SOME PEOPLE CALL it shack happy; some might call it stir crazy. I call it marking time. Whatever you call it, this is the time of year in north Wisconsin when people who have been cooped up all winter start thinking of bustin’ out.

It’s not just people either. I am acquainted with two dogs, one aged 2, the other a 10-year veteran. Both of them were more than happy to throw off the constraints of deep snow and even deeper cold to go for good runs on sunny afternoons last week.

In the winter, I try to get my dogs out for as much exercise as possible; as much for myself as them perhaps. With many side roads left unplowed all winter, the places where they can safely run are limited.

County or state highways are definitely out. One run there and I would probably come home minus two dogs. The more heavily-traveled plowed town roads are too dangerous in my book as well.

That leaves just a few places where the dogs can run without a leash and I can watch them without any worries. In my neighborhood, our winter outings are generally limited to places like the Crystal Lake campground roads that are partially plowed, North Muskellunge Road, Musky Mountain Road and a small handful of other short spurs.

For two dogs who have had to adapt to doing their business in the driveway for the past several weeks, getting out on a genuine run was a distinct pleasure. Instead of trying to thrash through 3 feet of snow in our yard and the surrounding woods, which they had given up on almost completely, they were free to run like the devils they sometimes act like.

We got out for a short run last Thursday when we tried Musky Mountain Road. It was not a good decision for me to go there. The dogs were fine, but on a surface that was a glassy sheet of ice, I was forced to adopt the Tim Conway style of shuffling along.

Part of the time, I could proceed along the very edge where a narrow band was melted to the ground, but there were other stretches where visions of ice and last year’s broken ribs flashed in front of my eyes.

A quarter-mile in and then back was plenty of adventure for me. The dogs didn’t seem to mind the ice. They also didn’t seem to mind climbing high snowbanks along the road, although 10-year-old Molly decided once was enough when she almost didn’t make it back to the road after thrashing through neck-deep snow trying to get out after sliding down the other side.

Even though that was a short walk, as always, when it gets to this time of year, it just plain feels good to be out walking somewhere, anywhere. For me, Musky Mountain is still a magical place. I remember the days in the mid-’50s when it was developed as a downhill ski area, days when I practically lived at Mus-Ski Mountain, as the ski hill was known, all winter long.

I remember all the children from Mercer, Boulder Junction, Manitowish Waters, Minocqua, Woodruff and Arbor Vitae who were regulars at Mus-Ski Mountain, children I never would have known were it not for the ski hill.

I remember the Saturday night dances at the chalet with either the WRJO-AM disc jockey playing records or the Tornados, a local band from Minocqua, providing the rock ’n’ roll music. I remember a wild ride down Birch Valley on a four-person tobaggon the ski patrol had, a ride that was taken surreptitiously on one of those dance nights when two girls, myself and another guy decided it would be a smart thing to do.

The first half of the ride was great. We were probably going in the neighborhood of 40 miles per, until we got to where we had to make a turn to go all the way down in the valley. We discovered tobaggons don’t turn very well and straight ahead we went, plowing deep powder snow until we finally got tossed off every which way about 10 yards before we would have hit a tree line of big oak and birch trees.

We may not have been the brightest children in the world, but we were smart enough not to try that run again. As for myself, I thought the best part of the ride was having a girl who was a senior in high school, I was a junior, clamping her arms around my waist not only on the ride down, but after we quit thrashing around in the snow after the crash.

I couldn’t help but think of that moment last week as the dogs romped on snowbanks around the old parking lot while I gazed up the “mountain” where what once were wide-open ski runs are now heavily-wooded slopes.

Having survived the icy road to Mus-Ski Mountain, the dogs and I decided Saturday to get out on a longer walk. They like being cooped up in late winter about as much as I do, so a hike along Ben Bendrick Drive, which parallels Trout Lake, seemed like a good idea.

The road there had its icy spots, but with a fresh half-inch coating of snow from the night before offering good traction, we took off for what turned into nearly an hour of walking. I stayed with the road. The dogs at times decided it would be more fun to clamber down steep banks to the lake where crusted snow made it easy for them to run with wild abandon.

Molly gave it up when, tongue lolling, she barely made the scramble back up the hill without my having to rescue her. Gordie, as most 2 year olds do, human or dog, ran wherever he pleased.

I enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine, the beautiful views across Trout Lake, which is in my mind a premier showcase lake of the north, and the chance to simply be outdoors breathing fresh air with two partners who were enjoying it as much or more than I.

Soon, hopefully, the list of places where we can walk will be greatly expanded and with that expansion more portals of my past will open up once again.