Put On Your Big Girl Mukluks and Enjoy Winter’s Beauty

Even with one moosehide mukluk topped off with black duct tape since my dear four-legged companion found it to be a delicious, albeit expensive, chew toy (leaving the entire boot liner and bottom 2/3 of the lovely chestnut exterior intact), I have been “enjoying” our never ending stretch of sub-zero temps this winter (day 64 and counting …).  As an aside, isn’t that a testament to the wonder of the Steger mukluk? Unrivaled winter footwear after 20 years of living up north, keeping my toes toasty warm, enhanced by stick-on toe warmers only in the most brutal of temps (which, I admit, we’ve had a lot of this winter – did I mention, this is Duluth’s 64th day with a recorded sub-zero temp this winter?!?).

But I digress … as I shared with you in this week’s Photo Challenge response, the frigid temperatures have produced some amazing photo ops on the frozen expanse of Lake Superior.  Last weekend, the sunny skies produced a stunning blue reflection in the ice piles, created by the powerful force of Lake Superior’s shifting waters.  The ice cover on the Lake is the largest in decades, so one must be mindful that these scenes may be decades in coming again.

Lake Superior ~ Duluth, MN

Drawing closer to the large pile of broken ice shards, the bluish hue became more intense, waxing and waning with the sun as the clouds drifted across the sky.

Lake Superior ~ Duluth, MN

The depth and breadth of this particular ice upheaval is hard to capture in a photo.

Lake Superior ~ Duluth, MN

Upon close inspection, the pile appeared to be manmade, as if a snowplow had come along and pushed a long band of broken ice together to clear the flat expanse of the Lake beyond.

Lake Superior ~ Duluth, MN

The blues were amazing …

Lake Superior ~ Duluth, MN

Lake Superior ~ Duluth, MN

One could be lulled into a false sense of security, seeing the shoreline so close, the apparent stagnant pile of ice melded together, and the thick ice cover below.  Mother Nature reminded me that even on a beautiful, blue-sky day, the wind can whip up the powdery blanket, and cause the water and ice to creak and groan like an awakening giant.

Wind-whipped Lake Superior ~ Duluth, MN

Walking back to shore, the ice pile receded from view, and I was more cognizant of the living mass beneath my feet.  Signs of life were evident, from a large, winding fissure that had opened and closed over time …

Ice Fissures on Lake Superior ~ Duluth, MN

… to a fresh hairline crack in the snow with gurgling water fighting deep underneath the frozen surface to try and break free …

Ice Fissures on Lake Superior ~ Duluth, MN

… Lake Superior was sending a reminder that Spring may be a long way off, but she won’t be frozen forever.

Ice Fissures on Lake Superior ~ Duluth, MN

With the winds and periodically “warming” temperatures (I think we hit 20°F (-6°C) once in the last week or so), the large plates of ice shift, and open water appears here and there even as the temperatures battle to reach double digits in recent days.  The day after taking the photos above, I headed up to the Hawk Ridge overlook and saw the hint of open water (or at least more tenuous ice cover) in the distance.

Winter view from Hawk Ridge ~ Duluth, MN

Has it been a long winter?  Certainly, but with warmer temps these ice-covered postcard scenes will melt from view.  So, in the meantime, put on your big girl mukluks; get out and enjoy Nature’s wonder.

Ciao! ~ Kat

Sub-Zero Fun in Minnesota

When the never-ending sub-zero temperatures keep knocking at your door, you sometimes simply need to fling open the door and say, “let’s party!”  As the air warmed up to a balmy –14°F (-25.5°C) on Monday, just a few degrees off the warmest temperature of the day, I decided the home office afternoon coffee break needed to take place outdoors.  The arctic blast prompted Minnesota’s Governor to cancel Monday classes for schools throughout the State.  With no sign of above-zero temperatures until Wednesday, most Minnesota schools have canceled classes for students on Tuesday, as well.

Balmy Duluth temperatures

In the meantime, I decided to recruit one of my teens as my assistant for the outdoor coffee break activities.  The local hardware store told me soap bubbles were a popular item, so I knew we were not alone in examining their response to the frigid air.

Soap bubbles in sub-zero temps

While our results were not as spectacular as photographer Angela Kelly’s bubbles, we still enjoyed watching them float off while slowly freezing and “shattering” in mid-air.  Capturing one on the end of the bubble wand allowed for a closer view.

Soap bubbles in sub-zero temps

Soap bubbles in sub-zero temps

Soap bubbles in sub-zero temps

One gentle puff toward the fragile sphere prompted it to crack like an egg, with its ragged semi-opaque shell momentarily remaining on the wand, before dissipating into shredded frozen soap fragments.

Soap bubbles in sub-zero temps

When the novelty of blowing bubbles in sub-zero temps wore off, it was time for the boiling water toss.  We added a little food coloring to spice things up. Then we headed outside again.

Boiling water with red food coloring

One …

Sub-zero red boiling water toss

Two …

Sub-zero red boiling water toss

Three …

Sub-zero red boiling water toss

It was akin to a fireworks show … oohs and aahs were the response as the boiling water turned to a frosty arcing powder the instant it hit the freezing air.

Sub-zero red boiling water toss

Sub-zero red boiling water tosss

An explanation of why the hot water vaporizes as it is tossed, along with videos of others performing the boiling water-to-snow trick, can be found in this Slate.com article.

Sub-zero red boiling water toss

Do it again?!  OK, how about in blue this time?

[Click on any photo in the gallery below to enlarge it.]

How are you keeping cabin fever at bay during this far-reaching cold snap?

Ciao! ~ Kat