Storm Approaches


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An unofficial source of Eagle Harbor, Michigan news, views and information.

Winter Storm Approaches

The Week's Weather Journal.

"...when we don't live with birds or weather or waves we lose the opportunity to think hard about ourselves, to discover from nature important facts about human nature."
(excerpted from Nancy Lord's, Fishcamp)

The Week Of December 14th


DNR Officer Matt Eberly reports that he counted over 1,000 snowmobiles at his check point near Copper Harbor today. WOW! We had a lot on the trail near the Harbor, but nothing like he observed. Most riders are apparently avoiding the "Eagles Loop", the trail alternative that leaves the main trail at Phoenix and runs through Eagle River and Eagle Harbor and then up to Delaware and back to the main trail along US41. Not enough snow down near the lake. Abby and I returned to the woods again today. Hiked around Long Lake and back to the Copper Falls stamp sands. Much of the trail is bare and again there was little sign of animal or bird life. The moderate temperatures and dry air moving in from the west continue to shrink what little ground snow cover we have left. The County's official "snowfall measurer" says there is still 15" on the ground at Delaware, but that seems hard to believe. The view across Great Sand Bay is like that of summer....beautiful big white cresting waves moving in from the west and crashing onto the snow and ice free beach. Very strange.

Nobody has said anything, but this must be the beginning of the forecasted el Nino weather pattern. Today it's 45 degrees, almost t-shirt weather (well, by Harbor standards). Lots of green grass in the yards of Harbor camps. I hiked around to the Marina with the wonderdog, who took two long swims at the east beach. (She apparently knows, as we all do, that a good west wind means "better" swimming at the east beach.) The Harbor seems deserted, especially on the east side where now only Charlotte, Dick and Tottie Catoni are in residence. I walk by the docks of the Harbor Yacht Club, hidden all summer behind the array of power and sail boats of the expanding Harbor fleet, now displaying their warts ahd wallows as they stand naked in the dark water. A lttle snow cover would do them some good. As I approach the marina, a building west wind whistles and moans as it works its way through the sweet selling tall pine and tightly packed spruce bordering the marina. The roar of waves breaking on the nearby lake shore join in the wild chorus. The wave patterns along the Marina's harbor facing rocky beach are, as usual in west wind, a sight of extreme confusion. Waves angling in from the lake vie for mastery over their smaller but more numerous cousins moving in from the west end of the harbor. I stand contemplatively for awhile near the breaking waves, unsteady in the pressing wind, all sensory systems now in overload. A sense of isolation, of remoteness from the affairs of mankind, of oneness with the natural world envelops me. Abby, not one for contemplation and anxious for new adventure, nuzzles my leg, breaking the spell. I turn for the journey back to camp....refreshed anew by the encounter.


Seems that there is am electrical problem with the star atop the lighthouse. It has been out for the past week and may not be fixed by the time our Christmas visitors arrive. Warm weather, no snow and now no lighthouse star. Things are not as they should be! Even the lights a few of us have placed outside seem out-of-place. This must be what Christmas in the south and southwest is like. Humbug!


I was obviously in a bit of a funk yesterday. Sorry about that. I should have mentioned that un-Christmas like weather and scenery notwithstanding, my Harbor neighbors are their usual happy, friendly and helpful selves....busy preparing for the arrival of family and friends. That's what's important. Indeed, the evidence of the impending holiday is all about us. Bob and Alice Black's brightly lit tree stands on their dock at the other end of the harbor; Jeane and Bruce Olson's wall of white lights depicting the manager scene greets shoreline road travellers at their cat harbor camp; both especially beautiful in their across water settings. Lakers pass as close to shore as possible in their upbound passage, proudly displaying their holiday decor of hundreds of colored lights, Christmas trees atop pilot houses and on one, a giant Santa waving a brightly lit arm to his shoreline viewers. A brilliant full moon now rises crisply over the east beach, adding its own twinkling light array on the reflective rippled harbor surface. The air has the fresh invigorating scent of the open lake. The sound, if not the sight, of winter is present as wind whistles through bare trees, fireplace fires crackle, and far-away snowmobiles and logger chain saws gently whir. Nancy and John Clarkson deliver a beautiful Christmas table center piece of Nancy's creation for my camp holiday decor. My temporary funk totally disolves when Nancy plays her trump cards....homemade oatmeal raisin cookies and direct from the punpkin, pumpkin custard. Life is good! Christmas will be just fine, snow or no snow!


Thanks to Don Keith and/or Joe Monroe, the star on the lighthouse shines again. A good sign. Our weather, however, remains unseasonably warm and dry, with little or no snow in the forecast for the week ahead. It could be a "green" Christmas, not the first for Eagle Harbor, but certainly unusual. A trip to town today confirmed reports of more snow "up the hill", but what little there is up there is starting to look a little tired. As you might expect, the weather, or lack thereof, is THE main topic of conversation. Most folks seem to be relishing this reprieve from the norm, but the general consensus along Fifth Street is that winter will return with a vengeance in January. I hope they are right, but believe there is a little denial at play. We tend to get so focused on our little micro weather environment, specifically the "lake effect" phenom, that we simply dismiss global weather events, like El Nino, as irrelevant. We'll see.


An email from a good neighbor today kidded me about my continual reference to my Harbor abode as my "camp". She noted that "your house IS a bit more than a camp" and asked, appropriately, "What would your mother think?" Well, she would be appalled. Her home for twenty years following my dad's death, and the only house my folks ever owned, this place was to her truly a "home". She bristled whenever I referred to it as a "cottage", and once when in a unthinking state I mentioned it might be nice to place a sign along the road marking this as "Camp Beth", in her honor, I was severely reprimanded. I always thought this revulsion to the suggestion of camp was a product of her Calumet Avenue upbringing. As her mother would have observed, "No proper lady would live in a camp." To me however, this is truly camp. Sure, it lacks little in the way of convenience, is well furnished, sturdily built, and is my permanent residence. Certainly doesn't fit the camp stereotype, even for the Copper Country, where anything other than your main home, no matter how lavishly built and furnished, is referred to as "camp". My concept of camp is a little broader. It encompasses the sense of refuge; a place of protection, of peace, of comfort. In an urban setting this would still be a home, but in the rugged and remote Keweenaw meeting of land and lake, it is, at least for me, camp. Whether returning from a hike, a sail, shoveling snow, chopping wood, or drive from town, the feeling of "coziness" that envelopes me upon entering my door makes this "camp"...a term having less to do with the physical aspects of my property and more to do with the role it plays in my life. Perhaps, in this context, even my mother would grudgingly accept the idea of "camp".


Well, the winter soltice is upon us (tomorrow). The new celestrial year begins. Ole Sol has touched the tropic of Capricorn and begun its slow march back to our northern hemisphere. Our days will begin to lengthen. They are now officially about eight and one-half hours between sunrise and sunset, but almost a half-hour less at the Harbor due to the shielding hills to our south. We seem to have little dawn or dusk. It's either daybright or nightdark. Very short transition time. Just the opposite of summer when the soft white light of a gathering dawn appears hours before sunrise, and the red glow of after sunset dusk seem to linger forever. Not sure why this is. Perhaps only a perception biased by viewing ports: indoors in winter and outdoors in summer. The winter soltice seems to also mark a change in our snow patterns. Cold northerlies across the open lake producing our usually constant "lake effect snows", begin to give way to moisture laden southerlies that bring the heavier periodic snows of late winter and early spring. Not sure what will happen in this the year of a record setting El Nino. So far, none of the usual rules seem to apply. Winter soltice is the advent of nature's new year. The annual cycle of life in the natural world begins anew. If, like me, you are more attuned to the ways of nature than the artificial time markings of man, even the calendars of Popes, then let me the first to wish you a "Happy New Year".

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