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Spring Walked in on Cold Feet, but the Ice is off Shagawa Lake

Spring Ice on Shagawa Lake Ely Minneosta End of April 2011

Spring Ice on Shagawa

It was not the May Day morning I was looking for, but then it’s been that kind of Spring where one day it is sunny and at least half way warm, and then the next, it’s back to being cold. We started watching the ice three weeks ago, and the one thing that got me up and out was the feeling that after still being there yesterday morning, that if I walked down to Miners and Shagawa Lakes this morning that the ice would be gone from the lake.

I looked out the window in the early morning light, and noticed the street in front of Harvey House was wet. The branches of the big blue spruce flagged in the wind as a cold west wind rushed through the stiff needles. It was the kind of day where a person needed some kind of carrot to lure him out of the house. For me it was curiosity. After checking most everyday for two weeks, I didn’t want to sleep in on the first real day of spring.

The calendar tells us that March 21st is the first day of spring, but what do calendars know of seasons here in Minnesota where winter stretches a cold hand and has a very long arm for a damn long time. I could see pellets of snow sputtering down outside the window mixing in with a little cold rain. I would dress warm when I went down to the lakes.

I don’t like being cold. I don’t like being too warm either, but most of the time I can control that by peeling off a layer or two. In order to handle the weather, I dress in layers. My rule is you can always take off what you are wearing, but you can’t put on what you don’t have. For me, too warm is better than to cold, but you don’t want to bring too much. You want to bring enough with you to be comfortable.

Today was a three and a half layer day. The layers are really all that thick, but when worn in combination they were about right for a cold spring morning. Long underwear, jeans, and wind pants on the bottom, underwear, flannel shirt, light wool coat, and wind breaker on top. If I get too warm the shed layer goes into the pack I always carry with me.

I live less than a half mile from Miners Lake, and a mile or so from Shagawa. I live in town, but Ely is a small place in a big woods. You are never far from rock, wood, and water when you live in Ely. That’s one of the things I like best of the place. The feeling of wilderness is never far away.

When I checked out the two lakes closest to Ely; both Miners and Shagawa were liquid again. White caps broke down the fetch of the water, and loons sang on the open water. What did they care if the wind was blowing cold and snow pattered against my hood, it was a fine day to be a loon, and not bad for man or beast. The marigolds are a couple of weeks up, but the willows are starting to green up. No doubt we will continue to see more days where the snow squalls in and out, and the wind blows cold, but the lakes are open again. It isn’t winter anymore. Tell your friends spring is here on cold feet.

Photo and Blog by Mike Hilman

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