A year or so back, I challenged myself to come up with a list of the outdoors from A to Z.
That might sound easy enough, but as I got down to developing the list, I found it to be quite a challenge. For some letters, at least.
The challenge proved to be even more formidable when I decided to tackle it again this week because I couldn't use any of the words I used the last time around.
No surprise, perhaps, but X proved to be the greatest challenge.
It took some doing, but I succeeded and even managed to come up with mostly new words without peeking at my first attempt. I did have to go back to the drawing board for a couple of letters-"J" and "V" among them-but here's what I came up with during my second go-round at compiling a list of the outdoors from A to Z.
A is for asparagus. As in wild asparagus, a natural delicacy I pick at every opportunity during the late spring and early summer months.
B is for Baudette, a northern Minnesota town I associate with good times because I'm usually there to fish Rainy River or nearby Lake of the Woods. And, of course, home to Willie the Walleye. Go Bears.
C is for Colt, the model of the first Polaris I drove as a kid in the '70s and later inherited. A mechanic friend got the restored 1973 Colt 175 running a couple of winters back, and I hope to bring it to the AK Vintage Sled Show, set for Feb. 3 at the Blue Moose in East Grand Forks.
D is for Devils Lake, a lake I don't fish as much as I should but which has become one of my favorite winter pike fishing destinations. Rare is the time the tip-up flags don't fly when we fish pike on Devils Lake.
E is for elk, an animal I've never had the opportunity to hunt but would like to someday.
F is for fire pit, the gathering place for friends and good times at the getaway in northern Minnesota. And Forks Fly Tyers, a small but enthusiastic group of local fly fishing enthusiasts who get together the first Thursday of every month to tie flies and enjoy a few cold brews.
G is for Greenway, the green space along the Red and Red Lake rivers that provides a variety of recreational opportunities throughout the year.
H is for hunters in all of their many forms and the money they raise for conservation through purchases of gear, ammo and licenses.
I is for ice fishing, a winter pastime I can't imagine going without. And ION, the battery-powered ice auger I bought two years ago that convinced me to shelf the gas auger for good.
J is for jackfish, the name many Canadians use for northern pike.
K is for Kamatsi, a lake in northern Saskatchewan some friends and I plan to fish in July.
L is for lake trout, the species we'll be spending most of our time fishing on Kamatsi. We'll probably catch some jackfish, too.
M is for Manitoba, one of my favorite places to enjoy the outdoors. And Mille Lacs, a lake that served up some of the best walleye fishing I experienced last summer, despite all of the bad news about the population being in jeopardy. Go figure.
N is for Nestor Falls, an Ontario tourist town on Lake of the Woods about an hour and a half north of Baudette that has served as the gateway to many a fine outdoors excursion. And Narcisse, the small Manitoba town about an hour and a half northwest of Winnipeg that draws tourists from across the world every spring to see a gargantuan gathering of garter snakes.
O is for Oak Hammock Marsh, a jewel on the prairie an easy half-hour's drive north of Winnipeg. Good weather and bad, the interpretive center offers a wealth of outdoor learning opportunities for kids of all ages. And October, the best month of the year.
P is for public land, an all-too-often underappreciated asset that provides everything from hunting, blueberry picking and wildlife-watching opportunities to boating access.
Q is for quiet, a big attraction for many of us who enjoy spending time outdoors.
R is for ruffed grouse, a bird of the forest that brings a group of us together every fall for the most anticipated outdoors gathering of the year.
S is for snowmobiling, something I hope to do a lot more of this winter as time and weather conditions permit.
T is for tip-up, the ice fishing rig used in one of my favorite winter fishing methods. And trails, those pathways to outdoor fun.
U is for Up North, the catch-all name for many of my favorite outdoors destinations.
V is for Van Hook Arm, a part of Lake Sakakawea I've heard good things about and would like to fish sometime.
W is for walleye opener, a date on Minnesota's outdoors calendar that has become a can't-miss event in recent years.
X is for XL, the size of most of my hunting and fishing outerwear. (Not the most creative answer, perhaps, but you try coming up with something outdoorsy for the letter X.)
Y is for yellow jacket, the scourge of many an outdoor excursion in August and September.
Z is for zander, a larger European relative of the walleye that's right up there on my bucket list of fish species I'd like to catch someday..