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.

Things Unlooked For

We treated Petey for some mites on his feet last night, and a side effect of the medication is lethargy. He didn’t seem too out of it, but this morning, he balked mightily at his walk. He’s normally – as much as I can judge, considering he’s been with us less than a week – happy about his walks, so I paid attention when he planted his feet in determination not to leave home. He did eventually join me for a walk through our woods after lunch, and by afternoon we could tell he was feeling better. In fact, it was obvious he needed to purge some pent up energy, so we loaded him with coat and backpack and headed to the park.
tree in warm light-2

The breeze was cold, but the light was warm, and the trail was mostly free from the ice that still coats our roads. Petey trotted four times around the half-mile loop, pulling just a touch more on the leash than we’d like, (we’re working on it, and he seems to be a quick learner) but he didn’t fight the activity.
Tony and Petey

I’ve been watching our cloudy skies with eagle eyes lately, nigh on desperate for a beautiful extended sunset. Tonight we left home merely looking to exercise the pup. As we began our last lap, the light matured. The warm sun bathing the pasture transitioned into light pink with golden accents, and then deepened into a rich blush, finally fading into yellow and orange. As often seems to be the case, my sunset found me when I quit looking for it. I’m glad I was prepared anyway.

And in case you’re wondering, Petey didn’t mind taking a break in his post-walk ball chasing while I snapped pictures.




Recipes for a Perfect Fall Day

I was worried about the fall this year, because our summer seemed so brief. And even though we’ve already had a few bouts of lake effect snow, I’ve had nothing to worry about. Our fall has been terrific, and we’ve savored several prototypical autumn days.

Back in mid-October, just after Meg winged her way back to Maui, we joined up with Jim, Jess, and Jackson to sample the local treats at Rennie Orchard. It’s a laid back kind of place where you can pick your own apples (and other fruits when in season) if you choose, and where kids are free to go wild in the small straw maze and other kid-sized structures. A smoky fire smouldered in a pit, giving me a place to warm up after meandering around the grounds. In all honesty, though, I was there for the cider. They do a blend of five apples plus pear (I think I’ve got that right), and it’s my favorite. We followed up our orchard time with a hike through Hickory Meadows – pretty little natural area just at the edge of Traverse City.

More recently, before the first snows arrived, several days of drama dominated our skies. The weather that came with them was gentle, but it pulled me outside multiple times just to oooh and aaah and search for rainbows. Last Tuesday it was so distracting that we piled into the car after lunch and went for a “Sunday drive” around Torch Lake. Alternating rain, hail, snow, and sunshine finally delivered the rainbow I knew was out there. And when we returned home, I was clear-headed enough I could actually focus and get some work done.

And as October winds down, yesterday might just be the most “fall” day of them all. Frost etched the lawn in the morning, but melted off in the early sun. Erith joined us for a trip to Short’s, where she enjoyed a pumpkin ale and I partook of some chestnut bisque. She and I carved pumpkins to the soundtrack from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and then we munched on roasted pumpkin seeds and homemade kettle corn. Lest we get too full, we popped over to the Skegemog swamp pathway for a brief hike where we disrobed cattails like all mature adults do. We rounded out the evening together with a scary movie (The Purge, which was good but would have been more impactful as a book). Before bed, I snuggled by the fire with my book and Tony laughed his way through Ghostbusters.

I wouldn’t dare to choose a favorite day – I love them all – but how ’bout you? Got any favorite fall festivities?