Ice Is Nice!

Good news, Everyone! It’s officially the month that we transition to spring, and daylight saving time is just a week away. Oh wait, that’s not news. You guys all knew that. How about this: we have tolerable temperatures in our forecast! Now that’s good news!

Lest you think I’ve been melodramatic about the weather, here’s a brief history: Since we moved here in 2010, the average high in February has hovered in the 20’s. This year we averaged a high temperature of 9.6F, and almost half of the month had days with double-digit-below-zero lows – including several days near -30F. That’s cold, friends. Not fun to try to walk a dog in.

Thankfully, the past two Saturdays (and Sunday this weekend) we have been blessed with seasonable temperatures. Because it has been so brutally cold, the 23F we played in over the weekend felt positively spring-like. I suppose a 50-degree swing upwards will do that ;)

snow on the ice

We weren’t the only people out basking in the late winter sun. Tony and I headed up the Leelanau coast yesterday just to see what things were looking like, and ended up joining a small crowd out on the lake.

Yep, way out on the lake.

Occasionally, we’d cross a place where the snow had blown clear of the surface. Because the water below is so deep, it mostly looks dark green as you look through the ice, but you can see bubbles frozen in the ice that is probably two feet thick.

The crazy cold has at least been good for something ;) That thick ice out on Lake Michigan is probably strong enough to drive on, but offshore winds have piled some of it up in incredible luminous blue-green masses.

people for scale

With the blue skies and blue ice, it was a photographer’s paradise.
me-on-ice

Some of the ice is clear, some of it is crackly, some of it is milky, some of it is all three of these things, and all of it is spectacular. It is also incredibly slippery.

A couple of icy vignettes. I included my hand (touching the same ice) after each one for scale.


Enough other mammals had trekked on the surfaces that it was a Petey paradise, too.

I had grand designs on a coastal sunset, but we had been out in the wind long enough that the Little Pete Dog was starting to act cold. He wasn’t shivering, but he was being a pull-monster on his leash, and he was half tucking his tale. We might be foolhardy at times, but we’re not dumb ;) We packed it in, but did not call it a day. (More ice coming soon!)

A Day in the Sun

I think everyone in the mid-to-northeastern portion of this country was looking forward to the “warm” temperatures expected on Saturday. Tony and I certainly were, so we planned a day of outdoor activities. We started out with a pre-lunch walk around Traverse City, and then headed over to the coast.

Petey was thrilled with that ball of ice

When we first arrived in Empire, a light snow was falling, and the skies were dull. But, it was in the 20’s (I think we got all the way up to 23F!), so I wasn’t complaining. I left Petey with Tony for a bit and struck off to areas best not to take him.

That tiny speck in the left photo is me. The right image features a pretty melt puddle

After about twenty minutes, we regrouped. And then the sun unexpectedly popped out. It was magical. I hopped back to a couple of my favorite views, and remade the images to stitch into panoramas.

Some pancake ice in front of Empire Bluffs
Empire Ice-2

A super cool iceberg, more pancake ice, and the Sleeping Bear Dunes
Empire Ice

The afternoon was wearing on, but the clouds continued to allow interludes of sunshine, so we decided to drive south of Empire for a bluff hike.

Empire Bluffs Trail-2

The trail is a local favorite, so despite having snow up to our hips, the path is well-worn and quite walkable without snowshoes. We passed several folks along the way – all smiling their appreciation for the gift of the moment. I looked up at one point at a couple of young kids trekking in our direction. I considered taking their photo, but didn’t. I immediately regretted the decision, when I heard one of the boys say our names to his friend. Completely by chance, we had run into our good friends out in the middle of nowhere, and their five-year-old recognized us before we did him!

Jim, Lisa, Jess. Little ones not pictured; they had better things to do ;)
chance friend meeting

After catching up for a few moments, Tony, Petey and I continued to the overlook. I have dozens of photos of this view, and I make more images with each visit. It’s a familiar view, yet it’s always surprising in its beauty and always different, if only subtly.

Empire Bluffs Overview

As we rounded the last curve, laughing at the guard fence buried in snow, the clouds again broke. Dramatic rays of sun spilled onto Lake Michigan, and I stood agape.

Eventually, I managed to contain my enthusiasm, and we began the journey back to the car. Like the view at the overlook, though we had just passed through, the woods was different – and so was I. After a confining bout of brutally cold weather, it’s impressive just how rejuvenating a few hours outside in the sun can be.
Empire Bluffs Trail

A Valentine’s Day Blizzard

Happy Valentine’s Day!
vday

Old Man Winter thought he’d hang out with the northeastern part of the US (and parts of the rest of the North American continent…), and frankly we could use a break from his company. We did our grocery shopping early, and planned to watch movies this weekend. I didn’t even check the aisles for bread and milk. I grabbed stuff for curry and soup, which are both perishable (haha! In these temps??), but at least I’m not pretending to be practical.

Our road after the plow had passed
Valentines Blizzard

I am predictably a little annoyed at feeling housebound. We could leave, but the roads are so bad, where would we go? Not to Traverse City; word has it that one of the mainest roads on the way in is impassable. And if it’s not an emergency, why make it one?

Also, it’s too cold to do anything. I’m not sure I have enough layers to keep me warm outdoors today. Not for long, anyway. I know the saying goes “There’s no bad weather, only bad clothes,” so I must just need better clothes. Maybe I’ll get those tomorrow when Old Man Winter has spent his rage.

Valentines Blizzard-4

Going Out Anyway

This was our weekend: grey and featureless.
winter

But with Saturday above freezing (barely) and today in the 20s, it was practically warm out. So even though it was kind of ugly, we went out anyway. We took Petey on a 3-mile off leash hike on Saturday, and I’m happy to report that it was almost entirely pain-free for me. At the very end I stepped over a snow bank and had a twinge, but I’m still counting it as a success. I’m sure it’s the tape; I’ve been doing my exercises diligently, but I don’t expect miracles overnight ;)

forked river

The hike yesterday wasn’t very picturesque, and good thing since I brought neither my camera nor my phone. Even so, the fresh air and movement was so good for my soul. Getting out again really takes that negative edge off things.

Rapid River bridge

More good news: the road crews sanded/salted our road the other day, but we’ve had enough fresh snow to dilute it, so Petey and I enjoyed a good walk this morning. It’s my favorite way to start the day, and as long as his feet don’t hurt, it’s Petey’s favorite too.

And since the temperature was still so temperate this afternoon (18F), Tony and I drove over the hill down to the river – to Seven Bridges Natural Area we go’ed. Okay, I’ll stop singing now ;) Despite the flat lighting, I took my camera and tripod and made some new images while Tony and Petey meandered. I’m feeling revitalized and ready for the week, which is good, because ready-or-not-here-it-comes!
bridge over Rapid River


Since people so often comment on how majestic Petey looks, I figure I’ll share this dorky photo that I posted on FB on Friday. This little nerd prays at the altar of the fireplace god until he’s so hot that he pants. Does he get up because he is hot? He does not. Mostly, he just pants with his goofy smiley face on.

I hope your week is so good that it makes you smile like this guy:
IMG_1875

In Stasis

This winter is turning out to be a tough one for me. As one might expect, we’ve had lots of cold days this year. I generally do all right in low temperatures – I dress in layers and stay active, which keeps me warm. But that only works to a point (at least for me – I know there are far more intrepid souls who brave the sub-zero temps with panache), and it does not work on days when the mercury stays in the single digits (Fahrenheit).

This day it was still -10F at 10:00am. Too cold to play outside.
-10F

Our Petey Puppy doesn’t do well in the cold, either. We did get him some boots – which he loves about as much as you’d expect – but we haven’t gotten much use out of them. Just about the time they came in the mail was when my knee finally started pitching a real fit.

Gets sore paws when it’s below about 15F, but thinks it’s swimming weather if it’s 20F or above…

I saw my physician about my knee last year, and he “prescribed” insoles to support my arches. They helped, but didn’t fix the problem. I’ve hardly run in the past year, but had been doing okay walking as long as I watched my footing on the downhill bits. Then, a couple weeks ago, I had to jog Petey a few steps to get us through a salted patch in the road (really bad news for his paws, and he’s too heavy to carry). It took some limping and a bunch of four-letter words, but we made it home.

Unrelated to anything in this post. But aren’t they cool?
black and white icebergs

Thankfully, my doctor is still convinced I can fix this without surgery. I’ve started physical therapy, and my PT’s say I’ll notice an improvement within a couple weeks. So guess who’s been diligently spending time doing her PT homework in the basement? I might be stubborn, but I’m not stupid ;)

At least the cold and wind create beautiful things…
ice cave

So the knee has been a big issue, but it’s not the only one. We’re also hesitant to make long-term plans (like being temporary snowbirds), because our house is still on the market. We went a few months with little activity, but have had three showings since we returned from Ohio last month. I think we’re being both optimistic and realistic about it. It’ll sell eventually – hopefully soon-ish!

Not much walking or running is required for these photography forays :)
glowing Torch sunset

It’s an odd thing, feeling hamstrung by a house we love, and don’t actually need to get rid of. However, we’re looking forward to the move, and the opportunities that will bring – like more chances to walk around the frozen waters of the bay in a pair of shorts and a light jacket ;) Before you ask – yes, that is what I was wearing. No, I was not warm enough – it’s what I had on after yesterday’s physical therapy, and I was racing a setting sun.

Since I’ve been so quiet on the blog lately, I figure I ought to mention: I do post at least one photo a day on my Snap Happy Gal – Facebook page. It’ll give you an idea of what I’m up to, and give you a bit of eye candy so feel free to follow there. If you don’t FB but still want to see photos, I also share images on Flickr.