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.

Friday, February 14, 2014


Arni J. Richter approaching the island dock,
Thursday, February 13th.
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

The photo shown above was taken 24 hours ago, when 30 mph southwest winds whipped icy snow crystals across the harbor.   Visibility was down to 1/4 mile at times.

We received approximately four inches of new snow yesterday (by my estimation), but it was the cutting wind that made being outdoors unpleasant.  In fact, the temperature was a rather balmy 25 degrees - pleasant by standards of the past several weeks, others reminded me.

AJR maneuvering to back in to the shore ramp.
Captain Erik Foss is at the controls.

Overnight, winds shifted to the NW and the velocity dropped, as will the temperature tonight, expected to dip into the now all-too-familiar minus 5 degree range.

The annual Lions Club Fishing Derby is underway, with this being the final weekend of activity.  Traffic heading onto the ice from the south end of Main Road was light, due to the miserable, white-out conditions.    Water forced up through cracks in the ice near shore made the under layer slushy, but that's firmed up now, and the driving with pickup trucks should be good once again.

There are Valentine's Day activities today, too.   At school, the day started with a pancake breakfast for seniors (defined as 50 and over for the day's purposes), which yours truly joined in.  I was greeted by Finn Hagen, who shook my hand and knew my name, "Mr. Purinton," as I'm often seated near him in church.  It was wonderful to be so recognized.  This was a festive occasion, with some 35 guests in addition to the school children who assisted parents and staff in serving the breakfast in the school commons. Afterward, we followed as the younger grades lead us in singing the Star Spangled Banner.

Our four grandsons were there, too, and their parents who helped serve.  But it was the overall camaraderie of young and old, students, staff, parents and citizen guests, that made this morning special.

We'll see more activities for young and old out on the ice tomorrow, not only fishing, but other activities, too.

 - Dick Purinton

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Sedona, Arizona -
This blog is somewhat of an experiment, because in previous years I've not been able to construct text from my iPad.   Now, text seems to work, but so far I haven't been able to access my photos to illustrate and dress up this communication.  (photos shown were added 2.14.14 from my home computer.)

We're in Sedona, Arizona, where we'll complete two weeks of hiking, visiting historical sites, and relaxing, fully conscious of the cold and snow that's smothered the upper Midwest since Jan. 12th, the day we left Washington Island and headed to Houston.   Texas weather was quite pleasant...upper 60s, even low 70s several days...but it really didnt matter much since nearly the entire five days there were spent inside an sir conditioned Hyatt hotel, at the Passenger Vessel Association Maritrends Conference.

What I can pass along that has some bearing for readers is that here in Arizona, we've had very pleasant, and meaningful, visits with two men whose names might be familiar to Washington Islanders.

Monday we drove to Prescott, a drive of some 60 miles from Sedona, to see Goodwin Berquist.   I learned when I called Goodie several days earlier that Nancy, his wife of many years, had passed away Sunday, Jan. 26.   Nancy, many will recall, was the Chair of the Island Music Festival in its early years and she worked closely with Stephen Colburn to coordinate the many details -including performance locations prior to the existence of the TPAC.     I believe Nancy was a regular in the bridge circle that included Mary Richter and Clara Jessen, among others.   Their day to play was Tuesdsy, an all-day affair, more or less, rotating among homes, with each participant bringing their own lunch.

Goodie indicated that Nancy's wish was to have her ashes brought to Washington Island.  

During their years on Washington Island, Goodie, who was Professor Emeritus, Ohio State Speech Department, participated on the Archives Committee.   He was also a member of the Trueblood Theater Committee, as it was then known, during the formative years of the concept that eventually morphed into the Trueblood Performing Arts Center.   He co-authored a number of history books, including one on Milwaukee's founding fathers.   For nine years, I believe he said, early in his teaching career he taught at UW-Milwaukee, before returning to Ohio State where he became a tenured professor.

His interest in the people and activities of Washington Island, and Nancy's, continued through their years in Arizona, partly through letter correspondence, but also through the pages of the Island Observer, of which they continued to subscribe.    In later years, because Nancy's eyesight had failed, Goodie read to Nancy.  

Unfortunately, I'm unable to bring up a photo taken of the three of us on Monday - Goodie, Mary Jo and me.   Our visit over lunch covered many pleasant topics, often with us supplying the answers to Goodie's questions about Washington Island in the present day.   We hope he might be able to visit this summer, as he and Nancy had planned to do last September, before travel for her became impossible.

Island Tour Guide

We called on Bill Krieger last week, and following breakfast together, Bill offered to lead us to several local points of interest.   He guides Road Scholar groups in the Sedona area, and also to the Grand Canyon, which he will do again later this winter.   Bill's island home is adjacent to the Red Cup, in summer months.   We three seemed to share a common interest in history, especially Indian history, but also Washington Island and Rock Island  history.    Bill and  his late wife, Dottie, were docents on Rock Island at the lighthouse before they bought their island home.

We had a most pleasant day touring the national monument at Tuzigoot, an ancient  Indian village near Cottonwood, and the old mining town of Jerome.   But as much as anything, we valued Bill's time visiting with us.

That's our news - if it can be classified as news.   During our time away, several reviews of my book,Thordarson and Rock Island, have been published - Lakeland Boating Feb. issue was one -  and I've been able to monitor my online website successfully for orders, of which there've been several.   All of this is heartening as we head home and my thoughts turn more seriously to another writing project.     -  Dick Purinton

PS - By the time we arrived home, Feb. 12th, following our visit with him in Prescott, two books co-authored by Goodie Berquist were found waiting in our island mail box.