134: Lake Erie in winter

(Ice dune.  Lake Erie.  Erie, Pennsylvania.)

One of the things we haven’t done while living relatively close to Lake Erie is go up and have a good look at the lake during the depths of winter.  Although it would have been closer for us to see the bits of Lake Erie in Ohio near Cleveland, we decided to see it while we were in Erie, Pennsylvania.  We were, after all, already there.  The hotel where we spent Sunday night wasn’t far from the lake at all.

(On the road.  Presque Isle State Park, Pennsylvania.)

We drove out to Presque Isle State Park the entrance to which was, I think, less than a mile from the hotel.  The parts of the world we could see that morning were icy, and the trees were covered with hoar frost.


Presque Isle is a 3200 acre sandy peninsula that juts out on Lake Erie.  The peninsula/park creates a bay (Presque Isle Bay) on the east side where, in the winter, you might find some folks ice fishing.  We did.

(Ice fishing shelter.)

There were several shelters out on the ice.  The one pictured above had someone huddled inside when we arrived.  Although I didn’t walk out to check, I am sure it was bitterly cold out there on the ice.

(Approaching the beach and Lake Erie on the west side of Presque Isle.)

We drove to a beach on the west side which was near the Presque Isle Lighthouse since I wanted to see the beach, the lake, and the lighthouse.

And now we get to one of my favorite photos from the trip.  M was, as usual, way ahead of me and already on the beach while I was taking photos of benches and the lighthouse.  As I walked up the hill and passed the bench you see in the photo above, I looked out to see M in the distance…

… standing out in the great expanse of white and blue, the whole scene looking amazingly stark and almost surreal.  It took my breath away.  I have never seen anything like it.  (Click on the photo to see the slightly larger version.  You’ll see a little more detail that way.  The same is true of all the pics.)

(Ice dunes.)

I walked up and joined him in looking out over the mostly frozen lake.  There was, I think, a channel out a ways that was not frozen (or not quite frozen) as it was dark blue in color and stood out from the rest of the whites and light blues.

(A jumble of ice.)

The line of dark blue in the photo above is the channel I mentioned.  It wasn’t until after we left our vantage point and the beach that we saw the signs warning us not to stand or walk on the ice dunes.  Ice dunes are formed in shallow water when the waves combine with the ice and snow.  They form in layers and are built up by wave spray while there are still waves to spray.  As you can see from the photo captioned Ice dunes, they look like waves formed in the opposite direction of the waves you would see on the lake when it isn’t frozen.  The ice dunes are important in that they help prevent beach erosion during the winter months.

They are also not meant to be walked upon.  They can be riddled with thin spots, caves, and air pockets, weaknesses in the ice where you could fall through the dune and into the freezing water below.  For the sake of the photos I took, it’s good I didn’t know that at the time.  For the sake of my life/health, I should not have been standing there.

I’ll bring you a few lighthouse photos tomorrow.  It’s time to move on to today’s outdoor fun.

The calm after the storm

It is clear and sunny in the Bogs today.  Don’t let that fool you.  It is also bitterly cold.  Make sure you bundle up when you go out there.

Here is 30 seconds of yesterday’s wind, sleet, and snow.  The video isn’t nearly as impressive as the real thing.  Notice the way the snow is blowing (sideways and sometimes even upwards).

But you get the idea (and if you experienced it, you don’t need the video).

Here is what it looked like this morning:

(Today’s view of the pond.)

The blue of the sky was incredible.


The trek was, well, a trek.  There are so many layers out there that walking, for some reason I can’t explain, feels labored and difficult.  Every now and then I would stay on top of the layers and it was easy.  But mostly I would sink in through the layers of snow, sleet, ice, sleet, ice, and snow, and each step out of it felt like it required more effort than usual.


I didn’t wander far from the house.  Just far enough to feed the birds and watch the icicles melting in the sunlight.  I tried to capture the glitter of the snow in the sunlight, but that kind of beauty is beyond my camera.  All of the colors of the rainbow were represented, shining brilliantly on the surface of the snow/ice mixture.  I wish I could show it to you.

Come when the rains
Have glazed the snow and clothed the trees with ice,
While the slant sun of February pours
Into the bowers a flood of light. Approach!
The encrusted surface shall upbear thy steps
And the broad arching portals of the grove
Welcome thy entering.

~ William Cullen Bryant, A Winter Piece


Much rejoicing

(Admiring the sky.  All photos © 2009 by Robin)

At long last, the month of February has come to an end.  March brings with it the hope of spring even though we know full well that winter isn’t finished with us.  There are buds on the lilac bushes.  The crocuses are pushing up through the dirt.  And never mind that these things began to happen at the end of February.  They belong to March and that hope of warmer and greener things to come.

I don’t know what it is that makes February such a long month.  It certainly isn’t the number of days.  Whatever the cause, and as much as I dislike rushing my life by wishing a month of it away, I’m glad it’s over for another year.

(On the Buckeye Trail.)

As an unplanned celebration of the turning of the calendar page, M and I went for a hike along a nearby lake (on part of the Buckeye Trail) this morning.  The sky was that brilliant, crisp, cold, shade of blue that I think of as March Blue.  It almost matches the color of the ice on the lakes.

(Blue above and below.)

As you might be able to guess from the photos, it is a cold 1st of March.  The winds today are whipping, 16mph sustained, gusts up to 25 mph.  The actual temperature was somewhere around 23°F.  The place we chose for hiking is fairly sheltered from the wind so it wasn’t too bad.  Thermal underwear helps, too.

We were able to hike a part of the Buckeye Trail that we generally avoid during the spring months because most of it is under water, part of the vernal pool system in this area.  (For more information on Ohio vernal pools, visit the Ohio Vernal Pool Partnership.)  In fact, that part of the trail is posted, no horse riding allowed during the spring months.  Horses really churn up the trail when it’s wet and muddy.

(Sun and shadow on the trail.)

The trail was frozen and crunchy.  It was a little like walking on a very shallow creek, occasionally breaking through the ice onto frozen mud.

(Lintel over the path.)

There were a lot of trees down.  The past year has blown a lot of strong winds through the Bogs, including the remnants of Hurricane Ike.  At one point on the trail we saw what looked like a domino effect, six trees in a row all toppled across the trail.  I suspect they’re going to have to reroute the trail.  It looks like too much for volunteers to come in and clear up.


It was a nice, invigorating hike.  I’m glad we decided to go.  There’s a lot to be said for spontaneity.

We drove over to the other side of the lake after our hike.  A few brave souls were out on the ice, fishing.

(Ice fishing.)

They had to be freezing out there where there was nothing to block the full force of the wind.  I hope they caught a few fish to make it worth their while.