Tag Archives: ice

Embracing Winter

Breaking trail.

Breaking trail.

I live in Minnesota. Winters here are usually cold, and snowy, and long. This particular winter has been one of the coldest on record. The National Weather Service reports that we’ve had 50 days this winter when the thermometer reading was below 0F. It’s been cold. And we’ve had a good amount of snow, as well. The snow here doesn’t melt, it just piles on top of whatever’s left over from that storm a few weeks ago, or a few months ago. So, at this point in the year there are multiple feet of snow on the ground. I haven’t seen the pavement on the road in front of my house since November (and I live in the cities).

That’s pretty much what to expect from a winter here. Yes, it’s been colder than average this year,  but it’s generally pretty cold anyway, and it’s generally snowy.

A lot of people around me hate this winter. Really, really hate it. They feel trapped. Spirits are low, it feels like spring will never come. Every morning at work I am struck by how miserable the people around me are about the weather.

I’ve had a hard time relating to their misery, though. In fact, I’ve been loving this winter. The contrast between my attitude and others around me is so stark that I had to wonder… what’s the difference?

Backyard Snow Cave

Seth’s backyard snow cave.

When I look around me, I realize that not everybody is miserable. I find that my adventuring friends are feeling pretty good about this winter. Snow and cold that sticks around provides all sorts of fun activities that don’t exist at other times of the year. We’ve been cross-country skiing, ice climbing, building snow forts, shooting rockets off of frozen lakes, testing out our layering systems, and generally taking the cold temps as a challenge. I have a friend who went out for a short ski when it was-25F (that’s air temp, before windchill) just to see what it would be like. Another friend, Dave, waited until the coldest night of the winter, and then went and slept in his backyard.

It seems to me that the difference between feeling trapped and miserable about winter and feeling stoked is a willingness to play outside anyway and just a little sense of adventure. Cold and snow doesn’t mean being trapped indoors. It means putting on warmer clothes and taking a pair of skis out with you, or a sled. Or some good snow boots. It means walking out on frozen lakes. It means snow forts and throwing snowballs with the neighbor kids. This winter, it meant that Lake Superior was frozen solidly enough to see gorgeous ice formations in sea caves. And for me, it’s meant learning to climb ice. Another great way to enjoy the outdoors in the winter.

That's me!

That’s me! (photo credit: Fred Child)

Living in a place like Minnesota requires one to embrace the seasons. All of them. Winter is long. Adventures big and small are out there waiting, the cold and snow just present different options. One can either hunker down and wait it out, or get out there and play. My very small, unofficial, and unscientific study tells me that the people who choose the latter are happier.

0126141704a

Paul showing his winter stoke.

(As I post this, we are getting our first taste of melting. The sun is shining and temps are crawling above freezing. Sad to see our winter adventures go, but looking forward to the adventures that warm weather will bring)

Trip Report: Apostle Island Ice Caves

Maybe you’ve seen them in the news, or in your social media feed. The ice along the shoreline of Lake Superior is frozen enough right now to walk out to the Mainland Sea Caves along the Apostle Island National Lakeshore. In the summer, kayakers explore the sea caves by boat, but it’s not every year that people get to see them in the winter.

It’s been an especially cold winter here in the upper midwest. It’s meant a lot of snow and a lot of ice. Pretty great for those of us who like to play outside. And pretty great for the sea caves, which are now covered in ice. The cold also means that tens of thousands of people have been able to hike out onto the lake to see the frozen caves.

Sunrise on frozen Lake Superior

Sunrise on frozen Lake Superior

Seth and I drove up last weekend to see them for ourselves. We went out before sunrise on Sunday morning, which was the perfect time to go. We beat the crowds and got to explore the caves with very few others around us. It was a cold morning, air temps were down near -10F. That combined with the dawn light and the ice caves made for a stunningly beautiful morning along the shores of Lake Superior.

The ice is formed both from the waves of Lake Superior and from water trickling out of the rock itself, creating some really spectacular effects.

1-ApostleIceCaves_ 7-001

1-ApostleIceCaves_ 6-001

The caves were beautiful from the outside; big, grand displays of nature. Inside the caves we found tiny little details that were just as spectacular as the giant icicles outside.

1-ApostleIceCaves_ 5

We hiked about 2 miles from the beach before turning around and heading back. If we had brought our harnesses and a rope, we could have just rapped down from the top of the cliffs. That would have been awesome.

1-ApostleIceCaves_ 1

Not only were the caves absolutely beautiful, but it’s not every day that one gets to walk out onto Lake Superior. The last time it was frozen enough to safely get out there was in 2009, and as soon as the next big storm comes across the lake, there’s a good possibility of the ice breaking up. The window is small. I mentioned earlier that tens of thousands of people are taking advantage of that window to see the caves. It’s incredible that so many people are making the trek to see the beauty of nature. We saw cars parked a couple of miles down the road. People with kids and dogs and sleds hiking out for a rare viewing.

The caves are a 3.5 hour drive from the Twin Cities, and it was worth the trip. If you make the trek yourself and want to avoid the weekend crowds, get out your warm clothes and head out early in the day.

Happy exploring! Thanks to Seth for the beautiful photos.

 

 

Tiny Adventures: Searching for Ice

When the weather first turns cold, I always find that it takes a little bit of time before I realize that I can still go outside and do stuff. You’d think I’d remember from *last* year, or the year before, but I mostly just want to stay inside, in the comfort of a heated home, warm kitties, and blankets.

I snapped out of it last weekend, when Seth wanted to go searching for ice. I pulled on some baselayers, geared up, and headed out into the cold. We picked up a friend on the way, and went exploring!

The Mississippi River runs through Minneapolis, in some parts separating the cities of Minneapolis and St Paul. We knew of one place across the river where ice forms, and I had heard of another spot, but wasn’t sure exactly where it was.

Our search for ice turned into a lovely little tiny adventure!

Ice

The ice is getting there! Just needs to stay cold….

One of my very favorite things about the Twin Cities is that it takes only a few minutes to feel like I’m *not* in the middle of a city. These falls are less than two miles from our house, and only a five minute walk from the busy streets above.

Listening to the ice

Listening to the ice

We continued our adventure from here, following trails down to the river, up little rock faces, down gullies and inlets.

There was one spot where plates of ice from the river were washing up on the shore. Among the sound of the waves was the delicate clinking of ice. Like little glass xylophones.

That was my favorite part.

From there, it was on to some climbing shenanigans. We tested our undercling traversing skills along the side of a wall:

Rob and Seth working on their undercling skills

A long ways to go.

A long ways to go.

 

And then headed out to find more ice.

This ice forms at the end of a city aqueduct that eventually drains into the river. When we climbed up top to check out potential anchors, we found some already there, bolted into the concrete. Yay!

 

 

A successful day of adventuring, only a few miles from home. The very definition of a tiny adventure.

Proof that we were still in the middle of the city? This graffiti, right above the anchors for that last ice climb.