Usually when someone thinks of going to the beach in the winter they have images of a white sandy beach in the Caribbean, Hawaii, or the Seychelles. I had a slightly different opportunity to start the New Year. A trip to Northern Minnesota to view the picturesque shore of Lake Superior. It was a beautiful January afternoon with temperatures just above 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-15 degrees Celsius) which felt warm compared to the cold of the previous days and days to follow which where anywhere from 10 to 30 degrees colder with brisk winds. Yes, I did take a quick dip in the lake since this is a beach with open water (if you consider sticking my hand into the water, which was warmer than the air this day, a quick dip) even if the beach is ice covered.
This was the first opportunity I’ve had to take in the North Shore of Minnesota during the winter and it was worth the effort to dress appropriately for a couple of hours in the cold. Surprisingly, I was not the only person on this beach this day. One of my neighbors joined me in climbing ice covered rocks and exploring this winter wonderland. We did encounter other people also taking in this winter wonderland that was missing it’s snow blanket exposing the many colors contained in this rocky shoreline.
Large waves had made their mark here earlier evident by the ice covered rocks and shrubs but on this day Lake Superior provided a relaxing, calm motion in the water giving great opportunities to explore the shoreline. Icicles hang abundantly off of the rock ledges from all of the water running towards the lake before this area became a frozen spectacle.
I could only imagine what it must have been like to be in this area when the waves where large enough to come crashing over the shoreline high enough to coat everything in a thick layer of ice creating these amazing ornaments only visible during winter time. In reading other accounts of the ice sculptures created by Lake Superior I could not fully appreciate what they were writing about. Now those experiences have become clearer and much more exciting to see.
Only a couple of miles to the north there was 6 – 8 inches of snow on the ground and to the south there was an inch or two but here…. snow was missing on this day. For me it was fortunate to be able to have the contrast of the ice and colorful rock all around. I’m sure there is a whole different beauty here when it’s all covered in fresh snow.
Lake Superior always gave away it’s location during these colder days because of the constant cloud cover created by the steam coming off the warmer water. A mile inland could be sunny but there were always clouds on one of the horizons. Fortunately there was just enough wind to blow this cloud cover away from the shore allowing the sky to clear a little overhead during these afternoon hours. It didn’t last long.
For a few minutes while the sun was out I was wishing for a comfortable lawn chair to be able to set up on the beach and just take in the quiet, calm solitude of this incredible landscape. These blue waters just begged to be touched and so I obliged by removing my two layers of gloves and soaking my hands. Sure the water was a little colder than I prefer but it wasn’t unbearable. It helped that I was kept warm by climbing up and around the boulders and trees of this shoreline before testing this water. I don’t recommend wading or swimming during the winter but a quick rinse of the hands is typically harmless.
While hiking through the woods this member of the local wildlife kept posing as if to tell us it was alright to take a picture. We were mere feet away and it just sat there like we were of no concern. Why would I pass up such a situation? I pulled the camera from it’s case and snapped a few photos. After a couple of shots it was time for red squirrel to move on to his daily routine.
After hiking for a few miles we came to this point, looked out over this Great Lake and decided it was time to begin our trek back.
On the return trip we noticed the clouds on the horizon appeared to be bringing snow and we were due back to our camp shortly so making our way to the vehicle became a little more hurried. Once snow covers the roads it can greatly increase the difficulty in traveling so using the dry roads seemed like a good idea. A few miles north we encountered this snow along with colder temperatures and increased wind. Yet, passing by this area again later in the week showed the snow never reached here. The beauty of Lake Superior is such a privilege to be able to take in and winter appears to be no different and with a lot fewer people joining you.