Marching into Spring
As I write this, today marks the first day of spring! So Happy Spring! How different a couple of weeks ago felt like at the Interlaken Haus! We are now living in 40+ degrees and soaking up sunshine (with a soupy driveway). But one of our adventures this month again brought us up the shore (a bit further this time) to get on the ice as much as possible, and really get our search on for wildlife. Sometimes as a photographer you just need access to all the angles and explore your surroundings when the opportunity arises. And this was no normal year for winter, meaning, we were gung-ho about getting as much lake time as possible.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that the majority of Lake Superior was still covered in ice. Some 90%! This allowed us to step out on the ice and really walk quite a distance for the first time. Most of the ice shards had a layer of snow covering them, but you could hear the pings of ice moving below, like laser guns echoing all around. Cracks here and there were great reminders that we were still on a moving body of water.
We took a hike up Palisade Head to get an awesome view of the lake. Here we were able to enjoy the overlook by ourselves, taking photo after photo until we ran out of angles. The overlook can be dangerous if not careful. There are no railings and certainly height to the cliff hugging the shore. And the shards below looked like tiny pieces of broken glass. For these same shard pieces that were too difficult to pick up, now appeared as tiny specks in the landscape. The water past the ice carried a rich, ocean blue. This lake is therapeutic up close, but it has some outstanding views from above.
The next stop: Tettegouche State Park. Tired from hiking up Palisade, we hung around the visitor center and took in a nice lunch, including a bit of one-on-one time with a deer that was eating in the woods nearby. Perhaps he wanted to spend lunch with us.
He didn't seem to mind being a few feet away, and neither did we. That's the wonderful thing about getting outdoors. There are these special moments with the wildlife, that they've consented to give you. It's not about barging in and snapping photos of every encounter, it's about them revealing that they are an intimate creature, and curious to know you just as much as we are wanting to know them.
Stopping at Split Rock has been slowly dwindling over the years. Perhaps because the shore has become more and more crowded, but also because some stops can become fairly repetitive.
This year, however, gave us a chance at really walking out onto the lake and up to the cliff ledge the lighthouse sits atop. It was strange and awesome, and we both gasped at the magnitude of the towering lighthouse.
We also spent a considerable amount of time exploring the ice shards that were scattered, as well check out Ellingson Island (typically not accessible during summer months). Again, new angles and new perspective.
Here again we spotted deer that decided to meander out on the ice and we all spent a great long while in the blustery cold amazed and overcome with how much there is to see in this small section of the world. Even if we've been to this same spot quite a few times, it was a nice welcome back.
The last leg of the journey took us up to Gunflint Trail and near the Canadian border. Rarely do we miss an opportunity to head up to this extraordinary stretch of woods. We were more hopeful than usual to spot a moose or lynx. Round and round we drove the backroads hoping we could catch a glimpse. So many lynx, moose, and wolf tracks, but all too elusive to want their picture taken that day.
It can be humbling to drive such a long distance and not see anything, but when you do, it's always more rewarding. Instead, we decided to try our luck at a great sunrise at Hollow Rock and it did not disappoint!
We also explored the backroads we often take during the autumn months. We were surprised to find that many of these roads butted up against the bwca, and had acres of boreal forest, perfect owling territory.
We searched and searched, hoping we could spot just one owl hanging up in the tree. But they too must have been napping a long winter's nap. We relished instead among the long stretches of snowy roads filled with pines and enjoyed a nice stop within the Boundary Waters Wilderness.
Often times when people ask us how we are so lucky to find or come across so much wildlife, I'm always hesitant to respond. It's true..we do come across quite a bit of wildlife. But usually not before we've covered miles of road, eyes peeled to the treetops or deep in the woods.
To be frank, we watch for tracks constantly and research the animals to really understand how they interact with their environment. Sometimes it's pure luck. But much of the time it's knowing how to look for them. In this particular day along the shore, luck came into play for us and we drove past a section of ice on Lake Superior that revealed a pack of wolves hanging out for the day.
We stepped out of the car and geared up to trudge through the deep snow to try and get a better glimpse. Here were 4 wolves not too far away, 2 of which were snuggling, the other 2 sleeping soundly. Slowly we walked on the shoreline as one of the wolves glanced up and watched us intently. I stopped so as to not frighten them, and also to make sure that we were not invading their space.
As they awoke, we started to see a playful side. Soon they were running around with each other playing. They ran out to a small rock island in front of us, ducked behind and then peeked out at us.
They seemed shy, but curious, and we guessed these were younger wolves by their personality. Seemed a strange place to hang for the day! But we weren't complaining!
We also made a quick stop at Iona's Beach. We ran along the trail to catch a glimpse of the coyote that was exploring on the ice. We weren't entirely sure what he was looking for, but it seemed important and kept him trucking!
He trotted all over tarnation, sniffing, smelling, looking at us, and then moved further and further out in search of something. The sun soon set so we didn't have long with him, but an array of beautiful shades of pinks, blues, and purples gave us the perfect sendoff as the colors reflected on the ice.
As we neared the end of our time along the shore, we tend to reflect on the journey home about all we saw and did. I couldn't help but be a bit sad that March was already nearing the end. I usually notice that March is when Minnesotans are most whiny (or take vacations to escape).
For us, it's a bittersweet time. It means that the crisp crunchy snow will soon be gone. Much of the wildlife we enjoy spotting will head deeper into the woods, and the trees will lose their beautiful white coat. We don't particularly wish winter away, even if it has dragged on for many months. Soon the bugs will be biting and the heat will be sweltering.
BUT there are things to look forward to. Campfires, birds migrating back to blossoming trees, new sprouts of plants and flowers, and the sweet smell of rain. And I'm positive that we'll then too feel like spring is flying fast and soon miss all the wonderfulness of its season. So, while we leave March, hopefully we'll look to the long days ahead and the beauty that is about to unfold in nature.