Polar Vortex, Warm Fall, Flying Squirrels, Horse Manure

Dear Duluth,

Thanks for the polar vortex. First we get a fall so warm it feels like the impending doom it probably is, then we get a nasty cold front with a silly name. Vortex should be the name of my next vacuum cleaner, not our weather.

Three years ago when we moved here we bought an overly large, old house on the hillside, one of those houses people just shouldn’t buy unless they have already won the lottery or own a carpentry business. It was built in 1914 and still had the original insulation, which might be a blend of matted horse dung and asbestos. According to an energy specialist who inspected our place, ours wasn’t the most drafty house he had ever seen, but close. In addition to multiple air-leak points there is no insulation in the walls, which made it easy for the flying squirrels to run up and down and into the attic, we soon found out.

We finally found a recommended contractor who insulated our attic, the most important step. Put a good cap on it, they say. So now our house is like a naked person in a storm with a really good cap. But the squirrels are gone thanks to all the toxic fluff up there now, and we sleep much better.

Yesterday I walked the streets and shore even with the windchill approaching absolute zero, all in order to take a few photographs of who knows what. Winter, in truth, is just getting started. The lake is still liquid and the snow barely there.

Shortcuts, Missed Trails, Soft Light, Woody Scenes

Dear Diary,

I found a shortcut today, one of those little paths you notice but never take for some reason. We’ve lived here for three years and have, like most people in the neighborhood, taken advantage of easy access to a private golf course up a road a little. It’s surrounded by woods and dirt roads, and it’s a good place for the dogs to run. During the summer we stick to the woods, but in the winter after it snows it’s okay to walk on the greens. At least no one has said otherwise so far.

So this little path cuts between some houses and gets me to the golf course much sooner than my normal route, which means I can let the dog run sooner, better all around. I won’t turn this into a fortune cookie, but I should have looked down that damn path when I first saw it.

The light was soft, the air still, good for the woody scenes I like to photograph.

Here’s a shot just before finding the shortcut, which is to the right after the big tree.

As I approached the tree one crow flew off but the other braved it out…

Winter color is usually more subtle than summer color, but I like it.

A backlit leaf.

Red pines on the course.

One of my signature busy scenes.

Same scene, now with a hint of sun.

I like to find repeating lines, as with the swoop of the branches and the hill.

Goats on The Rocks

We’ve had some sunny, cold weather lately and the lake below Mendenhall Glacier is frozen enough to walk on (as long as you stay away from thin spots–two people fell in on Christmas). On the 26th I walked across the lake to a spot below a large rock peninsula. Surprisingly there have been mountain goats coming down low on the rock cliffs to feed, perhaps because of the low snowfall. I was able to get pretty close to these three…

Two From The Neighborhood

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We are in one of those extended, cold, dry crunchy periods, with at least a few hours of good photography light in the middle of the day…

Early eighties or late seventies architecture in the Mendenhall valley.

The valley features zero-lot housing (the conjoined twins of realty) and some spectacular views of the Mendenhall Towers…