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

Taking Advantage

Temperatures were in the 20’s yesterday and today, so we took the chance to get out and explore. Since we have day jobs, we’re a bit limited on our mid-week options, but we are fortunate to have some hiking trails nearby. It snowed heavily on us today, so I left the camera at home, but yesterday the sun joined us (and so did the camera).

Tony and I have been working on Petey’s recall and calming down after major excitement. Happily, he hiked nearly five miles off leash yesterday with just a few minor incidents – both involving birds that he had no hope of catching. (Thankfully, he did not approach the coyote we saw at the end of our first hike. Instead, he walked contentedly behind me back on his leash.) We’re confident he’ll get his prey instinct under some kind of control – he just needs some training and patience. Which is to say we need patience.

Skegemog Petey-3

We’ve worked on behavioral modification in the past with great success. It wasn’t very long ago that we’d have to drag him out onto boardwalks and decking of any kind. It’s been worth the effort. I’m happy that his fears haven’t shrunk his world, and it’s wonderful seeing him not tremble as he steps foot onto these surfaces.

In addition to generally enjoying our outing, you can see that Petey practiced posing.
Skegemog Petey-6

He even practiced when I was simply trying to take pictures of the scenery sans-Petey. Clearly I missed the memo about the need for a Pete in every picture. “A Pete in Every Picture” sounds like a fundraising initiative, don’t you think? ;)
Skegemog Petey-7

Before the sun had entirely set, we trekked out onto the frozen expanses of Lake Skegemog. As always, Petey followed the path of a previous hiker. I made my own tracks. Not that I’m a trailblazer – it’s just easier to walk in fresh snow than the uneven footing of an obviously taller first hiker.
Skegemog Petey-8

That’ll be all from me for a few days. Friday is supposed to be in the teens, but otherwise we are expecting several days with single-digit highs. Brrrr!

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