Unforgettable Thanksgiving Halo and Sunset

I have a lot to be thankful for, and I could make a long list of these things. People would be top on that list. I could name so many people who have made my life what it is. I’m thankful to everyone on that list.

But this year’s Thanksgiving was not only about being thankful for what we have. It was also a day that brought me and my kids a specific experience that I’m very thankful for.

Thursday was a beautiful sunny day in Duluth, as this picture taken on our afternoon hike can attest to.


We climbed straight up the hill from our front door, met some friends, and enjoyed a sunny hike on Thanksgiving afternoon.

We got back from the hike about 2:00, and the turkey was still roasting in the oven, and the weather was beautiful, so I decided to take the girls ice-fishing on Rice Lake. I knew it would mean having a very active afternoon, but I really wanted to get the girls out on the ice. I had already been out on Rice Lake the day before, and I knew it was iced over real well.

As we drove to the lake, clouds suddenly rolled in. I didn’t mind, because I was mainly interested in the fishing, which can be even better in overcast weather. But as daylight was winding down on the ice, suddenly the sun came roaring back from under the clouds on the horizon. And the next fifteen minutes was something I’ll never forget. It’s best described in photos.


As we came on to the lake at 3:30, the sun was just barely visible on the horizon.

We got out to our spot, and started fishing (we caught no fish in the hour we were on the ice). The sun was starting to poke out more from under the clouds.


Jigging on the ice.

The girls fished a while, and that went on to their usual play. They were having fun, and meanwhile the sunset was starting to get interesting.


The light suddenly broke through really strong under the the clouds as the sun sank even lower. The sudden change in light was striking. This photo does it some justice.


Fresh light.

Then the sun started to go wild. The whole sky was turning orange.


It’s coming.

The sky took on an incredible glow. It was alive. I don’t what other words to use. It was just otherworldly.


Sunset coming on hard.

The clouds just got brighter and brighter as the sun disappeared beyond the horizon. I know that’s what happens when the sun sets, but this time it was extraordinary.


Then, as I was admiring Adriana playing in the incredible color, I turned around to check on Vanessa. Low and behold there was a rainbow taking shape right behind her!


What is going on here?!

There were four distinctive colors to be seen, particularly the pinkish red color. It got brighter and intensified in the following minutes. It was 180 degrees across the sky from the sunset.


Where did that come from?!

Meanwhile, to the south-west, the sun was just blazing. It was a very powerful experience, as we could now observe a sunset and a rainbow going on at the same time, over a frozen lake. I just kept turning back and forth, taking new photos every 10 seconds.


Ice on fire.

The girls kept playing throughout, and they definitely added to the power of the experience with their play. But eventually even they needed to stop and just look in awe.


Incredible moment.

The girls got back to their play, and suddenly we spotted the other tip of the rainbow. It was further west, maybe 120 degrees from the sunset. It was fading now as the sun sank completely behind the horizon.


Second tip of the rainbow.

The word “rainbow” might be totally incorrect to describe what we saw. I don’t know. According to a Russian friend of mine, the optical phenomenon we saw was a halo, a rainbow circle around the sun, common in high latitude regions in winter. I am inclined to believe him, since I have no other way to explain how we could see two tips of a rainbow on a perfectly dry day in November at sunset. I don’t recall ever seeing anything like it before. It was remarkable. What we witnessed was a miracle that multiplied the power of Thanksgiving for me.





Ice-Fishing Season Opener

Continuing my recent streak of posts about launching the winter seasons for my various outdoor pursuits, I can now add ice-fishing to the list.

I dropped the girls off at school at 7:50 this morning, and reached Rice Lake by 8:10. I packed my gear the night before so that I could go directly from their school to the lake. Having the day off from work was obviously the key that gave me this sweet opportunity to get out on the water. When I got to the boat launch, the sun was out, and the ice looked inviting. I had no trouble walking about a quarter-mile out onto the lake. Upon drilling the first hole, I found 7 inches of ice. A solid amount.


Out on the ice even before Thanksgiving? Yes please!

Just being out on the ice would have been enough to satisfy me, but I should add that I also caught a nice perch!


First fish of the season through the ice.

Together with the walleye my friend caught, it was a fine morning.


Two fine eating fish.

I hope to get out there again tomorrow, and then finish the week with my last winter opener – first downhill ski of the year.



Winter Camping Season Opener

I learned the hard way in past years that winter can be slow to get started here in Duluth. This year has been different. Or maybe I’m being different. I’ve gotten the winter season off to a great start this year. After opening skiing season with the girls on November 12th, we had fabulous luck to come upon more snow this weekend in Grand Marais – just right for some winter camping with Vanessa.


We found snow! 

I had planned a trip for the whole family to see the “Winterer’s Gathering” up north, yet it was grey and brown with no snow on the ground in Duluth on Saturday morning as I packed up for the weekend. Right when I was about to finish loading up the car, I got a message from my friend Jim up north, letting me know that they had gotten 4 inches of sparkly, dry snow up at his cabin the previous evening. Talk about hitting the jackpot! I quickly added our skis and boots and poles to the rest of our gear, and 2 hours later we were in our glory.



The route in (by sled) from Pike Lake Road. We weren’t going to risk getting the car stuck in the snow with such a great weekend ahead of us.

The first day in Grand Marais we attended some events at the Winterer’s Gathering at North House Folk School, then made sure to set up the tent while it was still light out. Of course, winter “camping” outside your friend’s cabin is a lot easier than winter camping in the Boundary Waters. But this was the perfect opportunity to get Vanessa in the game. And she was more than happy to sleep outside in her favorite warm sleeping bag.


We arrived.

Setting up a tent in the snow is my idea of a fun time, and doing it with your kids is even better. Then we got a fire going in the cabin. The tent was to be only our sleep home, otherwise we cooked and ate and hung out with Jim and his son Andrew in the cabin. Inna and Adriana also slept in the cabin.


My teammates for getting the tent set up. 

The tent is designed to repel snow and resist heavy winds. We got neither during the night. Still, sleeping outside when it’s +18 Fahrenheit takes some courage. You feel the soft snow under you, you feel the cold air coming in your lungs as you’re falling sleep, and you realize it could be a long night if you’re not warm enough. Vanessa and I wore some extra clothes to bed, we both have warm sleeping bags, and we threw a hot water bottle in Vanessa’s bag to warm it up when we went to sleep.



The weekend was not only about sleeping outside in the cold though. It was about meeting new people and discovering new things at the gathering. We certainly met cool people, and we had a great time with our friends. On Saturday night we all got to see the main speaker – Jon Turk. There was a lot of camaraderie at the Folk School, and we had a fabulous dinner there as well.


At the Folk School.

On Sunday morning the sun was out, and Vanessa and I woke up with a good night’s sleep behind us. We had a massive breakfast of oatmeal and coffee and toast in Jim’s cabin to celebrate. The country life had soaked into us a little at this point.


Running back inside from the outhouse.

Then we had perhaps the crown jewel of the weekend – another ski tour. Our second in as many Sundays. The girls had a great time once again, and I felt lucky that we had come north, and taken on another adventure, and succeeded. The skiing was perfect – not too cold out, sunshine all around, and perfect snow conditions. We had it all.


Another Sunday on skis.

We’ve been fortunate two weekends in a row now. It’s been an unexpectedly great start to the ski season and winter camping season. And now I have five days off from work. Finally, a chance to rest a little, and of course try some new adventures.










Ski Season Grand Opening 2017-2018

There are many moments that qualify for everyone as “landmarks” in the 4-season cycle of existence we have here in the northern United States. One that everyone recognizes is “first snow.” Taking this concept to the logical next step for our family is “first day on skis.” This year we had our first snow on Friday, November 3, and got some more on the 8th, and again on the 10th. By this weekend, it was time to get out there and enjoy it!


Getting out there on snow for the first time – a deeply subconscious need for some. Play and happiness for others.

There was two inches of snow remaining on the ground when we got up this Sunday – perfect for skiing and sledding on the golf course. Not that I am a fan of golf courses, but hey, if it’s there, turn it into an opportunity and go take advantage of it. We live less than a mile from the Enger Golf Course, and with great views of Enger Tower and Spirit Mountain to the south from the course, this artificial natural environment offers two benefits: open views and no obstructions for skiing and sledding.


The view from the highest point on the course with Spirit Mountain in the background.

Of course, it will never be as magical as skiing through an enchanted forest in full snow cover, but there was no question that we all had a glorious time getting the gears rolling, testing our sled and our skis, getting back into a winter frame of mind. The wide open landscape was perfect for getting old rhythms back, and just opening our minds.


If felt like we had the whole city below us.

Skiing for five and seven year-olds is all about having fun, and I can say we accomplished this too.


We haven’t had this sensation since last April.

The little skiers made it all the way down the course and back, coming uphill the whole way back. They haven’t missed a beat since last winter.


Getting those ski rhythms back.

Now that our first ski of the season is in the books, we can start dreaming about bigger snowfalls, groomed tracks, and wild encounters with nature far outside of Duluth. For now, optimism is running high.