I’ve just returned from yet another trip to my favorite campsite in Nicolet National Forest. It was likely my final visit to the campsite as I prepare to move far away from Wisconsin. Part of me will miss hiking around in that forest and swimming in Butternut Lake. But part of me will not miss it.
Even if I wasn’t planning on leaving Wisconsin, I think this might have been my last trip to Nicolet anyway. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t been enjoying myself as much that last few times I’ve gone up there. I think a year ago, fresh off of my retirement, relaxing in nature was much more appealing to me. Nowadays, it’s easier for me to get bored for lack of intellectual stimulation.
I had hoped Remy and I would stay three days and two nights. We wound up staying for one day. Not even a whole day. We left home at 5am, got there just before 8am, and left by about 10pm. So we were there for 15 hours? The weather in the morning was gorgeous and I was finding enough physical activity to do that I believed I could keep myself occupied for three days.
But by noon, the insects were in full attack mode and remained that way until we left. We wound up having to spend the majority of the day seeking refuge in the lake or inside the truck. I brought two cans of bug spray, but they proved ineffective and we exhausted both cans in just the one day.
I don’t want to pretend like this comes as a big surprise. Insects have always been a problem in Wisconsin. The deep south might have a reputation for king-sized insects. But I’ve been to all 48 of the continguous states, and I’ve been to all of them during non-winter months. I haven’t encountered mosquitoes anywhere else in this country as bad as I’ve encountered them in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Many of our trips to Nicolet Forest have been in early spring, late fall, and even the winter. Remy and I were badly eaten by bugs during our 2-3 mid-summer visits to Nicolet last year. But the swarm intensity this time around was unlike anything I had seen in the past.
If the bugs weren’t bad enough… the forest itself was barely recognizable. Most of the coniferous trees were dead or dying. I’ve been to this campsite enough times to know what that forest is supposed to look like. What I saw yesterday… it wasn’t the same forest I’ve come to know. I was alarmed. I don’t know what caused all of this death – weather or disease. I’ll be sending a message to the USFS to inform them of what I saw because I think the area is primed for a forest fire.
Although I still have yet to line up a job or a home, I am now leaning pretty heavily toward Dallas, Texas. Never thought in a million years that I’d consider moving to Texas. And although I’ve spent a little time in west Texas, I have never actually been to Dallas. However, after much consideration and research, Dallas actually looks like the best option for me.
It’s warmer than Green Bay, of course. Which is what I want – especially in the winter. Days like today make me wonder if I can handle a hotter summer. But I keep reminding myself that just about anywhere with a warmer winter is going to have a hotter summer. If you assume 70°F as a baseline temperature for human comfort – nowhere in the world gets hotter than that than Wisconsin gets colder. (The record is 134°F in Death Valley in 1913 (+64°F). If you take that in the opposite direction (-64°F), you get 6°F, which is a pretty common high temperature in Wisconsin in January or February, and we can get much colder than that. We’ve had days where our HIGH TEMPERATURE for the day was less than -10°F.)
In spite of its hotter temperatures, it would seem that Dallas’ summers are considerably drier than Wisconsin’s summers. Wisconsin summers are notoriously humid and sticky – second only to places along the gulf like New Orleans. Dallas’ humidity levels seem to be consistently 10-20 points below Wisconsin. That should make their summers more tolerable, and hopefully – by extension – their insect populations more manageable.
Dallas is west of the Mississippi River, which puts it closer to “out west” where I prefer to do the majority of my road trips. But Dallas itself is a high population area. And while I’m not nuts about being in a high population area – I think I need to be, at least for a little while. I’m going to be moving somewhere where I have no family, friends, or other connections. I need to be around people to build up a new network. It will make finding a boyfriend easier. It should make finding work easier (though I’m really hoping to find location independent work). And it should make it easier for me to assemble a crew for another project I have in mind (more on that in a moment).
Dallas might also provide a lower cost of living for me, too. There is no state income tax in Texas. Of the three things I spend the most money on – rent, food, and gas – only gas is subject to a state sales tax, and those are already included in the price of gas. Which – being in Texas – appears to be 10-20 cents cheaper than it is here in Wisconsin. Rent might likely be higher, but food and gas prices are usually found in a pretty tight range. Rent can be a lot more diverse, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that I find cheaper rent in Dallas, though I may take a hit in housing quality. All of this, of course, remains to be seen. Of course, if I can hurry up and secure a job, the cost of rent might not be such a frightening prospect.
Karlsson & Seguin Together?
While this has played absolutely no role in my deliberations, there is news that my reluctant husband and restraining order plaintiff Erik Karlsson may be moving to Dallas, too! Karlsson’s [legal] spouse, Melinda, accused the girlfriend of Karlsson’s [former] teammate Mike Hoffman (Monika Caryk) of online harassment and cyberbullying following the loss of the Karlssons’ unborn baby. Despite Hoffman being booted from the Senators, Karlsson is looking to be traded, and the Dallas Stars are currently the front-runners to nab him.
Although I’ve wasted a lot of time and money remaining in Wisconsin this past year, I’m glad I did. For one thing, I got a proper, full-year sabbatical. I also met great new friends in Bones and Morgan, which would not have happened had I left Wisconsin last year. And it’s given me more time to do better research on a place to live. My instinct was to go to the Olympic Peninsula. And while there is no denying that the climate there is better, in my haste, I was unaware of other issues, not the least of which was their high cost of living. A fact that was confirmed when I met Alex (a friend of Bones and Morgan who came out a few weeks ago for their wedding). He lives on an island in Washington state not far from where I was looking to move.
Top Secret Project
For a long time, I’ve been trying to come up with a way to merge my haunt craft with my travels. Several friends have come up with suggestions, like becoming a haunt reviewer. But that has nothing to do with my craft, and a million other people already do it. Others suggested becoming a ghost hunter. But I don’t believe in ghosts, can’t afford to invest in equipment, it has nothing to do with my craft, and a million other people already do it.
But I was able to come up with an idea on my own, and I’m super-excited about it. Unfortunately, that is literally all I can say about it at this time. My idea is somewhat illegal and mildly dangerous. So unfortunately, I can’t leave an official link between myself and this idea of mine. It’s something I’m going to have to pursue anonymously in order to protect myself. But I’ll be doing something fun, meaningful, and something that I can be proud of (privately, anyway).
As I alluded to earlier, I need to recruit some co-conspirators into this project. That’s my next step. Hopefully I can move quickly and pull off the first job before the end of the year.