Thursday, January 9, 2014

Polar Vortex Art on Lake Michigan

After having everyone home for the past couple of days, I could hardly wait to get out for a walk.  It didn't matter that the temperature was still in single digits.  I was ready to have some of that fresh frigid air.  If you wear enough layers and add some traction devices on your snow boots (think yaktrax), you can go about anywhere this time of year.  

I headed to the lake to see some of the beautiful artwork Mother Nature left behind after that bone chilling polar vortex.  It's not unusual to see frozen waves this time of year, but due to the intense cold that came so very quickly, they look a bit different than usual, I suppose.  The ice that had already formed on the beach cracked like shattered glass and the ice is out much further than I have seen in years prior.  The waves aren't so large- not what I'd call icecanos yet.  I went to several beaches and each one was a little different.  Take a look at the photos and then see if you can get out there this week and have a look.

The first park is Big Bay, 5000 N. Lake Dr., in Whitefish Bay.  I took the path through the woods but it was very icy due to the spring that used to feed the waterfall through this park.  Ice formed on the concrete barrier that goes out into the water and it's still easy to walk out to the end to have a better look at the lake.

Big Bay Park about 9:00 AM with nice steam off the lake.  Temp was 1F.

Along the coast line at Big Bay

The spring that feeds the old falls through the woods at Big Bay is still running.  See the icicles.  VERY SLIPPERY.

These poor birds had icicles on their beaks.  
Water froze on these small plants and made an ice cactus
The next place was a short trip to the Concordia University bluff in Mequon.  Of course the bluff is closed in winter because the steps and path aren't cleared of snow, but it was a pretty view at the bottom.  Notice how the frozen boulders make a pool of icy puzzle pieces.
Frozen pool of icy lily pad looking things.  Very pretty icicles on the boulders too.
Next stop Doctors Park, 1870 E. Fox Lane, in Fox Point.  I walked down using the paved trail large enough for cars that runs from the parking lot, and returned via the wooded path.  Both were easy to walk on, but I had the yaktrax on and they really make a difference.  At this point, my nose was hurting from the cold so I had to pull on a scarf.  This is a great workout with all the hills though.  From Doctors Park, you can walk the beach to the small icecanos that usually form at the Schlitz Audubon Center.  There was still some open water, so be careful to avoid anything that has a crack in it.
Looks a bit like frosting.  If you sit here quietly, you can hear the waves under the ice splashing.

The blue color of the water here was very pretty in contrast to the ice formations
 Bradford Beach, 2400 N. Lincoln Memorial Dr.,  affords the easiest access for anyone who wants a quick peek.  Park at the Custard Stand and walk the beach as long as you like.  The ice is quite solid and out pretty far.  Some people were there with their smart phones taking photos, but I'll warn you that the batteries die almost instantly in cooler temperatures.  You might want a real camera as your back up plan.
Bradford Beach is a sheet of ice from the beach out to the ice formations
I made one more stop at Shorewood Nature Preserve.  This is a bit tricky to find. If you blink, you might pass it up.  It's on Lake Drive between Newton & Menlo.  Park on the street, but mind the hours when it isn't allowed to park there.  Then you can slip slide down the hill through the woods.  This will really get your heart beating on the way back up again!  The beach extends out further than most areas and is mostly snow, but if you walk all the way out, you're in for a real sight.  The ice is so clear you can see everything underneath.  Of course, don't walk on that part because you can see the water lapping at the ice formations just inches from there.  This is typically a great place to see birds, and there were plenty but they are pretty far out, so if you're into bird identification, you'll need binoculars or a long camera lens.
Shorewood Nature Preserve beach is snowy, but out further there is clear ice

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