Rice Lake Park: Holiday Lights, The Winter Carnival
The night of the Winter Carnival, Rice Park ran rampant with all the things I hate.
Let it be known that I was bullied by cunning smiles and convincing arguments from my extroverted roommates to attend the kick off of the Winter Carnival. Nevertheless, I followed them into an overwhelmingly large crowd, full of families and college students, looking for cheap entertainment.
While making a beeline for the stage, I stopped to make sure I had my wallet. A fatal mistake. When I found it, I looked up and realized I lost my friends.
The smell of vomit which was probably the product of a kid stuffing her face with too much sugar lingered in air, mixing with the tang of buttery popcorn. Plugging my nose, I elbowed my way through the thick crowd, searching for my friends, growing more irritated by the second. At the same time, a woman made her way to the stage, thanking everyone for coming out on such a cold night and put her hand on top of the oversized light switch– which was more of a theatrical prop than anything-before starting the countdown. As the crowd chanted the final few numbers, I found my friends, huddled together, giddy with anticipation. I reached the group just as the lights flickered.
Dozens of ghostly trees were draped with sparkling white lights with the exception of a single solitary Christmas tree doused in blue. Fireworks exploded behind the glittering trees in a dazzling display that made me forget about the prickling cold and getting lost in the crowd.
I felt enchanted and a bit dazzled as I hugged my roommate, her icy cheek pressed against mine. She smiled and we swayed as the speakers blasted “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.
I would walk through puke-infested sidewalks and risk getting lost to see the mesmerizing display again.
Willow River State Park, Wisconsin
About 10 minutes north of my backwoods Wisconsin town lies Willow River State Park. It’s your typical forest — it has pines and creeks and people posing in front of waterfalls. I’ve never been a hiker into transcendental ponderings and Emerson’s poetry. I haven’t been “camping” since I was six, when I tented in my backyard and threw up in the grass after it downpoured for two hours. But the first time I went to Willow River I decided I could get along with nature. My friend and I dipped into the 200 feet deep gorge in May, navigating sharp rocks and the 40 degree water. It sucked. But we didn’t die, and we had fun shoving each other over and laughing at the campers who looked at us like we were insane.
We trekked further into the woods and found a mud pit that had once held water. This mud pit also acted as less potent quicksand. By the end of the trip we looked like Augustus Gloop after he’d fallen into the chocolate river. On the way back we listened to birds chirping and Chance the Rapper. The only problem: the hill (possibly a legal mountain) we had to climb to get back to her car. It’s not for the pale and prone to fainting. It’s even harder to master after you’ve downed a can of Arizona and have a bladder the size of a peanut. Nevertheless, Andrea and I go back to Willow River every summer.