It came under darkness and it lingered in the shadows.
The night before Halloween, a silent visitor, ghostly white, drifted into Bluefin Bay. It flitted past the leafless branches and alighted on the Jack-O-Lanterns.
That guest, loathed by some and welcomed by others, was the first snowfall of the season. Though the whipping storm winds brought only a dusting of the white powder, it’s hard not to think of it as a turning point in the tug of war between summer and winter. Fond memories of kayaking on Lake Superior, venturing on the Superior Hiking Trail or playing in the outdoor pool give way to anticipation of fresh adventures: cross-country skiing on the trails near Oberg Mountain and Britton Peak, snowshoeing through balsam groves, skating on Bluefin and Surfside’s rinks, or bombing down the slopes of nearby Lutsen Mountains Ski Resort.
Soon. But not yet.
The sun climbed out of a blue sky to banish the snowy intruder. Pockets of resistance held their ground beneath the shade of trees and buildings, or rested on leaves.
Though it might take a while before there’s enough snowfall for skiing or snowshoeing, the clear, sunny conditions on Halloween Day were ideal for hiking.
I shuttled one couple and their dog up Cramer Road to the Superior Hiking Trail, so they could hike the eight miles down to the Temperance River wayside. Only a couple miles away from the lake, I found much more snow. The huge body of water, which had kept the shoreline cooler in the summertime, is warmer than the air now (a balmy 44-degree average surface temperature) and thus it moderates some of the inland chill. I sent the group on their way, free to tramp easily over the muddy sections, now frozen solid for convenient passage.
Later in the day, I led a typically beautiful hike at Temperance River.
As the sun gets lower in the sky, it casts dramatic shadows across the canyon, even at midday. The bugs are long gone and hikers are unlikely to break into a sweat climbing up the trail in the brisk air.
The real treat of the hike was when I took the group down to the beach. The howling winds from previous night had kicked up enormous rollers that curled over spectacularly before rushing up the cobbles. One rocky point stuck out right into the waves and threw up magnificent explosions of water.
“Look at that,” one of my guests said.
It looked like some crystal ornament, hopelessly delicate, glittering in the sunlight. It was a tiny shrub growing out from the rocks, completely caked in frozen spray. Admirers would have to appreciate it at their peril, however, for waves could splash them just as easily as they did the hapless shrub.
Soon, the winter storms will bring more waves, spray and freezing temperatures, caking more of the shoreline beneath a glaze of ice.
Soon. But not yet.
-Tom Fagin, Activities