Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Green Bay Road, Monday morning, Feb. 18 - 8:15.
 Washington Island, Wisconsin -

If this top photo looks inviting - a pristine scene, fresh snow on the ground and frost on tree limbs - it certainly was.

Since returning home last Wednesday we've seen a range of weather, but none more changeable than the last 24 hours.   Generally, we've had consistently cold weather with highs of ten degrees or so for the day.  Snow has fallen every other day, it seems…then yesterday we had five inches (by my estimate), sometimes with blizzard conditions due to blowing snow in the 30+ mph gusts.

It was a great day to be indoors.  By later that evening, a nearly full moon had come out.  But in the early morning a fog bank crept in from the lake, hovering about 20 feet off the ground.  Six degrees, according to our thermometer, and very still.  A temperature inversion had apparently brought the fog. It was dramatic and quick, like those set changes on a stage between acts, where all of a sudden the lights come back on and the audience is transported yet again.  This foggy act was brief, and it departed along with the ferry by 8 am.

By that time, bright sun took over and burned off the fog, raising the temperature and highlighting frost everywhere in the trees.  Even the well-plowed roads looked clean and fresh this morning, with only a patch of sand here and there at intersections to smudge the scene.  By noontime, our thermometer's needle approached 30 degrees and an overcast sky obliterated the sun.  Along with this change, winds had picked up, enough to begin drifting the light snow once again.  A fine snow had begun to fall, too, making the day now look like the remains of yesterday's storm, an earlier act.
Unless you know the color of someone's jacket, you
won't be able to recognize individuals at the annual
Ice Party on Detroit Harbor.  I estimated between
150- 200 people made their way onto the ice in ten degree
weather, enjoying themselves on the ice.
The following day, Sunday,was bright and clear.
Ferry crossing has been consistent these past days, but not always easy in terms of visibility, or with ice sometimes packed at the outer edge, toward the open lake, when strong southerly winds and seas ground flat ice in to a denser mass of small pieces.

Last night, Joel and Hoyt made an emergency medical run.   Then, with some energy yet to burn and snow drifts sure to interfere with morning loading, they plowed for several hours to get ahead of the morning's work.  As a result, when I drove out to the ferry dock, around 7:45, sidewalks, parking areas and approaches were cleared, with final clean-up work in progress.  It was time to take a ride…which I did!

Con McDonald (foreground) and Joel
Gunnlaugsson (backhoe) clean up surfaces as the AJR
loads in the background for the first run of the day.
Not easily seen is the early morning fog in
the distance still obscuring the harbor.
From a vantage point on the Potato Dock, Mary Jo and I surveyed the ice conditions - as far as could be seen.  Thursday, the route had been cleared by northerly winds, but it was now on the fourth or fifth day of newer ice.  Still, the Arni J. moved along briskly in the old track, as if there were nothing to impede progress, in fact.  When the break-up of bay ice comes, and it will, sooner or later, there will be heavy ice to deal with.

I had no sooner commented, "I wonder how the birds fared in yesterday's blizzard?" when Mary Jo spotted an eagle (photo below) sitting in a birch tree, a favorite place for them to roost, not far from the water (or ice, as the case was today).

Bird activity must slow during such storms, although turkeys were out, looking for seeds beneath our feeder.   Attrition must thin the ranks when long cold spells, high winds and limited food sources add stress to their bodies.

We're headed south, then north, then east, then south tomorrow, to Boyne City, a drive of 450 miles "over the top" of Lake Michigan to visit Thor.   This is a drive that can take all day and then some, including various stops along the way.  We're hoping to slip into the Straits of Mackinac area before sundown, thereby beating the next weather pattern that's forecast to bring rain, sleet or snow - depending on where the line falls across the upper midwest separating colder air from warm, moist, southerly air.

We generally tell ourselves - to cheer each other up - that we're on the downside of winter in late February.  This year could be different.  More daylight each day, which is pleasant, but there hasn't been much settling of the snow accumulated since back in early December.

I worked my way through the deep snow this morning to read my fuel tank gauge and in several places I sank to my hips (drifting snow being partially responsible for the depth, of course).   We hiked on snow shoes Sunday, and in the areas of vegetation where snow accumulated and hadn't blown away, headway was slow and the slogging hard!  Hoyt reported passing drifts along Detroit Island's shores that were eight feet in height, made up of grains of snow driven across the open ice.  One thing can be said, it's a great year for snowmobiles!

One last photo shows the look in the woods earlier today, this one taken along Town Line Road.
 -  Dick Purinton

Light flakes blew from the trees with the softest of breezes as this
photo was taken.


Kari Gordon said...

Lovely!! And Ben sends greetings from Holden Village.....where there is currently 62 inches of snow....on the level. Beautiful all around this country of ours....

Bill Tobey said...

Dick, ten days ago you wrote, "We generally tell ourselves - to cheer each other up - that we're on the downside of winter in late February. This year could be different."

Different it is! I saw -15º on the website this morning. Brisk!