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?

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

White Friday

While other folks went on crazed shopping adventures (Today is known as “Black Friday,” if you live in a country that doesn’t immediately follow a day its national day of thanks with rampant consumerism), Tony and I began our 2013/14 ski season. Get it? (Snow) white Friday? I thought so ;) Our first couple of runs felt a little stiff and shaky, but our muscles soon remembered their jobs. Slightly scary quickly turned into brisk fun. We didn’t stay long – there were only a few runs open, and we had a long walk planned for the afternoon – but man did it feel good to be back on the snow!

By the time we left the ski resort, the skies were beginning to cloud over, but Alden was still sunny on our way through, so we pulled off at a public access spot on Torch Lake.

visit to Torch Lake

The frosted islet called for closer inspection.

visit to Torch Lake-3

We walked to the very edge (sorry, Mom – we definitely got close to the edge!), and then turned back. We hadn’t brought our bathing suits, and didn’t feel like wading.

visit to Torch Lake-2

Some places practically beg you to slow down, and admire deeply. This was one. Tony and I both just stared, taking in the serenity of the whole, big icy picture.

And then we looked closer.
The individual blades of grass are worth clicking for the larger version

myriad icicles

After an hour poking around – so much for a quick stop – we finally dragged ourselves back to our car, and then home.

The past two days have been pretty terrific, and there are still two more days in the weekend. I wonder what they hold. Got any inspiration to pass along? :)

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

A Coy Hike

It felt like spring this morning. It wasn’t quite 40F (4C), but the lingering snow on the road had melted overnight, and a lemony sun peeked over the horizon. The skies remained clear and blue, and the passing day beckoned. At about 2:00 we decided we’d work a split-shift, so we bailed for hike at Coy Mountain.

Proud boy on crunchy leaves under clear skies

We took the Petey puppy who discovered the woods was full of yummy, chewable sticks. Since he’d already had his proper morning walk, we acquiesced and allowed him the freedom to sniff and chomp. The novelty quickly wore off, and soon we hiked along the trail easily. The dog may have settled into a more focused walk, but I couldn’t decide whether to look up or down.

Those two trees can’t decide whether to be one or two; and look at that canopy!

Moss and mushrooms? Be still my heart!

Even though the day was crisp and dry, I was seeing rainbows in the trees ;)

Eventually I pulled it together, and we arrived at the peak, which has nice views of Torch Lake at this time of year.

Our woodland foray only encompassed about a mile and a half, so afterward we popped down the road to the Depot park on Torch Lake in Alden. We traipsed around near the shore, almost convincing ourselves it was warm in the afternoon sun. With naked, hibernating trees the dominant feature of the landscape, I’m surprised how much color can be hidden by verdant leaves.

Maybe November isn’t so bad after all.