We awoke on Christmas eve to more snow.  In what has become our snowiest December on record, another five or six inches of snow served to freshen the white coating.  After taking care of last-minute shopping and dinner preparations we decided to take some time for ourselves.  A drive into Saint Paul brought us past this lovely neighborhood park, complete with a beautiful tree shimmering with a fresh dusting of snow and  sparkling lights.  The perimeter of the park was marked by luminary candles, and off in the distance were the lights of the Cathedral of Saint Paul where people were making preparations for Midnight Mass.  For the time we were here at the park, this night was still and quiet.  This was the time to appreciate the evening, the beauty we enjoy during winter, and this magical and hopeful season of Christmas.

We’ve just returned from a delightful weekend in Ashland, Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Superior.  With a dear friend from Seattle who wanted to experience the fun of a snow-filled winter event, our visit coincided with the 14th annual Book Across the Bay.  To celebrate the uniqueness of our upper-midwest winters (and just because we can!) over 3,300 people donned their skis and snowshoes and crossed frozen Chequamegon Bay from Ashland to Washburn, Wisconsin.  The distance of 10 kilometers was lit by frozen luminaries, and included warm bonfires on the ice marking each kilometer.  After snowshoeing for a bit more than a kilometer, I looked back to photograph this winding curve of luminaries leading to the lights of Ashland.  Although the event started under partly cloudy skies at dusk, the clouds cleared  as we worked our way across the bay, ending under a bright partial moon and a canopy of stars.  The promise of a big party, great friends, and good beer at the finish-line was our incentive to “book” the distance.

luminaries-at-batb-0127_staatsValentine’s Day on frozen Lake Superior — what a great way to celebrate a winter’s evening!  Chequamegon Bay is at the southwest corner of Lake Superior, surrounded by the towns of Ashland and Washburn, Wisconsin.  For the past 13 years the residents of the area come together to celebrate the cold of winter with a ski and snowshoe race across the frozen bay — the Book across the Bay.  This event is unique in that it begins at 6:30pm, and the course is lit by hundreds of frozen luminaries marking the route along the ice.  The event draws over 2,000 participants skiing, snowshoeing, and hiking.  This year’s route was changed at the last minute because of four days of warm temperatures and a big thaw.  The snow that had covered the frozen lake became liquid, then froze again into a huge sheet of ice.  The race organizers changed the course to a loop and spent hours “churning” the ice to lay a path that provided some traction for skiers and walkers.  Their hard work paid off and it was a beautiful event, accompanied by light snowflakes.  After crossing the finish line there was a huge bonfire to warm up at and a post-race party in a giant heated tent.  Hay was scattered on the frozen ground and hay bales were stacked around the perimeter.   Everyone was treated to a  hot chili feed, delicious local beer, and dancing to a great live band.  It’s a party of the best kind, and a delightful way to enjoy and appreciate our winter weather and scenery.