Tuesday’s Gone – A Midweek Dune Climb

It was tough to tell on Tuesday who was more restless: me or Petey. For some reason he was a friskopotamus, and I was having trouble sitting still because it was warm (slightly above freezing) and dazzlingly sunny. Eventually we decided it would be best for all of us if we took a hike. Half an hour later, we were on our way to a trail in the Sleeping Bear Dunes that we hadn’t hiked before, though we had hiked near it to a shipwreck. Of course, half an hour later, unpredicted clouds had also besmirched my bluebird skies. You win some, you lose some.

Again, as on previous winter hikes, we parked on a road and then trudged through snow to get to the trailhead. There had been enough snowshoers ahead of us, though, that the walk in wasn’t too bad – especially considering the half a foot of snow we had just gotten. I can’t say that I prefer the clouds, but at least they were the kind that brings interest instead of flat, featureless grey (that’s what we had yesterday, so I can say this with certainty).

See? Look at that drama

We crested a dune – which are far easier to scale when frozen than when the sands are sliding beneath your toes – and were astonished at sweeping view. I took pictures, but didn’t keep any of them, because every stitch of water in the vista was frozen and capped with snow – a good reason to go back :) Still, Tony and I happily took in the view while Petey happily ignored it any the wildlife cavorting in the distance. He was taken by the grasses poking up directly beside the trail.

We followed the snowshoe path down through a valley to the shore…where the view wasn’t much different than from above. We climbed out a short distance onto the ice, but the earlier sun had melted some of the fresh snow, and it had puddled.

Above and inside an ice cave

The upshot is that the view of the shore was pretty cool, and one we don’t often get a chance to see.

Deciding that we didn’t want to wander on the ice – a combination of possible hidden puddles and other potential dangers hidden under the snow – we began the ascent back up the dune.

Though the hike was enjoyable, it felt a bit stunted. After we emerged from the snow-pack, we walked along the road simply enjoying the ease of movement on the cleared pavement before we began our drive back home.

Since it’s on the way, we stopped in Empire for a glimpse at the sunset. Tony and Petey stayed in the car, while I traipsed about with the camera. Cautious because of the sun and heat, I stayed on ice over water I knew wasn’t deep. I was exceedingly glad I did. After I finished taking the last photo in the gallery below, I set my sites on the beach, and began making my way there. As I climbed over a small ice mound, I slipped, and my foot punched through the snow into one of those cold puddles I feared. I pulled it out, re-situated myself, and promptly repeated the fun with my other foot. Though my heart was racing and my feet were soaked and freezing I wasn’t panicking. But I was exceptionally glad that I was only over water that would be up to my knees even in the summer. Phew. Hope you have a warm, dry week :)

Out in the Cold

The sun flitted in and out of the clouds yesterday (mostly in), and though it was the coldest day of the season, I listened to my cabin-fever addled brain (it doesn’t take much folks; we went for a long walk on Sunday…) and headed out with the camera.

I had to burst through thick snow drifts at the bottom of the hill, but emerged safely onto a less snowy road, as the wind graciously blew snow in parallel.
Valley Road

A quick hop around a curve or two, and I parked at the Seven Bridges Natural Area – the same place I ventured back in November for some outside time. (A quick search for “Seven Bridges” on this blog indicates that I go here frequently when needing some outside time, but am pressed for time :) )

Thanks to the infamous Polar Vortex, much of the Rapid River has frozen over, though where it’s exposed, the water alternately trickles and surges downstream.
Rapid River intimates-2
The sun mostly went back into hiding while I was there, but the ice formations held my attention captive. What it clings to in the swift current, I have no idea.

They’re not awe-inspiring or anything, but I think they’re worth a click for the detail in the larger versions

After the tips of my fingers shattered from the cold, I decided to get back in the car. I warmed up a bit and mended my fingers, which I would need for the big tree at the bottom of the snow-drifted road. (I’ll be checking the poll results sometime over the weekend.)

Since the sun showed a flicker of promise, I hopped back on the not-drifted road and headed for Torch Lake – curious whether it had frozen.
Cold bench with a hot view

For just a fleeting moment, the sun wrenched its way through a crack in the sky, and I put my tattered fingers to use once more. Though a wide ice shelf sits along the shore, the lake itself is still stirred by the wind, and thus not completely frozen. Because of the vast temperature differential a thick mist rose into cold, cold air – looking quite like a hot smoke in the sun’s firelight.

My fingers still hurt from playing in the cold with thin gloves the past two days, but I don’t regret for a second going out. Now that the cold spell has broken, I’ll be seeing the outside more, sun or not. How about you?

You might not have heard – it’s cold outside

There’s something about extreme weather events that makes me itch to grab the camera. Perhaps it’s the possibility of capturing something rare and preserving it one frame at a time in my (digital) memory. Whatever it is, the urge has struck a few times recently.

Right before Christmas, an angry winter storm shellacked a large swath downstate in glossy coat of ice. Many people were without power for an extended time, and in the winter especially, I think of their plight. But, as we drove through, I was also breathless at the sparkling beauty. For over an hour as we drove south to Ohio, my eyes were glued to the treetops, marveling at the glittery branches.

And in the past day or so, it’s gotten quite cold across the country. I thought I’d mention this in case you either live elsewhere or in a cave and missed the news. Another winter storm pummeled a large section of the country, dragging Arctic air down and leaving loads of folks – including us northern Michiganders (can the womenfolk up here be Michigeese?) – under windchill warnings.

Click the image for the latest chill map
Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 10.02.15 PM
So yes, it’s brutally cold out, leading most to remark on the temperature and stay inside, or to grumble about the plowing if forced to go out. (I’d probably grumble, too, if we didn’t pretend it was fine to leave snow piled in the drive since we work from home.)

However, I was just hopeful the sun would make some kind of appearance so I could sneak out for some photos.

Wind carves interesting patterns from deer tracks

It must’ve been mine and Carol’s wishful thinking, because our little ball of fusion 93 million miles away did shine briefly, if only as a nebulous orb.

We even had a bit of a sunset tonight. What more could one ask for, besides perhaps a few more degrees? ;)

A Big Day with Little Temps

It seems like everywhere in the country was cold yesterday, including Texas and Hawaii. Here was no exception. Regardless of the 15-degree temps and 3-degree windchill (-9 and -16C), Petey still needed and wanted to walk, so I layered us both up, and off we went. I know it sounds pretty bad to many of you, but really, once we got going, we were plenty warm. Cold is still cold, though, and after an hour out walking in it, there was only one solution: Polish food.

Sunrays spill over Elk Lake
Elk Lake

We decided to make an afternoon of it, considering our favorite Polish place is a few miles up the road in Petoskey. Some light lake effect snow had blown in, creating dramatic skies and reasons to stop at multiple places along the coast for photos.

Barnes Park – bigger panorama here.

While I examined the ice shelf, Tony and Petey explored the beach. I hear Petey discovered a nice salmon skeleton. I thought about going to find it myself so I could show you, but my fingers had already broken off from the frostbite. You’re lucky it was so cold on the lakeshore. ;)

I had originally planned to photograph some Christmas lights in Petoskey during the blue hour, but those plans got dashed upon the icy rocks in Charlevoix. It was nearing sunset as we drove through town, and the low, broken clouds promised beauty.

The weatherman said that the winds were only blowing at 3-mph in Charlevoix, and I say that he obviously imbibed too much eggnog. As I shuffled my way around the icy pier, those brutal winds blew tears onto my cheeks. I’m just thankful they didn’t freeze on my eyelashes. And I’m thankful we waited – the sunset was pretty…even if I almost missed it while taking photos of the waves on the rocks, and Tony had to shout 10 times over the wind to get my attention about what was going on in the sky behind me ;)

After the brief show ended, we packed the shivering Petey and our chilly selves back into the car to continue the trek to dinner. Tony had goulash over potato dumplings, and I had a rueben fusion dish: pierogies covered with corned beef and sauerkraut, topped with melted Swiss cheese and thousand island dressing. I told you: it’s the perfect antidote to freezing weather!

After dinner, we strolled around Petoskey, pretending it wasn’t too cold for aimless traipsing. I grabbed a few shots of the lights in Petoskey, and then we grabbed some coffee before doing a bit of Christmas shopping on our way home.

Now that my fingers have grown back, I think we’re going to bundle up for another hike. The tundra isn’t going to take pictures of itself ;)


….On a side note, I entered this photo in a contest to be featured on the cover of Michigan Wine Country magazine. There are two contest winners: a judge’s choice and a people’s choice. Voting runs through the 20th, so if you’d like to cast a vote in my direction, I’ll take all the help I can get :) You can vote daily if you’re feeling really generous!

Wonderful Winter in November

Earlier in the week, we had just enough snow to dust the colder parts of the ground in white, while leaving the rest wet and icky. And, really, it only ever gets so gross here with our sandy soil, but still, Petey’s belly was a sand-packed mess after our Friday morning walk. Besides sweeping the dirt under the carpet of snow, with the late mornings and early sunsets, we’ve been looking forward to some “real” snow to brighten things up. And we got that this weekend.

The dusting

Friday night, the lake effect snow engine (namely, north-northwest winds) kicked into gear, dropping several inches of fluff by this morning. Yesterday we awoke to a couple inches on the road, which really only amounted to a cooler and brighter morning walk. This morning, though, with a few more inches, overnight temperatures a few degrees below zero (about -20C), and no snow plows, we had no morning walk. Petey had no interest dragging his belly through three miles of snow, and I didn’t have the heart to force him. Or I had the heart not to ;)

By this afternoon, enough intrepid drivers (not us – we don’t get our snow tires on until tomorrow, and learned our lesson last year) had packed ruts into the snow wide enough to accommodate an eager hiker and an energetic pup. We took a different route from our normal, and though still (obviously) within walking distance from home, I was impressed with the apparent isolation. Our four miles through winter-wonderland on (haha) county-maintained roads felt more like a hike through hardwoods-covered drumlins.

Plowing optional

By the time Petey and I returned home, the sun had begun to peak through what had otherwise been an entirely cloudy sky. As the afternoon wore on, I thought I heard a sunset opportunity knocking.

Dramatic skies are the norm when there’s a break in lake effect
winter wonderland

I checked on the skies again at about 4:30. I figure if you’re going to venture out onto unplowed snowy roads, it better be worth it. The warm light on the cold, cold surfaces indicated it would be.

Love the cakey look of the stairs. Second photo is a very frosty window in our mudroom

We knew it had been windy the past few days – we have a flopping piece of fascia trim to prove it – but we weren’t prepared for how utterly shellacked the Alden Marina was. I gingerly stepped out of the car, testing the surface, and then penguin-shuffled around on the slippery ground. I’m fairly certain the photos of wicked ice on the gentle tree are the only ones I took while standing – and that’s only because I had the tree to grab onto. The rest I was either kneeling, seated, or lying sprawled shamelessly on my belly.

Happy with my day’s “catch,” and with my fingers frozen from the biting wind, we headed back home. Also, I was certain the sun had wrapped up its nightly magic show – with tricks that weren’t too shabby in my opinion ;). As much as it pains me to admit it, I was wrong. I should know better by now than to leave early (and by early, I mean about fifteen minutes beyond official over-the-horizon sunset). Did I mention my poor little fingers? As we got closer to home, I kicked myself harder for having missed a beautiful opportunity. Post-sunset light fades quickly, and so I consoled myself that at least I got to see it.

But, I could still see red lingering as we came to the final stretch. We made a brief diversion, where I ran – gloveless – to the top of a hill overlooking Lake Skegemog. And look at this. Even my frozen digits think it was worth it :)

red rays

red rays panorama

red rays panorama-2