Deeply Ill

In case you’ve forgotten what it’s been like in this part of the world, let me remind you:

frigid Rapid River

That was Thursday morning. Double digits below zero again. But the mercury was on the rise, and threatened to get almost warm. No really – we’ve been expecting 40’s (between 5 and 10 C) and sunny, which I feared would make our ice unsafe for exploration so I did the unthinkable.

On Friday morning, I rose at an indecent hour, and then left the house just a couple minutes too late to catch the moon setting over the west coast in Empire, MI. I remain a touch disappointed about that, but only a little. I had the whole beach very nearly to myself (I wasn’t out on the ice all alone-y on my own-y) for the entire hour and a half I was there.

Although temperatures hovered in the single digits, I was never cold. Being surrounded by such beauty is awe-inspiring, and surreal, and breathtaking. It is invigorating.

The sun rose hot on Friday, and by the time I made it to my running appointment at 10:00 (I’m cleared to ease into running!) it was nearly 20F. I hesitate to speak out of turn, but I think Old Man Winter finally got tired, and went to bed.

good morning sunshine

This morning we woke to brilliant sunshine accompanied by spring-like temperatures. It was still below freezing, but not much. Birds sweetened the air with their songs – and not just one or two birds, but a whole chorus of them.

I’ve removed the fleece lining from my coat, and didn’t make Petey wear his. Speaking of whom, some puppies have a terrible case of spring fever. That little guy practically pranced his way through his morning walk. He sniffed the air and sashayed along the way, not once trying to end the walk early. Then, he begged to go out for an afternoon jaunt. Then, he asked to go for an evening walk.

A stop on our evening walk on Torch Lake in Alden
Torch reflections

And then we walked again during sunset. Since I obliged with every request, I think I must’ve caught it too. Looking at the forecast – which has 50’s in store dontcha know?! – I think I might have a fatal case of spring fever. Quick, no one get some ice! And be careful; I think this strain is highly contagious ;)

Images from tonight’s everlasting sunset. That sun pillar lasted nearly 15 minutes after the sun dipped below the horizon,

A Skegemog (Mis)Adventure

Because we had gallivanted on Saturday, Tony and I decided to stay closer to home on Sunday. Plus we had a house showing (they’re not interested) right in the middle of the afternoon, which would’ve spoiled any potential plans. We’re still thrilled with the warmer weather, so we decided to take Petey for an evening hike on one of the nearby Skegemog trails.

I was last over there by myself with Petey, and while the trailhead parking wasn’t clear, it was passable. Things looks similar as we pulled up, and I advised Tony – who was driving – as such. Too bad I was wrong. As soon as we cleared the initial hump of snow into the parking area, we slid down and sideways into deep mushy snow fit only for snowmobiles. Thankfully, we were only a few feet off the road, and some careful back and forth work with a bit of pushing freed us. Much better than a couple years ago.

This was on our way back, so it’s dark, but I thought this post needed a photo break ;)
trail-Petey

The sky was fully covered in clouds when we set off, so I left my camera in the car. Petey was an absolute wild man – a veritable friskopotamus. He was pretty responsive, but you’d never have guessed he’d had a big day of adventures on Saturday.

Still running hog-wild after over 1.5 miles on lightly packed snow
Petey-on-Skegemog

Of course, the sky opened up a bit as we approached the frozen lake. I lamented not bringing my “real” camera. My phone died a couple of times in the cold, so I had to borrow Tony’s for a few of these. It was probably a good thing I didn’t have the Nikon – we’d never have left ;)
Skegemog-sunset

Eventually we did go, though. Partly because the wind across the open lake was freezing us, and partly because night was swiftly approaching. By the time we returned to the car, twilight was upon us, and Petey had calmed somewhat. Again, I am so grateful for the many places we can escape to the great outdoors!

You can embiggen this one if you want :) It’s a 180-degree pano of Lake Skegemog.
Skegemog-Pano

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