We’d finished our “work” for the day and it was mid-afternoon on an unseasonably balmy day for the North with a temperature of 34 degrees.  We loaded up the sled with our ice fishing equipment and headed out across the lake.  Leaving a trail behind us, we settled near the middle of the lake, set up our portable fish house and settled in for some comfortable fishing.  With protection from the wind, we fished for a couple of hours coming back with crappies, sunfish, and one Northern pike.  We packed up after dusk and were beckoned back to the cabin with its warm lights.  It was a delightful end to a mid-winter’s day.

mud-drive-results_cp1759-staatsYesterday we left the Twin Cities before dawn and drove north 150 miles.  The sun came out on a record-setting warm day with temperatures in the 50’s.  The areas north still have snow covering the ground, and the lakes are frozen enough for trucks and fishermen to be enjoying cutting holes in the ice and finding fish below.  Even the snowmobilers were running across the lakes and land too.  Early in the morning the unpaved roads were frozen, but as the day progressed they became mud and clay with ruts throughout.  There was no way to avoid them so we continued and had a wonderful time enjoying the countryside, the lakes, and the activities, stopping once to clear off the back window of the car.  By the time we returned home my car was hardly recognizable.  All that mud and clay seemed to have adhered to the car and dried in place.  An extensive trip to the car wash was needed this morning, but I’ve kept the memories of an unusual spring day in February.

Life guard off duty 12153_StaatsI got up and out of the house before dawn yesterday, in search of a photograph to show a Minnesota winter morning.  The air was cold, but not bitterly so, and the wind was still.  The eastern sky promised a bit of color so I headed to a city lake.  Our winter has been cold enough, long enough to freeze the lakes and they are now a winter wonderland of activities.  Hockey nets are in place on many lakes, snow has been dusted off to allow skating areas, ice houses are seen with people fishing, and even cars are driving on the frozen lakes.  This scene caught my attention –  the summer swimming beach is anything but hospitable in winter, yet we are reminded that the lifeguard is off duty, at least until the winds blow summer temperatures our way.

Winter at Como Park_StaatsOur landscape that was brown and cold last week has been transformed into winter.  Daytime temperatures in the single digits, subzero temps at night, and snow have brought the look and feel of winter.  Ponds and lakes that were previously frozen with clear ice are now covered with snow, and are once again being populated with fish houses.  The ducks and geese have all headed south in search of open water.  And we are learning again how to drive in ice and snow.  How quickly this seasonal change has taken place!

Savoring the winter sunset 0028_StaatsMinnesotans are happy that we are having a winter!  The temperatures have remained below freezing and we couldn’t be happier!  Yes, it may sound strange to those living in warmer and more temperate climates that we’re glad it’s cold, but with this more “normal” winter weather we can get out and enjoy the activities that make winter memorable.  The neighborhood ice rinks have hockey games at night, the skating rinks are filled with graceful skaters and those that aspire to their grace.  The golf courses are filled with cross-country skiers and snowshoers, and our lakes are open for fishing again.  All it takes is a trip out onto the ice, either on foot or by car or truck (if the ice is thick enough), something to drill a hole in the ice, a line to drop through the hole, and the patience and luck to be successful.  And last night there was a plethora of hopeful people outside ice fishing on a nearby lake.  It also helped that there was a winter sunset that put on a beautiful display, as if beckoning us out to savor the winter weather and this sunset.

Sunset fishing 70667_StaatsOur Minnesota landscape has become much more winter-like.  Temperatures have remained below freezing for the past 10 days, allowing the lakes to freeze.  And with that the ice houses have started to go up and people are active once again around the lakes.  As I drove past this lake the other night, there was a very fine snow that was falling.  It was so delicate as to cause the sun to glow as it was starting to set below the cloudbank to the west.  In its own way it seemed to be announcing that all was right with the winter world in Minnesota.

Wherever you are as the calendar turns into the new year, I wish you joy and wonder, happiness and health in 2013.  Thanks to all of you that have been following my blog, and I hope you will continue to share in my weekly writings, photographs, and adventures.  Happy new year!

The past week was all about winter here in the Twin Cities.  It was the St. Paul Winter Carnival with its ice and snow sculptures along with all the outdoor activities associated with the event.  I was fortunate to have a dear friend from the Seattle area here visiting (yes, people really do come to Minnesota for vacations!).  I wanted to show her something that’s unique to our area in the winter time besides all the piles of snow that are gracing our urban landscape.  So we headed north to the second largest lake in the state, Mille Lacs.  We got our road pass for the day and drove four plus miles out into the lake on the ice road.  How bizarre to look at my GPS and see the car symbol surrounded by blue water!  Just a reminder that there really is a lake underneath this layer of ice.  The lake is filled with fish houses now, as far as the eye can see.  Some are sitting out all by themselves, and others are close together forming their own little villages.  Although we didn’t see any large piles of fish sitting nearby, I’m sure the fishing must have been good on this blue-sky day.

In Minnesota we are proud of our winter sports and activities.  Although many people don’t understand, there is a complete culture of ice fishing fanatics who count the days in winter until they can slide their ice houses out on the frozen lakes and pursue their catch of the day.  On a bay of Medicine Lake on the western side of Minneapolis you will find an unusual collection of what looks to be ice fishing houses.  But this is a different collection of people — this is a group of art shanties that are set up on the ice for about five weeks each year.  The collection of 20 “houses” includes a teepee shanty, dice shanties (where you can sit inside and play card games), and a dance shanty, where the music has a great beat,  and people keep warm by dancing on the wood floor with a chandelier overhead.  If one ventures further out on the lake, you’ll find the more usual collection of ice houses, with the dedicated fishermen and women, but Medicine Lake (and Minnesota) is big enough to cater to all types in this cold season of winter.

ice-houses-full-moon-StaatsThis past weekend brought us the biggest and brightest full moon, and we were fortunate to have clear skies.  And since it’s Minnesota, and it’s cold here,  this is one of the most popular outdoor activities — ice fishing.   It’s still a bit unnerving to me to drive out on a frozen lake, but that’s exactly what we did on Saturday night.  What  we found was a large community of houses and people enjoying the evening with fishing and snowmobiling.  And the full moon didn’t let us down — it rose large and beautiful over a calm winter’s evening.  Later we unpacked our snowshoes and wandered through a beautiful scientific & natural area near the St. Croix River, illuminated completely by the full moon.  It was a perfect way to enjoy a beautiful Minnesota winter’s evening.