Beating the Winter Blahs at Elizabeth Park

Winter's Beauty

Untitled, photo by mballen89

Several of my friends shared this very appropriate article today about how Norwegians in the far north of the country deal with the dark and cold of winter:

First, Norwegians celebrate the things one can only do in winter. “People couldn’t wait for the ski season to start,” says Leibowitz. Getting outside is a known mood booster, and so Norwegians keep going outside, whatever is happening out there. Notes Leibowitz: “There’s a saying that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”

Norwegians also have a word, koselig, that means a sense of coziness. It’s like the best parts of Christmas, without all the stress. People light candles, light fires, drink warm beverages, and sit under fuzzy blankets. There’s a community aspect to it too; it’s not just an excuse to sit on the couch watching Netflix. Leibowitz reports that Tromsø had plenty of festivals and community activities creating the sense that everyone was in it together.

And finally, people are enamored with the sheer beauty of the season. Leibowitz grew up near the Jersey shore, and “I just took it as a fact that everyone likes summer the best.” But deep in the winter in Norway, when the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon, multiple hours a day can still look like sunrise and sunset, and against the snow, “the colors are incredibly beautiful,” she says. “The light is very soft and indirect.”

Most likely you can’t cross-country ski straight out of your house, and while Norwegian sweaters may be catching on, restaurants and coffee shops in more temperate climates don’t all feature the fireplaces and candles common to the far north. Still, there are little things non-Norwegians can do. “One of the things we do a lot of in the States is we bond by complaining about the winter,” says Leibowitz. “It’s hard to have a positive wintertime mindset when we make small talk by being negative about the winter.”

Read on for more good advice on battling the winter blahs – I hope it’s helpful to you!

The photo was taken in Elizabeth Park in Trenton which I just learned is Michigan’s first county park!

This 162-acre family estate was bequeathed to the Wayne County Park Trustees in October of 1919 by the children of Elizabeth Slocum.

The acceptance of this special gift marks the beginning of the Wayne County Park System. Elizabeth Park sits like an emerald jewel along the banks of the Detroit River, and features over 1,300 feet of riverwalk for fishing and river watching. In addition Elizabeth Park also offers activities such as softball, cycling, in-line skating, hiking, cross-country skiing and ice skating.

View the photo background bigtacular and see more in mballen89’s slideshow.

More winter wallpaper and more straight-up winter on Michigan in Pictures!

Snowvember in Michigan

Thanksgiving Snow - Pine Cone Edition

Thanksgiving Snow – Pine Cone Edition, photo by Tom Hughes

Much of Michigan, particularly the southern 2/3 of the Lower Peninsula, is bracing for significant snowfall – as much as 6″ by Sunday morning according to mLive’s Mark Torregrossa:

Snow, possibly mixed with rain, will start in the southwest corner of Lower Michigan after 2 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 21. This includes Muskegon, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. By 8 a.m. Saturday, wet snow, mixed with rain, will have spread into southeastern Lower Michigan, including Lansing, Jackson, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Flint, Saginaw, Bay City and Midland. Snow should make it into northern Lower Michigan, including Traverse City, Houghton Lake and Alpena by early Saturday afternoon.

The morning will have temperatures between 32 degrees and 35 degrees. Snow will probably struggle to accumulate during the morning.

All of the model data is now consistent that the storm center will intensify during the afternoon. Precipitation will be heaviest during the afternoon and early evening Saturday.

That’s when the driving conditions will likely worsen dramatically and possibly quickly.

The colder air, with temperatures of about 31 degrees will move in to southern Lower between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. At the same time there could be a fairly heavy rate of snow.

Read on for more at mLive. If you’re feeling sad, remember that last November was the snowiest since 1897 in much of Michigan!!

View Tom’s photo bigger and see more in his Rochester MI slideshow.

Also tune in to November snow in the Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr for photos at they are added!

Winter is Coming … and it might not be all that bad

Munising Ice Caves

munising ice caves/curtains, photo by Paul Wojtkowski

The Freep reports that El Niño in Pacific could mean mild Michigan winter:

Less ice on the Great Lakes would ease the freighter shipping industry’s logistical nightmares of recent winters. Less snow-melt runoff in the spring could forestall flooding that sends nutrients off farms and into Lake Erie, fueling its summer algae blooms. And deer populations that have dropped dramatically in the Upper Peninsula over recent harsh winters could begin to rebound.

…Over a century, comparing Michigan’s normal winter precipitation versus 10 El Niño events between 1915 and 1992, rain and snowfall was about 72% of normal in the Metro Detroit area during the El Niños; 78% of normal in the Thumb area, and in the 80% to 85% range of normal throughout the rest of lower Michigan and the eastern Upper Peninsula, according to NOAA.

You can read on for more. While that means that we might not have as much ice cave fun in Michigan this winter, I think I’m OK with an El Niño intermission!

Check Paul’s photo of this winter’s incredible ice caves on Grand Island out background bigalicious, see more in his slideshow and follow Paul Wojtkowski Photography on Facebook!

More ice caves on Michigan in Pictures!


#TBT: Soo Ice Jam of 1953

Soo Ice Jam of 1953

Soo Ice Jam of 1953, shared by John Rodawn

The Ludington Daily News from April 9, 1953 had an article titled Try to Clear Soo Lock Ice with Freighters’ Backwash that said:

SAULT STE. MARIE MICHIGAN – Three powerful lakes craft churned their propellers in a huge “Operations Backwash” today hopeful they could clear the Sault locks of an ice jam which has lied up nearly one-third of the Great Lakes fleet. The Coast Guard icebreaker Mackinaw was joined by the Pittsburgh Steamship Company freighter Arthur Anderson and the Canadian freighter Manladoc (not sure this is the right name) in the operation. Shipping men and lock engineers decided on the maneuver after an aerial survey showed the Whitefish Bay area, above the locks, was entirely free of the ice formation which has passed into the proper.

The three craft were tied up side by side at a dock and then went into action, with the propellers turning at full speed to churn up the water. Officials were hopeful the backwash would push the icy mess about 800 feet upstream, against the current, and get the ice in a position so it would be caught in a cross – current and washed over the Soo Rapids and out of the locks area. Coast Guard Commander T. A. Dahlburg of the Sault area expressed belief the ice would be cleared by this weekend, perhaps as early as Friday. Dahlburg reported 90 lake craft were tied up above the locks awaiting passage, while 64 were tied up below the locks upward bound. He called it the largest concentration of shipping ever assembled in the Sault area.

Under Dahlburg’s plan to keep some traffic operating, only the most powerful of the lake freighters and carriers were permitted to make their way downbound through the icy slush in the American locks. The only upbound traffic yesterday was through the Canadian lock, seven vessels passing through while 17 came down on the U.S. side.

View this postcard shared by John Rodwan bigger on Facebook and see a lot more in the Northern Michigan Postcards group.

More about the Soo Locks and more #TBT aka Throwback Thursdays on Michigan in Pictures.

#TBT – Ice Caves of 2015

Icicles on cave - Grand Island Ice Curtains on Lake Superior - Munising, Michigan

Icicles on cave – Grand Island Ice Curtains, photo by Craig

As the mercury climbs and some crazy people (such as yours truly) start grumbling about the high temps, it’s probably a good time to take a look back at last winter’s spectacular ice caves.

Aubrieta Hope shared the story of her trip with Craig and two other photographers (Neil Weaver & John McCormick) to check out the Grand Island ice curtains. All four are Michigan in Pictures regulars – click to check out In Search of Superior Crystal on the Pure Michigan Blog. It has a bunch of photos and begins:

In the heart of winter, when the drifts are as high as houses and snow-dusted pines line the roads, photographers travel to the Upper Peninsula in search of crystal. Not antique-store crystal, but Superior crystal, the kind that occurs when the north wind turns every drop of open water into something sparkling and new. During the coldest months, the great lake freezes, heaves and breaks, forming mountains of crystal rocks, so tall they seem like permanent landforms. Icebergs and volcanoes rise in the harbors and bays, reflecting all the colors of the sky. Waterfalls slow from a rush to a trickle, building columns that bubble and sing. And, on the sandstone cliffs, springs that flow unseen in the summer months create glittering ice curtains.

During winter’s last stand, at the very beginning of March, I headed north to find Superior crystal. My trip was inspired by winter photographs of the U.P. that I’d viewed online. I’d seen dramatic images of enormous frozen waterfalls, great Superior ice fields, and shining rivers wreathed in morning mist. I wanted to experience and photograph all those scenes, but more than anything, I wanted to see the legendary ice curtains of Grand Island in Munising Bay. These immense, aqua blue ice curtains form when cold temperatures freeze the springs that seep from the island’s rocky cliffs. It can be tricky to get to the ice curtains, though. The island is not accessible every winter because the currents are strong in the bay, preventing adequate ice buildup. During last year’s historically cold winter, the bay froze sufficiently to allow foot traffic. For awhile it looked like Grand Island would not be accessible this year, but February’s arctic blast arrived just in time.

View Craig’s photo bigger and see & purchase more in the Grand Island Ice Curtains – Munising gallery on Craig’s website.

PS: The Grand Island National Recreation Area is located just off the coast of the UP in Munising and is an amazing place, complete with mountain bike trails!

PPS: More ice caves on Michigan in Pictures too!

PPPS: I really am a fan of the PS. If you are too, please PS in the comments!

Wolves almost gone from Isle Royale

Isle Royale Wolf

The Urge, photo by

Last weekend the Freep reported that the delicate biosphere that characterized Isle Royale National Park is about to fall apart. The wolf count is down from nine last year to only three, and Michigan Tech ecologist John Vucetich says he wouldn’t be surprised if none remain next winter.

“What’s really important here is not the presence of wolves, per se,” Vucetich said. “But the wolves need to be able to perform their ecological function — predation. Predation has been essentially nil for the past four years now.”

That’s led to a 22% increase in the moose population for each of the past four years, he said, taking the island population from 500 to 1,200 moose. An individual moose consumes up to 40 pounds of vegetation a day.

“One of the most basic lessons we know in ecology, wherever creatures like moose live, you have to have a top predator,” he said. “If you don’t, the herbivore can cause a great deal of harm to the vegetation.”

… Vucetich and his colleague at Michigan Tech, Rolf Peterson, both support a “genetic rescue” of the island’s wolf population — bringing in wolves from elsewhere to bolster island wolves and help facilitate breeding. The U.S. Forest Service is studying the concept, but that process may take years. If the remaining wolf population doesn’t survive, and the Forest Service ultimately approves of the plan, it may mean creating a whole new pack on the island.

I think that this poses very interesting questions about our role in the ecosystems we seek to preserve. Are we to watch what happens and not interfere like a kid watching an ant farm or a Star Fleet team, or do we accept the responsibility of our decision to preserve and seek to maintain the natural balances and populations? As our climate changes, we will no doubt be called to make these decisions more and more frequently as flora and fauna lose the ability to survive in the places we have set aside for them.

This photo was the first in a series of 40 shared last fall in “Thinking Like an Island” from the Wolves & Moose of Isle Royale. They wrote:

THE URGE. Walk 40 miles in two days searching for a lover that may not even exist. Return home to parents and siblings the next day. The life of a dispersing wolf, unsatisfied.

It’s a great series featuring images by George Desort, Rolf Peterson, John Vucetich, and Brian Rajdl along with text by John Vucetich and Michael Paul Nelson. Click to see this photo bigger on Facebook and then use your left arrow to page through them.

Definitely visit for lots more about the predator/prey balance of one of Michigan’s most fascinating places.

Sunset at Muskegon Lighthouse

Sunset at Muskegon Lighthouse

Sunset at Muskegon Lighthouse, photo by Amie Lucas

Lighthouse Friends’ page on the Muskegon South Pier Light begins:

The name ‘Muskegon’ comes from the Ottawa Indian term ‘Masquigon,’ meaning “marshy river or swamp,” and refers to the Muskegon River that expands into Muskegon Lake before emptying into Lake Michigan. Settlement on the shores of Lake Muskegon began in 1837 with the establishment of Muskegon Township. Nicknamed the ‘Lumber Queen of the World,’ Muskegon was home to more millionaires than any other town in America during the late 1800s, when its lumber helped rebuild Chicago after the great fire of 1871.

In August 1838, Lieutenant James T. Homans visited the river and included the following in a report to the Secretary of the Treasury:

Muskegon river, on lake Michigan, came next under my observation, it is a large stream, opening, within half a mile of its outlet, into a considerable lake, eight miles long by four wide. The channel in, is wide and easy of access, and not less than twelve feet of water in it; making this harbor, in my estimation, the best on lake Michigan, all things considered. Its value as a safe haven, and the rich lumber trade in which it will soon be engaged, (three extensive steam saw-mills having been erected there,) entitle it to a light-house near the entrance. I selected a point, on the south side of the river’s mouth, as the best location, in the event of an appropriation being made for a light there.

On March 3, 1849, Congress set aside $3,500 for a lighthouse at the site selected by Homans, and in 1851 a one-and-a-half-story, rubblestone dwelling, surmounted by a wooden tower, was built. The dwelling measured thirty-six by eighteen feet, and the top of the tower stood twenty-six feet above the ground. Six lamps with fourteen-inch reflectors were originally used in the lantern room, but a sixth-order Fresnel lens replaced these in 1856. Alexander Wilson was hired as the light’s first keeper at an annual salary of $450.

Read on for lots more including photos.

View Aime’s photo background big on Facebook and see more Lake Michigan sunset goodness in A Muskegon Sunset at

There’s more lighthouses, more sunsets, more Lake Michigan and more Muskegon on Michigan in Pictures.