Friday, February 29, 2008


Friday, 8:30 AM. 17 degrees,a veritable heat wave. Wind E, calm. Fog obscures the Island, and fluffy flakes of snow are falling steadily. We may have an accumulation of a few inches.
Lucky and I were pioneers this morning, the first to trod the new fallen snow through the woods. There were no fresh tracks of any kind. The hemlocks, white pines, white spruce and balsam fir were all robbed in their characteristic mantles of snow, each clothed a bit differently in their snowy attire because of their dissimilar needle and branching structures. I noticed again how narrow the trail is in the snow…only a foot or so wide. It forces one to put one foot precisely in front of the other, as we used to say as kids, “Indian style.” If one steps off the narrow path you may sink over your boots in the snow. I have heard it said, and it seems to make sense, that in the old days a white man’s trail was always distinguishable from an Indian’s because the toes pointed outward, as if accustomed to carrying a heavy load, while the Indian’s toes pointed inward, unencumbered by any burden except the barest essentials of hunting and war. This knowledge probably comes from watching endless Saturday afternoon cowboy and Indian pictures at the Grace Theater in West Allis, Wisconsin. I have no idea whether any of this makes sense but it seems a harmless observation.
Which brings me to an update for resident and visitor alike: Howard Paap, local author and expert on Ojibwa Indian lore, is giving a slide lecture presentation at 2:00 PM at the Historical Society on traditional Ojibwa maple sugaring. It will be very good, I am sure, since Howard is a retired sociology professor and author of several books, the latest being “Raspberry River,” a a collection of short stories about contemporary Ojibwa life, and an excellent read.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Thursday, 8:30 AM. –5 degrees, wind SE, calm. Skies are sunny, but turning partly cloudy. It’s a nippy but pleasant morning. I have begun observing red maple tree (Acer rubrum) flower buds, which are a harbinger of spring as good as pussy willow buds and flowers. The purple flower buds of the native red maple tree, not to be confused with the red-leaved Norway maple cultivars, are now well swollen but not yet opening. In New York they flower by this date or a week or so latter, but will probably not flower here for another three or four weeks.
We are less than a month from calendar spring, so need to be watching for such signs (I will watch for pussy willow buds to open down at the Sioux River beach). Of course, the surest signs of spring, nursery catalogs, are now arriving in the mail daily.
I noticed yesterday that there was a large puddle of water on the Bayfield approach to the ice road. I doubt this means that the demise of the ice road is imminent, but it does mean the sun is getting pretty high. I also noticed this morning on our walk that the morning shadows of the woodland trees are much shorter than they were a few
weeks ago, meaning that the sun has been moving relentlessly northward, just as it should be doing. Easter is early this year, but even so it is a sure sign of spring. There will still be lots of snow banks to hide the colored eggs in (children of the Northland are a hardy lot, though), and Easter bonnets may need ear muffs.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Wednesday, 3:30 PM. 12 degrees, barometer predicts sunny skies. Wind E, calm to very light. Skies blue with a few high puffy clouds.
Got back from the ice caves at 1230 PM, in time for a 1:00 PM meeting. Left at 9:00 AM, at 4 degrees on the back, porch, but it was much colder at Myers Beach, I’ll guese –5 degrees with a bit of a biting NE wind. Parking was $1.50 with my Golden Eagle Parks pass (there have to be some advantages to the aging process). I had on Yak Traks, Erik did not but both wore good boots and had ski poles. We had show shoes along but they weren’t needed. The path along the beach was well trod but a bit slippery. The lake ice was extremely rough, even jagged, so than was not an option. The walk was pleasant once we warmed up to the walk, and it got a lot warmer into the morning. The caves are great, some even awesome. One cave room has a height of at least 60 feet and is almost as wide. There are many smaller caves, many interconnected, and it is easy to see how kayakers are tempted into their recesses and get trapped in them by strong surf. Unfortunately this seems to happen every year, often with fatal results. Anyway, the ice allowed us good access. The ice formations are quite interesting and some very pretty, appearing like stalactites and stalagmites, some like frozen waterfalls. The sandstone cliffs are very colorful and if it weren’t for the cold one could easily imagine oneself somewhere in the American Southwest.
We were the first visitors at 9:30 AM, soon followed by a bus full of Bayfield students (lucky kids) and a few others, photographers and just sightseers.
When you go, be sure to walk well past the first few caves, as the best are farther on. Walk at least beyond the obvious point of land at the east end of the bay. I estimate the walk out and back at 3 miles.
Dress sensibly, especially footgear, wear a hat and take a walking stick or ski poles, other than nothing is needed except your camera.
I will post some photos later, as I still am stuck outside the digital realm and rely on film.
Lucky and Morgan didn’t go along, being happy to stay on their respective couches and dream whatever dogs dream about on a cold winter day.
I am guessing the ice will be good for weeks, so come and enjoy, best early in the week if crowds are not to your liking, although you will find everyone friendly and in a festive mood. Best photo light is mid afternoon on a sunny day.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Tuesday, 8:30 AM. Temperature 14 degrees, barometer predicts partly sunny weather. Wind W, calm. Fog obscures the Island, the sky is overcast, and a very light snow I falling. The fog is rising, condensing and coming down as snow. Huge, fluffy flakes like miniature parachutes, which fall down, up and all around. Joan says it is like being inside a child’s snow globe that has been shaken up.
The birds are flocking to the feeders this morning: chickadees, goldfinches, bluejays, female downy woodpecker, juncos, white breasted nuthatches, chipping sparrow and tree sparrow. The white pines in the backyard are alive with small birds.
It is a very quiet morning, absolutely silent in the woods, only the voice of a distant crow breaking the stillness. The deer are beginning to be active in the woods, and there are several well-trod trails crossing the walking path.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Monday, 8:30 AM. 16 degrees, barometer down, wind calm, fog over the channel.
Sky partly cloudy. The warm spell continues, which means melting snow and damp, foggy mornings.
Joan and I drove out to Meyers Beach off Hwy. 13 after church yesterday to gage the ice cave visitation. We counted 100 cars. The Ranger said they had 500-600 visitors a day over the weekend.
The birds either had an early breakfast or are sleeping in, since there is no activity at the feeder presently.


: Sunday, 8:00 AM. Temp 15 degrees, barometer still down. Wind calm. Sky cloud covered, and fob obscures the Island.
Bought 50 pounds of sunflower seed and some fresh suet cakes at Northern Migrations in Washburn yesterday. The birds are returning but absent from the feeders at the moment.


Saturday, 9:00 AM. 15 degrees, barometer predicts snow. Wind calm. Skies clear but a bit hazy. Wonderful morning.
Went for a walk with Lucky, accompanied by his two pals, Morgan and Roxy, all seemed happy to see each other.
I talked with Erik yesterday and we are going to hike to the ea caves off Myers Beach sometime in the coming week. I have seen them by boat but never in the winter, when they become the “ice caves.” Mike from seagull Bay Motel says there are a lot of visitors this year, as the ice is safe, and some years it is not.
This morning it is off to the recycle center, and then perhaps to the Larsen’s farm to check things out, as Maple Sugarin’ time will soon be here. They intend to tap on May 14, weather permitting.


Friday, 9:00 AM. 6 degrees, barometer predicts snow. Wind calm. Skies clear, a gorgeous day! Got back from Texas late yesterday afternoon, found all in good order. Neighbor Gordy watched the heat in the house, and neighbor Wayne blew snow off the driveway a couple of times so it was only minor work clearing the driveway.
Roads down and back were bad in many places, and it was a white knuckle trip at times, but Lucky didn’t seem to mind. The new grandbaby is beautiful, of course. We saw cranes migrating in Arkansas both going and coming They are moving to the stopover on the Platte River near Grand Island, Nebraska. They will stay there a month or more, feeding on waste corn and over-nighting standing in the shallow river, safe from predators. There will be hundreds of thousands of them, 80 percent of the 650,000 sand hill cranes in existence. They are very wary birds and it is hard to approach them but they can be viewed easily from the car window, with or without binoculars. They dance and call continuously and it is worth a trip at some time just to see this wildlife spectacular. The birds at Grand Island are a slightly smaller version of the sand hill cranes which nest in Wisconsin. They will continue on to nest in Canada and Alaska, some even to Siberia. They over winter in Texas and Louisiana, whereas the Wisconsin birds over winter along the gulf coast. When we lived in Nebraska it was an annual ritual for us to go to Grand Island to see the cranes. They arrive usually all at once, in enormous flocks, like leaves falling from the sky. Visit the International Crane Foundation web site for more information.
Have to water plants and get the bird feeders filled.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

February 8

2/08/08: Friday, 9:00 AM. 8 degrees, barometer predicts snow. Skies overcast, no sun. Some fog on the channel. Wind SSE, light. A quiet morning.
The ice road is still officially closed, with “unsafe” signs posted, but traffic of all kinds, cars and pickups, were using it yesterday. I see no traffic this morning. One would assume the ice would be safe by now, but it I tested and signs are put up for a reason. The channel is several miles wide, there are strong currents, ad it has depths of 100 and more feet. Vehicles are lost out there every year, sometimes tragically, so one should take the warnings seriously.
There won’t be a posting for a while as Joan, myself and Lucky are traveling to Texas to see a new grandchild. It will still be winter here when we get back.

February 7

2/07/08: Thursday, 8:30 AM. –3 degrees, barometer predicts snow. Wind S, dead calm. Skies clear and blue.
This is a crystalline morning, everything sparkling with tiny diamonds of frost. The trees on the Island are silvery. The snow sparkles. Trees are strung with tiny icy Christmas lights, blinking in the rising sun.
This looks like the beginning of another deep freeze, with –20 predicted by the weekend. It is cold but very beautiful. There is no traffic on the ice road yet, but I understand the emergency van, which is equipped with flotation devices in case it breaks through the ice, has been taking high school children back and forth.

February 6

2/06/08: Wednesday, 9:00 AM. 13 degrees, barometer predicting partly cloudy skies. Wind E, light.
There is a little old house on 8th St. which I have noticed has had a vehicle with Vermont license pates parked in the drive, and I have been curious as to why someone would come to bayfield from Vermont in the winter. I talked to the owner this morning as he was leaving the house, and it turns out he is a professor from UV who in cooperation with a professor from UW is doing sociological studies of boaters, and they have been thus engaged for over twenty years. He is here in winter for the first time, writing a book. He says it is colder here than in Vermont. I didn’t ask if he had seen any boaters lately in Bayfield. Bayfield is obviously a good place for book writing in the winter.

February 5

2/05/08, Tuesday, 9:00 AM. 22 degrees, barometer predicts partly cloudy skies. Wind ESE, calm. Skies are clear but becoming cloudy. I would describe this as a silver morning. A dusting of stick snow has frosted everything. The rising sun and its reflections are silver. The clouds are tinged silver.
The woods were quiet, no new tracks except one small canine. A squirrel came down out of its nest in a large hemlock but went right back up, according to its tracks. Unless pushed by real hunger or the prospect of an easy meal, animals don’t leave home much in he winter, proving that their intelligence is probably superior to our own. Lucky stuck his nose in a few cold tracks but soon gave up. The ice road is still closed, maybe because there are large pressure ridges on the channel.

February 4

2/04/08: Monday, 9:00 AM. 18 degrees, wind E, calm. Barometer predicts snow, skies overcast, no sun. there is a light fog over the channel.
I heard a chorus of howling and yipping , and at first I thought coyotes, but then realized it was a late rising musher feeding his dogs down at motel. I hear coyotes occasionally in town , but mainly at dawn or dusk, further out in the country.
The lemon tree in the foyer has 23 lemons, just about ripe, not very large but quite good. I hope they hang on a while longer.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

February 2

2/02/08: Saturday, 9:00 AM. 17 degrees, barometer predicts snow. Wind SSE, calm. Skies overcast. It was an eerily quiet morning walk, no cars, no people, no dogs, no far away motor noises. Obviously many folks are sleeping in, also the birds. Rather nice.
But today is the sled dog race. I need to go to the recycle center out on Hwy 13, west of Red Cliff, to deposit garbage ($2.50 per bag) and recyclables (free with yearly $15 membership) every two or three weeks. Then I will take in some of the race scene. Stepped off the narrow trail in the woods, and the snow was over my boots. Still plent of snow base there.
Later: The races were fun, as usual, but the number of racers was down, probably because of the just-finished Bear Grease race in Duluth. Lots of watchers though, counted 50 cars parked along Star Route at Butternut Road. The watching weather was nice, last year it was brutal. Plenty of complimentary brats, beer, soda, etc., met many friends and neighbors. Luck had to stay in the truck and was a bit put out. If you go next year, leave the dogs home or in your vehicle, as they spook the racers.

Friday, February 01, 2008

February 1

Friday, 8:00 AM. 0 degrees, barometer down, predicting snow. Wind SSE, currently calm. Skies overcast. The sun was shining brightly at dawn but is now hidden.
We took the woods trail this morning on our walk, it is about a quarter of a mile through a diversely mixed woods, which includes some very large hemlocks which are reproducing well. A few walkers and their dogs, and some deer, have packed it down so it is passable. It was very quiet there, the only intrusion being the roar of the wind sled taking off (not).

This is dog sled race weekend, with the Musher’s Dinner tonight at the Pavilion. I don’t know how much I will take in this year, as I am trying to get the house cleaned, dishes washed, etc., so Joan doesn’t turn around on Sunday and flee back to Denver.
Thoreau is not yet back on the shelf, but has been joined on the couch by Walt Whitman, his poet contemporary. Good grief, will Emerson be accompanying them next? Humboldt sits unopened as yet.