Tag Archives: ice

Your last chance to imagine…

…Upper Peninsula flowing rivers until spring.

As the flowing river whispers its adieu...

Ice suggestion...

Imagine yourself walking along this Upper Peninsula river last week.  Imagine the river turning to ice.  Imagine whispering “goodbye” to the flowing Silver River between L’Anse and Skanee.

Log over river

Imagine publishing three days worth of freezing river photos.  Imagine wondering if the readers are bored stiff with freezing river images.  Imagine having to publish them anyway.  Because the river insists. 

Snow covered rocks & shadows & river ice

Imagine the photographer attempting to take these river photos.  Imagine how she felt weak and tired (mostly because she had just learned she had to have gall bladder surgery.)

Imagine how she sighed when she looked up at the river hills which must be climbed.  Imagine how she muttered to herself.  Imagine how the river really didn’t care.  It had hired its photographer for the moment and her health was secondary to the beautiful shifts of ice and snow and flowing water.

River ice

Imagine how you will feel tomorrow–or the next day–when the freezing river series has ended.

Imagine how we Yoopers will feel for the next five or six months as the river remains solid, unchanging, covered with white snow.  Imagine how the underwater fish feel.  Imagine how the snowmobilers will feel as they roar along the frozen surface.  Imagine the cross-country skier.  Imagine the coyote, the wolf.  Imagine how all of us will think of this frozen snowy river for the next half year.

River curves

When you’ve imagined that:  you will know why these photos capture something precious.  How they capture change before it seemingly ends for a while. 

At the edge of becoming ice...

Yesterday–when we bought our Christmas tree in town–the last of seventeen Christmas trees available, mind you–I glanced at the river as we sped by.  Only a lone strip of water remained in the middle.

It’s almost frozen solid.


In the middle of winter you might not even suspect that a river is a river.  You might think it is a brief clearing in the trees.  But a wise outdoorsman or woman would notice how the clearing follows a winding pattern into the distance.  A wise person would tread carefully.  Especially as spring arrives.

United States Geological Survey worker tests Silver River

I discovered a United States Geological Survey worker measuring the Silver River as I prepared to leave.  His colorful jacket shocked the black-and-white scene wide awake. 

All shyness deserted this shy photographer as I approached him.

“May I take your picture?”

He looked a little startled, but agreed.

He gave me his card.  Which the shy photographer promptly misplaced.  He’s based down in Escanaba and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community has hired his company to do baseline studies of the river. 

He told me all about the river’s conductivity.  I pretended to know what conductivity might mean.  Here is what Wikipedia has to say about hydraulic conductivity.  I’m sure that’s what he meant.

I truly wish I could find his card.  It listed the website which we could click to learn all about the most current findings.  (If it’s discovered later I will place the link here.) 

It almost looks like he's ice fishing, doesn't it?

Imagine that this is the last of the Upper Peninsula freezing water photos you will see for many months.  If you see any photos in the spring, they will be thawing photos. 

Thank you for your attention to the Upper Peninsula Rivers.  They thank you, just before they stop babbling just in time for Winter Solstice.

“The snow that flies today slept last night in Lake Superior”

Snow on the road

Let’s pretend that you’re driving along a back-country road in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  It’s early December.  It’s–of course–snowing.

You ponder the beauty of snow.  You ponder the possible treachery of snow. 

You suddenly remember a phrase that a friend used last winter.  “The snow that flies today slept last night in Lake Superior.”

Snow on the old Studebaker car

Let’s get down to Snow Basics 101.  This is what every Yooper (Upper Peninsula shoveler or snow plower) learns early.

There are two ways in which we get our snow.  Please find your notebook and pen.  There will be a quiz.

The first way we get snow is a system roars in from–usually–the west.  Sometimes it barrels in from another direction (like the deep south or east or north) surprising us.  But usually it arrives from Wisconsin and Minnesota.  Sometimes it tiptoes in with a few flakes.  It is a “weather system” and the snow comes from elsewhere.

Snow on branches

However, those of us who live along the Great Lakes are prone to a variety of snow called Lake Effect Snow.  Everyone knows what lake effect snow is?

Here is Wikipedia’s wise explanation, pasted and copied just for inquiring minds:

Lake-effect snow is produced in the winter when cold winds move across long expanses of warmer lake water, providing energy and picking up water vapor which freezes and is deposited on the leeward shores. The same effect over bodies of salt water is called ocean effect snow, sea effect snow, or even bay effect snow. The effect is enhanced when the moving air mass is uplifted by the orographic effect of higher elevations on the downwind shores. This uplifting can produce narrow but very intense bands of precipitation, which deposit at a rate of many inches of snow each hour, often resulting in copious snowfall totals. The areas affected by lake-effect snow are called snowbelts. This effect occurs in many locations throughout the world but is best known in the populated areas of the Great Lakes of North America, and especially Western New York, southwestern and central Ontario, northwestern and northcentral Indiana (mostly between Gary, IN and Elkhart, IN, western Michigan and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which can average over 200 inches (5 meters) of snow per year and averages the most snow of any non-mountainous location within the continental U.S.

Snow on tip of spruce tree

So there you have it.  “The snow that flies today slept last night in Lake Superior.”  It was water last night–another substance altogether.  It was One with lake trout and whitefish and algae.  It never dreamed it would be transformed in less than twenty-four hours into a crystal flake of snow!  It never dreamed…

And perhaps tonight it will fall gently back into the lake which gave it birth, returning to liquid water once more.  Until the day–very soon, I suspect–when the ice forms thick on the bays and one day in 2011 the ice fishermen will drill holes into the ice to find the water below in which silver-finned fish circle in depths of 280 feet, in waters which perhaps have transformed from snow to water.

Snow on cattails

I find myself scurrying a lot in the cold weather, shutting down, attempting to maintain body heat.  The temperature lingers in the 20′s.  The weather forecast announces “Snow” for days on end. 

We are actually not in one of the prime lake effect areas of the Upper Peninsula.  The Keweenaw receives much more lake effect snow.  There is an area between Marquette and Munising (to our east) which you pray not to drive in mid-winter as lake effect snow never seems to cease falling.

More snow on branches

Are we ready for our quiz?  No peeking back!  Unlike me, you should have read these words very carefully, digesting them. 

Quiz:  what is a snow belt?  (Is it a belt snow wears to keep itself up?  Is it a noise that snow makes when it hits rooftops?) 

Who wants to come & help shovel?

Are there any volunteers handy with a snow shovel?  Want to come north and wield its weight throughout these lake effect snows?  Expert snow plowers are also welcome.  We haven’t plowed the driveway yet, but it’s getting kind of deep.

Getting deep with the water that slept in Lake Superior last night.

Natural ice sculpture along US-41

Roadside geyser spouts upward; frozen ice sculptures everywhere!

We motored to Marquette today.  It was a necessity.  You see, I had eaten out oh-so-many times in Florida with my family.  At wonderful delicious restaurants.

And poor Barry had heated up leftover rice and eaten cans of tuna fish and thawed barley soup for a week.

The poor lad was ready for a really, really good fish dinner.  So off we traipsed to Marquette.  Where we eventually enjoyed a delicious lunch of whitefish and salmon at the Vierling Restaurant overlooking the harbor.


On our way to Marquette, driving down the road, chatting about this and that, suddenly we both spotted IT.  The geyser of water which squirts upward along the highway.  But today it lay surrounded by a natural ice sculpture, beautifully glistening ice patterned creations gleaming in the late March sun.

Sneaking back behind the tree for a closer view

“We must remember to take pictures of this on our way back!” I said excitedly.

“No, no, turn around now, let’s do it now,” my husband replied.

We found the quickest turn-around spot, and U-turned toward the magnificent spewing creation.  We both had seen the pipe which sprays water up in the air near Champion before.  You don’t usually notice it in the winter-time when it basically gets buried in snow.  In the summer-time it simply spurts upward.

The question inquiring minds want to know is this:  WHY?  Why is there a pipe leading to the side of the road, and why does it spurt upward? 

I tried to Google it for about five minutes but didn’t come up with any answers.  If any of you wise folks know–please comment.

The Actual Creator of these sculptures...a hose which shoots water upward

We suspect it might be an artesian well or natural spring.  Perhaps some fine fellow ran the hose next to the highway to entertain passers-by.  Perhaps he didn’t want to admire the ice sculptures all by himself.  Perhaps there is another reason.

Surrounding grasses

I crept a little too close during the photography expedition and my poor sneakers got a bit wet.  Not enough to ruin our lunch date.  But enough to feel a little soggy.

Frozen arch of ice

I wasn’t going to post a blog tonight, but thought you really might enjoy seeing these photographs. 

P.S.  By the time we headed back home a few hours later, most of the sculpture had melted.  Gone.  Kaput.  Good thing we stopped when we did!

“Keep Off During Storms or Rough Seas”

Wild waves on the breakwall

Hello, everyone!  I’m home after another adventure.  My friend Bertha and I met for an overnight mid-winter retreat in Marquette yesterday.  Since we’re both so independent, we had to drive separately.  (Also because she’s spending another night with a friend before returning home.)

I worked on Thursday instead of Friday to negotiate more hours in the “big city”.  Leisurely drove over there along US-41.  Approaching Marquette, the bright sunny sky dimmed and gray clouds scudded overhead.  A fierce wind blew from either the north or the east (I forgot to wet my finger and put it in the air to determine direction).

Oh so foreboding...

Down by Lake Superior on Presque Isle, the water looked foreboding.  The wind whipped off the waves with fierce intensity.  I looked at the camera, looked outside, looked at the camera, settled deeper in the warm car…and finally opened the door.  The door almost blew off the hinges!

The wind roared:  “Get back in the car, you fool!”

I burrowed deeper in boots and winter jacket, shaking, attempting to maneuver on the slippery ice underfoot.

“You can’t beat us!” I yelled back to the wind.  (Well, in imagination, that is…)

I slipped and slided closer and closer and closer, attempting to capture the waves crashing helter-skelter against the breakwall.  It seemed strange that Marquette’s harbor held no ice like our sheltered bays in Baraga County.  Both the Huron and Keweenaw Bays lie covered with ice (at least part-way out).  No ice fishermen are jigging on the waves near Marquette.

Don't step out on that breakwall. Too many have lost their lives...

I want to accurately tell you how high the waves crescendoed into the sky.  But I’m terrible at estimating these things.  Twenty feet?  Thirty feet?  High enough to take away your breath, anyway.  (Post script–Barry just read this and laughed.  He said, “Maybe ten feet, anyway.”  Hmmm…  I’m voting for at least twenty.)

A half-dozen other photographers crept closer to the waves, attempting to capture “The Shot”.  You never knew when the wave would crest, so you snapped, snapped, furiously snapped the shutter, hoping.  People would last maybe five minutes before dashing back to their warm cars and trucks.

Lone tree braves icy winds

Every few years you hear tales of people–usually students at Northern Michigan University–who drown off this breakwall.  Perhaps they think themselves a match for the fierce wind.  Perhaps they’re not thinking at all.  You wouldn’t pay me to walk even on to the edges of the breakwall during a high wind.  Standing on shore felt threatening enough.

Another crashing wave! And another!

Spray burst upward as the waves crashed, sometimes sending droplets toward the innocent on shore.  We kept our cameras sheltered.  I wanted a long lens and a single lens reflex camera so much.

The wind threatens to blow photographers into the drink.

After maybe seven minutes, every bone in my body chilled by the penetrating wind, I raced for the car.  On to other adventures in Marquette!  I won’t tell you what they were until tomorrow’s blog.  Too many photos to fit in one blog, you know.

"Keep off during storms or rough seas."

I hope you are all enjoying your weekend and staying away from breakwalls during high seas.  Please.

Swooshing on skis along Lake Superior


The Huron Bay

Forget what I said recently about preferring snowshoeing to cross-country skiing.

Yesterday completely busted my previous opinion.

“You’re making such a liar out of me,” I told Nancy as we skied along on flat, flat ground, our skis swooshing effortlessly in the near-perfect skiing conditions.  The blue sky shined above us and the temperatures basted us in the upper 30′s.

We were in heaven along the shore of Lake Superior.

Nancy leads the way

Nancy works on Tuesday through Thursday, so she’s taken to calling about going on outdoor adventures on Fridays.  Last week we visited the heronry.  This week she suggested the “ski” word.  I took a deep breath and agreed, especially when she mentioned flat terrain.

Did we want to ski along the lake, or along a trail across from her house?

How about the lake?

We must have uttered the words “gorgeous day” at least a dozen times.  It was picture-perfect.  We skied out from Witz Marina in Skanee and headed northeast along the edge of the bay.  The ice out this far is not solid very far out in the bay, so we stuck to the shoreline.  No ice fishing tents dotted the horizon–all sensible ice fishermen baited lines farther in the Huron Bay.

Blue sky, tree

We admired the cabins along the shore.  Nancy knows just about everyone in the community.  We’ve only lived here about 30 years, so we’re still newcomers.  She’s always telling me who is related to who, who lives where, and all sorts of interesting details about people.  She shared ancient history about long-dead residents as our skis glided along.  It was fascinating.

Sauna on lake

We headed toward Lightfoot Bay, a piece of land owned by the Keweenaw Land Trust.  Perhaps some of you remember the blog last summer about our visit there while awaiting the three-masted schooner.  If not, please click here and here.  You can see what the land looks like at the end of June.

We skied up to the lodge owned by the land trust and I noticed the intricate wood on the upper story.  I had not remembered it from last summer, although my trusty observant husband later revealed he recalled it.


Nancy and I talked about how much fun it would be to rent the cabin with some other women and spend an overnight or weekend there.  Then we plotted a possible overnight tour with the Book Club to Munising and the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

By the time we finished our ski, we had all sorts of adventures planned for the summer.

Broken window

What I enjoyed about this cross-country skiing trip (besides the flat terrain) was the leisurely way we explored the landscape, pausing numerous times to photograph all sorts of views.  It proved a magnificent Friday afternoon.  Can winter get much better than this?

It was a lovely ski, wasn't it?

High in the sky above Lake Superior…checking out the ice

Looking south over Sand Point...Assinins in foreground...L'Anse straight ahead

No, I did not go up in an airplane.  No, these are not my photos.

These aerial photographs come to you courtesy of  Barry’s fishing buddy, Mike.  Mike owns a small two-seater plane and he headed up into the friendly skies above our shoreline along Lake Superior last Friday.

He emailed his photographs of Keweenaw and Huron bays to the L’Anse Sentinel, our weekly newspaper (where my husband just happens to be the editor)  and I begged Barry…begged, mind you, blog readers…just for you…to ask Mike for permission to publish them here.  Mike thankfully agreed.

Looking northeast from the Head of Keweenaw Bay

I interviewed Barry about Mike’s plane a couple hours ago.  He says Mike likes to fly his plane about once a month during the winter.  He stores it in a hangar up at the Houghton Airport and keeps his eye open for a nice day.  Apparently last Friday met all requirements.  Up he went.

Looking north from the Huron Bay (Reed's Point on the left)

Strangely, Nancy and I were visiting the heronry on Friday and heard an airplane overhead.  “A plane!”  she exclaimed, “Let’s wave at it.”  We peered into the heavens.  The plane flew north of us.  We didn’t get the opportunity to wave wildly from the ground.  I am now 99.9% convinced that it was Mike’s plane. 

Who would have guessed we’d have his photos a few days later?

Looking south in the Huron Bay

Back to my interview with Barry–about Mike and his plane.  He said the boys have been speculating about where the end of the ice might be.  They are all ice fishermen and want to know.  He is convinced Mike flew upwards into the sky just to check on the ice.

You never know.

The ice fishermen are restless with minimal ice cover so far this winter.

Mike opens the window of his plane and sticks his camera out to get the photographs, attempting not to get pictures of the airplane wing.  It’s freezing cold outside the at that speed and altitude.  Brrrr…. 

I really want to thank Mike for allowing me to publish his great photos.  What a wonderful opportunity to see our fair land and lake from the sky in February!

The Edge of the Known World

Ice formations on Lake Superior

Assignment:  walk to the edge of the known world.  Walk where no man (or woman) has ever walked before.  At least not this year!  Walk to…the edge of the ice. 

Beach and beyond

You can do it.  Here’s what you need to do.  Find a beach in a northern cold climate.  Find a beach with ice thick enough to walk to the edge.  Gauge depth carefully, especially if you’re ice-chicken, like I am.  Tentatively place your feet on the ice and determine whether you’re safe. 

If you’re safe, continue to toward the edge. (I only had to walk about twenty feet to the Edge of the World.  And the ice was thicker than thick.)

Very slippery! Watch out.

Whoops, I forgot to tell you how slippery the edges of the Known World can be.  Try to keep your balance.  Step carefully.  Ice with snow on top can look deceptively crusty.  It often isn’t.  Step more carefully.  I don’t want you to fall. 

The action of ice forming

Here you are, at the Edge.  Admire the horizon, the lake stretching off to the west and north.  Admire the way ice forms, all the icebergs rubbing against each other.  Admire the wave action (if it’s a windy day).  If it’s a calm day, grin in glee.  The lake always feels so peaceful on calm days.

Smile at how exhilarated you feel out here.  Even though it’s 11 degrees, it feels warm.  Why does this happen?  You’re sure 11 degrees will feel freezing.  But when you’re out here, warmly dressed, it feels like 25 degrees.  Maybe it warmed up since you left home.  You never know.

Northern view

Look closely at the above photo.  Look at the circles of thin ice.  One of these days those translucent circles will form into solid ‘bergs.  Maybe even this week.  And the ice will continue to form out in the bay, farther and farther from shore.  One of these days ice fishermen will put their teepee tents or shacks out here and cast a line down into the depths.  The Known World expands a little further… 

Continuing our ice tour...

I find ice fascinating, don’t you?  The way it forms and dissolves.  Its fleeting nature.  The way it appears so solid, but melts away when the temperatures rise.  

Out here on the Edge, you feel like you are witnessing formations never before seen.  Icebergs on the edge of transformation.  A white icy world building and elongating on the crest of waves and wind and snow and water. 

Soon the ice will claim the entire bay.

Thank you for your bravery.  For walking safely on ice.  For witnessing a Magical Mystery Ice Tour.  For not slipping and falling.  Out here on the Edge of the Known World anything can happen…can’t it?

The sound of gunshot at midnight

Ice forms on the Huron Bay

You awake at midnight, heart pounding.  Gunshot!  It resounds through the woods like the crack of a rifle.  Nervously you propel out of your warm flannel sheets to investigate.

Crack!  Again it resounds.  You open the deck door and listen. 

Suddenly you know what it is.

An angel reflected in ice

Down on the bay, on cold December or January nights, the ice cracks like gunshot.  The mystery of its forming and re-forming, its plates building pressure and rubbing against one another, often results in a booming sound.  Sometime it peels sharp like gunshot.  Other times it booms like canons.

A quarter mile away it can wake you from light sleep.  If you’re sleeping deep, you’ll never hear it.  If you happen to be prowling around the property like a night owl you’ll think fireworks crackle in the distance. 

Until you remember.  Ahhh….it’s the ice.


My ice fishing husband tells stories about the sounds ice makes.  He says you can be sitting in the tent, minding your own fishing line, swapping tales with your fishing partner when…whirrrrrr!….crack….like a knife the sound of ice splitting screams from one side of the bay to the other.

He has witnessed a crack split the ice between himself and his fishing partner.  In an instant.  Like rumbling lightning and thunder. 

I’m not kidding.

Some people refuse to ice fish because they know the ice is alive.  And it talks.

The tectonic plates of ice talking to one another

I really don’t know the science of ice.  Why it speaks the language it does.  What that language means.  I know it’s a language of pressure.  Of two plates grinding together, or perhaps separating.  Perhaps it’s the pressure of things forming and pushing apart simultaneously.

The first time I walked on deep clear ice I whimpered.  Real fear almost refused to move the legs.  “I…will…not…do…this,” I repeated through clenched teeth, although I kept moving with my husband’s encouragement.  It wasn’t pleasant. It was downright scary.

Last winter when we fished out on ice over 220 feet of water, surrounded by dozens of other fishermen, no nervousness existed.  Go figure.  We humans, I always repeat, are strange creatures.  As strange as ice.

Stone protrudes from frozen clear ice

I loved the way these stones protruded from the ice a couple mornings ago.  The ice almost looks like water.  Almost like you could place your hand in the freezing silky wetness.  But, no.  Ice covers the end of the Huron Bay, except for fringe edges.  The ice is gaining in speed and intensity and bulk.  Every day it thickens.

As above, so below

The fishermen talk of whitefish and trout and salmon and burbot and smelt.  Green dots of ice tents sprinkle across the head of the Keweenaw Bay.  My husband and our friend Nancy (one of his fishing partners) ask:  “Are you coming ice fishing this year?” 

I don’t know.  Depends on how much the ice is talking.  How many inches forms.  How much I’ve been scared by the sound of ice booming at midnight…

Dreams of ice and sunlight

Heart of ice

Silver-finned lake trout glide deep below the surface of Lake Superior, ice already submerging their midnight dreams.  On the rocky bottoms they move silently in almost total darkness.  Their eyes dream shadows.  They swim to a different drummer, an underwater rhythm, a song of gills and scales and minnow-dreams.

Ice dreaming...

At the surface, another dream froths the waves.  Biting wind and plummeting temperatures penetrate the water.  The water slows; sluggish near its edges.  As it slows ice crystals form, a million crystals metamorphosing to slushy ice.  The surface of the bay dreams of ice as it sleeps, a blanket of ice, a cocoon of ice to insulate the deep-swimming trout.

Dreaming lone tree

Near the icy bay a tree dreams of sunlight.  It yearns for sunlight down in its frozen roots.  The roots reach deep into the ice of the lake.  Bare bones of  limbs etch against a gray January horizon, motionless.  The world holds its icy breath as winter settles onto the landscape enfolding trout, waves, tree.

Let there be sunlight AND ice...

The sun breaks through the dream of the clouds, illuminates the dream of the tree, dances on the icy waves of the lake and sends shadows of its rays into the eye of the silver trout. 

Later this winter you may eat this trout with fork and knife, salt and pepper.  Along with the fish you eat dreams of rocks, waves, ice, tree and sunlight. 

Who untangles this dreaming web we all weave?  Who dares separate it into a single strand?  We are ice, bitter wind, crystals, branches, photographs, readers, writers, dancers of dreams and eaters of fish.  Are we not?