21 December 2008

It's a Jolly Day!

Today, it's -2 degrees Fahrenheit right now at 3:1o in the afternoon. And there is a stiff wind. Brrrr. With that in mind, here is another pre-Christmas illustration culled from the Internet. Today, it's a bucolic winter scene that I really like, especially all of the Cardinals sitting in the Birch trees that the family sleigh is going past. We have a small birdfeeder hanging from an apple tree in our back yard, and the Cardinals are stunning against all of the snow and ice when the sunlight hits them. Even the less spectacularly colored females are beautiful. Of all the songbirds in North America, I think the Cardinal is my favorite. It is the state bird of North Carolina, Illinois, and possibly others.

A slightly out-of-focus Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II and the Grand Duchess Sonja pose for a photograph at Lapham Peak Nordic Ski Area yesterday.

Yesterday was an excellent skiing day! Out of the car, clipped into the ski bindings, and on the trails by 10:35 that morning. A foot of snow, temperatures in the mid-20s Fahrenheit, all trails open, deep tracks, occasional light snow, and not too many other skiers. Oh, and not too many falls either! I call falls "making snow angels with poles". Anyway, we got in almost three hours before lunch and then another two hours afterwards.

The best part of the day was during our final long descent at dusk, when they turn on the lights. For several hundred yards, you descend through a large grove of tall Fir and Hemlock trees as you approach the bottom of the run. It's like what I imagine skiing in parts of Austria or Southern Germany must be like. Amazing!

After changing into dry clothes, we headed to a nearby Greek/Latino quick-and-greasy diner that we like for a dinner of chicken kabobs and gyros sandwiches before the ride home, which was exciting to say the least. Once we crossed the state line just north of Rockford, Illinois, we drove into the front edge of a weather system that was the front edge of a blizzard out in Iowa. Not much additional snow, but frequent whiteout conditions thanks to high winds for about 100 miles along Interstate 39 south toward Bloomington.

At times, traffic was moving at about 20 mph, and all of us had our hazzard blinkers on, and we came to a full stop for several minutes at one point. For all that, we were only about an hour late arriving home and got here about 11:45pm, just in time for some more coffee, a few tangy Clementines, and another episode of Boston Legal (thanks to the arrival of a NetFlicks DVD in the mail yesterday) before drifting off to sleep at about 1am. It was a gloriously mispent Saturday!

Today, we are tired and stiff, but we are already planning our next skiing foray, which we will take right after the first of the year. Most likely we will head up to Houghton/Hancock Michigan, weather permitting, on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan -- actually the smaller Keewinaw Peninsula, which sticks out into Lake Superior like a little finger. When we camped up there during the summer of 2007, we discovered lots of Nordic skiing areas, including an impressive series of trails just off the campus of Michigan Tech, where the university's cross-country ski team trains each winter. Since the area is not too far from the lake, they get lots of snow up there during the winters. Needless to say, we are looking forward to the trip.


Bluebear Jeff said...

Glad that you two had a wonderful day.

We've currently got about two feet of snow on the ground . . . and it is still coming down . . . which is VERY UNLIKE the usual Vancouver Island winter.

And, if you've seen my blog, I don't really hate you (despite the title):


-- Jeff

Fitz-Badger said...

Sounds like a great day out (and I wouldn't call it misspent!). :-)
One thing about living in southern Calif. - we keep our snow up on the mountains where it belongs, for the most part. I saw a car with a thick pile of snow on the roff the other day.

Capt Bill said...

It always amazes me that people actually live in frigid places. The Duchess and I has Sunday brunch at the club and had to endure a beautiful sunny day in the mid seventies. I expect tomorrow will be just another terrible day in paradise. Best wishes and happy holidays...Bill

littlejohn said...

Just a cold snowless chill here in the K├Ânigreich hills...but we Bleilanders envy you from afar!


Martin said...

Good Lord Stokes,

Sounds like quite an adventure! How in the world do you keep your lenses from fogging over?! No snow yet here in Indiana, but there is a wind that is colder than a Step-Mother's charity getting with the program.



littlejohn said...

and Cardinals are truly magnificent...

Bluebear Jeff said...

*sigh* . . . those of us who have spent our whole lives west of the Rockies have never even SEEN a cardinal.

-- Jeff

tradgardmastare said...

Good to hear that you had a super time!
best wishes
p.s Do you any time to paint at present?

guy said...

V interesting post.

Q -'How do you keep your lenses from fogging over? '

I have the same problem as I normally wear my sun glasses with my lenses but if the snow is really dumping, I have a pair of goggles which fit over a sturdy cheap pair of glasses I bought especially. Alternatively I follow my girls when they go on strike and we repair to a mountain cafe until the worst has either blown over or the coffee and snappes has given me dutch courage.



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