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December 16th, 2009 - The Snow Must Go On

Back in 2006, after I was cut loose from the photolab scene forever (well, mostly), I was lucky enough to have an understanding, encouraging, full-time salaried wife with a steady job and full health care.
This gave me the opportunity to take long introspective walks with the dog nearly every day to unload my head, usually near dawn, which led to my eventual career path change into becoming an interpretive naturalist.
This was before this blog was begun, and ultimately the walks led to photos that I took every day, and that often sent to Sharon at work after writing up a little supportive text. I soon realized that I should begin this style of journal as a blog, and IU was begun in late 2007.
I recently came across some saved versions of a few special photo hikes I sent to Sharon, and what with the weather being as it has been lately, it seems only natural to share some of those winter shots now, as they were never published on the blog.
Thinking back, I really appreciate having the opportunity to take these hikes everyday with the dog, and get my thoughts sorted out. We saw some great things, and I began to notice the bounty of things changing everyday, even though we walked nearly the same route every day. I learned an immense amount about nature during this time.

As a point of reference, most of these photos were taken on March 13th, 2006, except this one which was taken the day before.
This is along a trail below Edgecumbe Road near Crosby Lake in West Saint Paul.
There are these wild limestone and ice formations there, reminiscent of those natural sand sculptures in Colorado, to me anyway. Sort of the cheap Minnesota version.
We hadn't had much snow up to this point, I think we got an early storm in November, then it was bone-dry for months. That was about to change...

Overnight we got dumped on with a foot of heavy, wet snow.
Hap and I walked down into the 'Lower Glenn' along Minnehaha Creek below the falls, and it was eerie.
So quiet 'in the bowl', but very windy in the treetops, and just about the time you got all zen and in the moment... CRACK! POP! The trees literally started exploding around us! The weight of the wet snow had them sagging so heavily, they would catch a gust and just couldn't support it anymore and BLAMO.
I saw one that was at literally 5 inches in diameter and 30 feet tall break about 3/4 of the way up and fall in the creek about 20 feet away from us. It was spooky. Incredibly loud. I began thinking maybe coming down here in this enclosed area wasn't such a good idea...
Earlier I was adjusting my camera and a sapling snapped right next to me and sprayed some snow down my back. I thought someone was playing tricks on me. You could hear them off in the woods going off like gunshots. We didn't spend too much time in one place.
Nothing looked the same as on the dry land hikes, everything was like it was being compressed down...

Happy looks like mini-pup here, dwarfed by the snowy trees.
He was romping seriously and in his element. He wasn't legally supposed to be off-leash, but it wasn't healthy for him to be on, either with me slipping and sliding or having to constantly duck under overhanging branches, so I let him go. He was having the time of his life, he kept coming back to me and biting my gloves, trying to get me to play. He has the funniest gait in the snow, it was cracking me up. Something like a kangaroo. He didn't want to get his doodle wet I guess. Can't say I blame him. He would bound through the snow and come back with a wild look in his eyes and then tear off ahead again. Dog ecstasy.

There's a boardwalk under there somewhere.
We could barely walk down it, there were so many broken branches and the rest were hanging so low in most places you almost had to crawl under them.
Happy is doing his 'walk through the minefield' routine. He gets all distracted with snow falling on his head and is not sure where to step next.
It was very cool to be there before any other footprints showed up.

The Falls themselves were spectacular, ethereal, and surreal.
Between the heavy flakes coming down, the blowing snow 'falling up', the steam and mist from the falls, and the snow falling out of the trees, it was mystical.
You can already see evidence of branches breaking off even here where it was relatively sheltered.
It was actually quite warm down in the glen, except for the snow blowing into every crease in your clothing.
The wind blowing off the creek when we got up out of the bowl was brutal. I iced up immediately walking home and Hap was trying to keep his lashes from freezing up.

Coming down the stairs on a white blanket.

Another interesting thing, and this tells you it's March and not December, is that many of the river trees had their sap running. This birch had little golden 'sapcicles' where it was accumulating on the catkins and then turning to slush before it could fall off.
Sometimes the whole trunks were colored.
Somewhere I've got some close-ups of some of these, they look like chunks of wet brown sugar. Being from a birch I suspect they don't taste like it though.

What was that about the Inuits having twenty-one words for snow...? I'm not sure that is really enough...