A Sometimes Early Riser

It’s not often that I’m the early bird. Night owl, absolutely. But when you stay up late like we do, you don’t tend to race the sun in the morning. When I do happen to be awake early in the morning, it’s almost always because we’ve got early plans…or I woke up early and found the sights out our upstairs windows too inspirational not to grab the camera.

Last night, I knew we had a chance of northern lights, so I was watching my online feeds to see if I should venture out with my camera. Around midnight, we started the bedtime routine with our furry house companions, and decided we’d let our text messaging service alert us if the solar storm ramped up. After all, we had plans for some routine maintenance on the car in Traverse City around 10:00, so our usual 9:00am wake time wasn’t going to cut it.

Sometime shortly after 4:00 Tony’s phone rang. He didn’t recognize the number, but it woke us up enough to check on the aurora alerts. As luck would have it, the storm was expected to surge in about 50 minutes. I grabbed all my gear – including layers because it was 45-degrees! – and headed for Torch Lake.

I huddled on a bench on the south end of Torch for over an hour, capturing over 100 images of the dancing northern lights. Normally I’d be disappointed in any cloud cover, but I actually quite like the little bit of color the Alden light pollution adds (Alden is the little town on the right side of the image whose marina lights are painting the photo orange). As the storm wound down, I packed my gear, and headed back to bed.

One of the first photos I shot
aurora 8-28 beginning

A photo about halfway through the set
aurora 8-28 middle

The last photo before I called it quits
aurora 8-28 end

And while I very much enjoy these aurora photos, I can’t help but wish I had played my usual night owl; despite the storm intensity being greater around 5:00am, there was more of a light display in the hours I slept through. I’m still happy with these. These are enough :)

15-second time-lapse. Please ignore the way oversaturated image that youtube created for this. Link to the same video on Flickr follows for those who can’t view youtube. Enjoy!

What I Love

One of my best friends shared this post on Facebook the other day along with a list of things she loves.
Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 11.20.32 PM
It stuck with me all through the weekend, so I’m clearing my head here. I’m not sure it makes me interesting, but it’s far more fun to focus on what I love rather than on things I hate.

I love:
family visits and continuing traditions, laughing until I cry, reading by a fire or out in the sunshine, season changes, a fresh blanket of snow, the first blossoms in spring, petrichor, the smell of a John Deere tractor, playing on or in the water, staying up late watching movies, kettle corn, afternoon naps, morning dog walks, the beauty in the details, falling asleep to a soft rain, sleeping with the windows open, the crunch of fallen leaves and thick snow, Torch Lake, Lake Michigan, the golden hour, spontaneous road trips, sunsets, sun warmed tomatoes fresh off the plant, snuggling with my husband and our little fuzzies, classic rock songs around a campfire, twinkling stars, frogs and crickets on a quiet night, hiking, jogging, kayaking, baking, singing loudly, making new friends, reconnecting with old friends, making photos…

What do you love?

Family time, hiking, mushroom hunting traditions… (too bad the only photo I took of both my parents they aren’t in focus :-/ )

Beauty in the details, petrichor, photos

Kayaking, connecting with friends

Sunsets, Torch Lake

The Myth of Spring

They say March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb. Around these parts, March roared like a lion for four solid weeks, and then toyed around with the idea of bleating softly for about three days at the end of the month. Since then, Mother Nature has been felinishly fickle – taunting us because we’re the prey she knows can’t escape.

Sure, we know it’s spring, and that this winter will end, but some days it just does not feel like it. Days like yesterday – when we had lake effect snow all day – and today – when the temperature was supposed to rise into the mid-40’s (~8C) but did not.

The sun shone brilliantly all day, I tricked myself into believing it was as toasty as it appeared. I even promised Petey we’d go on a hike after work, because who wouldn’t want to? Us, as it turns out. By which I mean Tony and me, because Petey was all about the sniffing. It must’ve been the smelliest trail he’s walked on. We didn’t notice. We were cold. The silver lining? The woods are showing some spring progress. 1 – No signs of snow :) 2 – Leeks are sprouting and other photosynthetic varieties are reaching sunward. Still, we took the short path, choosing not to meander onto exposed hilltops.

After cutting our walk short, we decided to hop over to the marina to see if Torch Lake had visibly melted since our last viewing. Driving by the south end yesterday, we noted quite a bit of liquid expanse and were hopeful for similar exposure nearby.
Torch under ice
No luck. In Alden, the ice still clings. And it’s not just a skim coat, in case you were wondering. Yesterday’s 17mph NNW winds pushed some ice up onto the rocks, so we can see just how thick it is floating on top of our precious turquoise lake.

Thick. Looks like winter is determined not to relinquish its icy grip yet, even though May is just around the corner. Still, our grass gets greener by the day, and our snow drifts shrink. Hope remains :)
ice and leaf

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 :) )
pinecones

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?

Winter Brings Ice…and Candy

Our recent temperatures have conspired to make me think 20 degrees (-7C) is going to feel pleasant on Saturday. Normally, I would just layer up ridiculously for skiing, but me skiing doesn’t do much by way of exercising the dog. So lately I’ve taken to wearing thick, windproof gear that I can unzip during a run, which keeps me warm even at windchills below zero. On a side note, running uphill on unpacked fresh powder is almost as fun as running uphill in sand. You can tuck that little tidbit away for later. You’re welcome ;)

Howdy, neighbors? (Taken during a particularly heavy snowburst this afternoon)
heavy snow

With the brutal weather, early sunsets (it dips below the horizon precisely at 5:00pm now, but we’ll be on the rebound next Wednesday!), and weekend-only (for now) skiing, we haven’t had many non-puppy-walking opportunities to be outside. However, that’s worked in our favor the past couple days. We spent nine hours making candy for dear ones, and you’d be hard-pressed to convince me to stay inside that long on a pleasant evening.

I didn’t take any photos of the candy, so here’s a Christmas-y vignette instead :)
Christmas vignette

We packed it all up last night, and then headed to Alden – where our neighbor’s office is – this afternoon for a delivery. We joked with him about hanging out at the marina down the street…and then promptly did just that upon leaving him with goodies.

There was a sliver of clear sky overhead, a little bubble of clarity amid the constant snow, that allowed the sun to peak through. I again marveled at the drama in the heavens as I tottered out to the icy edge. The angry winds tossed a bit of Torch Lake on me as I snapped images of the directionally forming ice.

Though the sky and lake beckoned convincingly, my aching fingers eventually shouted loudly enough at me that I returned to the car. It was a close call, I tell ya. One thing those frigid temps are good for, though, is frosting our windows. Well, that, and it makes me wanna bake. It’s sure beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

Does the cold weather make you want to bake? Or play? Or hide in front of a fire under a blanket (I’m doing that right now ;) )
Frosted Windowpane