Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Threat of Spring

Easter morning and the thermometer sits at 20 degrees amid fog and hoar frost on the trees.   THis week we had another foot and more of snow though the melt is progressing fast.   We saw a patch of open water along the south shore of the lake yesterday and four mergansers flew over looking for it.   The eagles have returned to scream and chatter in the trees along our property line and I can see out my window past the snow berm.  The sun is on the lake by 8:30 am and it's time for some crust skiing.    Happy Easter.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Bold Progression of Sunlight Hours

We are now sixty days past solstice and half way to the vernal equinox when the day and night are the same length.   In the last month we have watched the days grow longer and the rising arc of the sun the souther sky.  Changing height of the sun above the horizon each day is significant, for not only are the winter days short, the winter sun is low on the horizon and it's light weakened by passing through more atmosphere.   So now, in late February, a clear day means dazzling sunlight reaching over the the southern fringe of trees and bathing the lake in a flood of light so audacious it can only be faced with sunglasses  On days like today, when the temperature is over thirty and the clouds just wispy accents to the mountains and forest, we are taunted with thoughts of spring and breakup, and warmer days to come. But this is a lie that February tells each year, and those of us who have been scorched before will not buy the trick.  Winter is with us until March is on it's last legs and even in April we can expect some frosty mornings and unwelcome snow storms.  Until then we will savor the sunny part of winter and all it has to offer.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Distant Glow of Arctic Magic

 Last night with the wind finally still and the skies clear, it was fine night on Bear Lake.  We've had a foot of snow since Saturday night and the wind came behind to sculpt it round our house and outbuildings.  Most of the day it blew, carving dunes on the roof pitch and filling trails I'd cleared with the snowblower.  
        One doghouse is complete covered now and I may not dig it out since old Nelson will sleep on the porch on a chair but not in a doghouse.  Out on the lake, a pair stalwart kite skiers waded through knee deep snow with their dogs to spread their kite on the wind in a splash of red and yellow.   Two men and three dogs seem to be trying to harness a giant Phoenix of a bird, which leaps and jerks away and stumbles across the snow with crippled wings.   At dark they gave up and left the lake to the wind, which came immediately to cover their trail.  
        Our moose is still around to get Snape, the newest of out dogs, to barking, and the ptarmigan flew by the window in a flock of nearly twenty on Saturday.  The rest of world is snow and sleeping trees.   Out on lake side where the spruce and hemlock come right down to the shore, the wind gets the trees and snow moving until there a great avalanche of snow off the limbs tumbling down into the forest and lake and up in great clouds of dust like snow that is not quick to settle to earth.  By late evening I am hopeful for seeing the aurora, and I do about 11:30 but it is a pale wisp of light in the sky, not the dramatic stage show of dancing light one would see in the arctic sky.   The aurora from here, just north of 60 degrees is like watching a football game from top row of the stadium,  its exciting and pleasing but not quite dramatic.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Winter Life

Bear Lake in January is a black and white photo.   What little light there is comes in just over the southern horizon and the combination of spruce forest shadow and almost oppressive white of the snow seems to extract all but the brightest colors, a skiers red anorak, a yellow school bus, the orange snow machine.
At first look, one might think the lake and its shore is deserted, abandoned by the wildlife of summer.   Some are gone, but others have moved in or stay year round.  A flock of ptarmigan have taken lease on the willows along the shoreline.   They leave their trails in the snow as they work through the willows eating buds and perhaps bark.   They are hard to spot, for they are literally white as snow with only black eyes and a flash of black at the tail when they fly.   Spot one, then keep looking and slowly others appear when your eyes adjust to see them well-disguised against the snow.  We also have a moose hanging around; a male with one antler jauntily angling off one side of his head. T hree dogs tied in the yard do not deter him from browsing the willows between the house and the lake.  He uses the snowmachine trails and groomed ski trails to shop the pickings along the lake shore, often taking his midday nap out in the open on the lake's blanket of snow.

After last week's two feet of snow we have been busy with 'snow management".  As much as we like snow too much of anything is a pain, in this case a pain in the shoulders and lower back.  Some berms are over our heads and the trails from pole shed to dog lot and woodshed grow narrow.  The forecast for the next week or more is for cold and windy.  before long, we will be wishing for more snow.