoulder-high by now.)

It's awkward for poor Choupette, who (unlike Melvin) cannot bear stepping on the snowy bits.

It's an awkward way to go about exploring, and not much fun.

We're out trying to call Melvin in for the cats' dinner, and by now we know where to find him.

The poor little fellow can't get it out of his walnut-size brain that this isn't still the place to wait for someone to open the door.

Next up: Two midwinter weeks in the Wisconsin Northwoods (with virtually no snow)

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 2 February 2024.

Recent Events