Late in the North Dakota winter of 1886, Theodore Roosevelt’s boat was stolen. As deputy sheriff of Billings County, he couldn’t let the boat go without a fight and he had planned on using it on a cougar hunt the next day. Nobody tampers with a good hunting plan. With Bill Sewall and Wilmot Dow, his trusty companions, Roosevelt eventually caught up to the thieves. Being a man of honor, he decided to march them 45 miles through the Killdeer Mountains to the sheriff in Dickinson. During his trek, Roosevelt read Anna Karenina. Reading a Russian novel may not be the best choice when hiking through North Dakota in the late winter or early spring (those two seasons blend harmoniously in the Northern Plains). However, TR was the kind of person who read whatever was on hand.
Each day I walk about two miles each way to and from my position in the library. I will continue to do this even in the winter. After TR completed his own walk, I would wager that he knew those surroundings in a deeper and more intimate way. He learned where the most treacherous ice patches were, the steepest hills, where to pace himself and where he could breathe easy and think of Tolstoy. The same things are true of my own winter walks. I do have the added bonus of occasionally hearing wind chimes from a front porch and seeing snow quietly fall through the lights of the street. However, the rules are still the same. Whether you find yourself trekking through suburban neighborhoods or mountainous trails, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:
Theodore Roosevelt and the boat thieves, 1886. From the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site.