My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

‘Tis not fit for man nor beast

This is to go along with what I wrote yesterday, about the storm, the little deer mouse on my balcony, and a few other things thrown in for good measure.

First off, a very cool thing happened yesterday as I was out hiking. A young man stopped and asked me if I needed a ride somewhere! It’s always nice when something happens that reminds me that there are still some good people left in this world. I was walking along the road between the apartment complex where I live and a chain of small lakes about a mile from here. Normally I have to watch for jerks who seem intent on coming as close to me as they can, or making sure they hit the puddles in the road just right to splash me. The young man who stopped got kind of a funny look on his face when I told him “No thanks, I’m out for a walk”, but he wished me a Happy New Year as he drove off, probably wondering about the strange old codger who was dumb enough to be out walking in the kind of weather we’re having.

Now then, about the storm. I was hoping to head over to the Lake Michigan shore and get some good photos of the waves breaking on things like lighthouses, like this one that I stole.

Waves

I know, I shouldn’t steal other people’s photos, and two wrongs don’t make a right, and all that. I got that photo from WOOD TV 8 here in town, and they LOVE to steal from folks. They encourage people to upload photographs to their website, and then the TV station uses those photos anyway they want, with zero compensation to the photographers who submitted them, even if the station uses the photos in ads. That’s just not right. So I don’t feel too bad about stealing one of theirs.

Anyway, the storm was late getting here yesterday morning, and it took its own sweet time in getting wound up, nothing like what was predicted. But then, I kind of expected that, having lived here my entire life. This is a lake effect storm, if you don’t live near a large body of water, you may not know what that means.

When cold winter air passes over the warmer waters of the Great Lakes, the air picks up moisture and is warmed by the lake waters. Under the right conditions, you can see it happening right before your eyes. When the winds are fairly light, you can look out over the lake towards the horizon and see what appears to be a fog bank rising up from the lake to meet the clouds, but if you look past the fog bank, you see nothing but blue skies. The fog bank rising from the water creates the clouds, which then carry the moisture over land. Cut off from the warmth of the lake, the clouds cool again, dropping the moisture as rain or snow, most of the time snow.

This storm is being driven by very high winds, in excess of 50 MPH, gusts over 70 MPH at the lake shore, about the time I was out for my hike. When the winds are that strong, we never get as much snow as is forecast, for two reasons. One is that when the wind is that strong, the air doesn’t have as much time over the warmer waters of the lake to gather as much moisture as when the winds are lighter. The second reason is that the strong winds don’t allow snow-bands to set up and sit over one area long enough to drop huge amounts of snow. The turbulence from the high winds disrupts the snow bands as they try to form. Why the local weather people haven’t figured this out is beyond me.

It’s funny, when I got back from my walk in the afternoon, the snow had just started to accumulate. I checked the weather forecasts, and they were all backing off from the earlier ones that predicted up to a foot of snow where I live. Then, as the winds died off a little, and the snow-bands started to set up, we started getting dumped on. That’s not to say this isn’t a potent storm, it is, that’s why the nice young man offered this old codger a lift. It’s nasty out there, not fit for man nor beast. The problem is, the beasts can’t escape it the way we humans do.

That’s one reason I venture out in any kind of weather, to remind myself of just how good I have it as a human being. While I’m eating a nice hot meal after a walk outdoors, some poor little muskrat is hauling itself up on an ice shelf to eat its half-frozen meal as ice crystals form in its fur.

Muskrat supper

As I’m taking a nice warm shower, swans are out there battling the waves and the ice in search of a meal.

Swans in the waves

And while I’m relaxing in my recliner, the swans are relaxing the only way they can in the winter.

Swans on ice

We think we have it bad if we have to walk a few feet on a sidewalk that hasn’t been shoveled, yet no one shovels paths for the turkeys as they plow through the snow looking for food.

Turkeys in the snow

And as we crawl into our nice warm beds at night, there are geese out there seeking shelter from the wind-driven snow…

Geese finding shelter from wind-driven snow

…and do their best to stay warm.

Geese trying to stay warm

Or deer lying down in the snow…

Whitetail doe bedded down in the snow

…because that’s the only place there is for them to bed down.

I’m sorry about the quality of the two of the geese, they were taken yesterday in the storm. The wind was strong enough that I was having trouble holding still, and the snow blowing across the scene didn’t help either.

We humans have become so soft, fat, and lazy that we’ve forgotten what the struggle for survival is really like.  We are a bunch of whiners and complainers, and yes, I’m guilty of that myself, but I try to limit my complaining to things that mean something, not the trivial things I hear most people whining about.

When you see it happen live and in person as animals struggle with survival in bad weather, it puts our silly little complaints in perspective.

I try to always remember what wildlife has to struggle through in order to survive. It helps to keep me grounded.

I’ve checked the web cams this morning, the waves on Lake Michigan are running high, but not high enough for any really dramatic photos, besides, with the heavy cloud cover and snow still falling, any photos would be poor at best. Modern technology, you’ve got to love it! I can sit here in the comfort of my home office and check out what the conditions are at the lakeshore! Here’s a link to one of the web cams if you’re interested in seeing what Lake Michigan looks like in a blizzard. If it looks all grey, wait until it refreshes a few times, it could be a whiteout rolling through at the time.

We’ve gotten a few inches of snow, it’s hard to say exactly how much because of the way it’s getting blown around. It’s enough that the sidewalks and parking lots are solid ice! Since it was around 40 degrees yesterday, and it is now around 20 degrees, the first snow melted, then turned to ice as the temperature dropped. I can see people are having a difficult time walking to and from their vehicles, and the woman in the next building over from me smacked the pole for the car port even though she was just creeping along in her car. Nearly every one is having trouble getting around, but that doesn’t stop some yahoos from laying on their horn if they think some one else is holding them up for all of 5 seconds. God, I hate people! Why did you make me one of them?

For every nice human like the guy that offered me the ride, there are three or four of the jerks that think that they are the most important people in the world, and that all the rest of us should get out of their way. I’d better change the subject, or I’ll put myself in a bad mood, and I am really in a good mood this morning.

I can see the squirrels and birds are out there finding things to eat, and I’m ready to go out there and join them for a while. It’s getting lighter here as the clouds are thinner than before, so I may even get some good photos. I’m still deciding where to go, I’m sure the lakeshore is out, I don’t feel like dealing with the other drivers, I get enough of that at work. I should really run out and see if the beast will even start. It’s been getting a bit cranky of late, I have to play with it to get it to fire. I’m hoping it makes it through the winter, or at least another few weeks until I get another bonus check from work for all the days off I didn’t take.

I have been tossing around the idea of walking the Paul Henry walking trail near where I live, but it is right along the expressway, and I don’t know if I am ready for that yet. I see a lot of raptors perched in trees along there, along with waterfowl in the storm water run off ponds, but I think I’ll wait until spring before I tackle that one, when there is more wildlife to be seen. Expressways make such good habitat for hawks, except for the fact that a few of them get killed when they fly into vehicles. The expressways are like strips of prairie, with enough trees and power poles for the hawks to perch on while they look for food that I see many hawks along the expressways now. I wish I could figure out a way to prevent the hawks from being killed though. I have almost hit a couple with the truck, they have a one track mind when it comes to food. They are so intent on their prey that they pay no attention to anything else, not even a semi coming at them.

Yeah, I’ll wait til spring for that hike. I am really trying to stick closer to home because I think it is the right thing to do as far as limiting how much gas I burn, but I’m not ready to hike an expressway yet, county parks and such are still hard for me to come to grips with. I would so much rather be up north in the wild country, but I can’t justify burning a tank of gas to get there and back for a one day hike.

Changing the subject again, I read a news article about how L L Bean boots are selling better than ever, and that they are still made right here in the United States! I need to order a pair for winter hiking. My New Balance hikers are great boots, light, warm, and waterproof, but they are only 6 inches high, which allows deep snow to cool my ankles down for me. I have a L L Bean Rugged Ridge parka, and it is the warmest outer wear that I have ever owned! It is windproof, which is what you need in the winter on days like yesterday and today when the wind is what chills most people. I can put the Bean parka on, and be as snug as a bug in a rug no matter how bad the weather gets around here. Actually, I subscribe to the idea that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear, and the Bean parka proves that!

If that sounds like a shameless plug, that’s because it is. I am tired of buying shoddy merchandise that doesn’t perform or last, so when I find stuff that actually does what it is supposed to do, I’ll mention it here when I can.

Besides, maybe I can convince a few others that what we call bad weather isn’t really bad at all, if they are dressed for it. There are no such things as good and bad in nature, those are human terms. In nature, there is only what there is, it is neither good nor bad. What we call bad weather is actually one of the forces of nature that make life on this planet possible. Storms are nature’s way of recycling and purifying water. Water evaporates from rivers, lakes and oceans, leaving the impurities behind, then falls as fresh water and snow fit for drinking again. Yeah, we’ve messed that cycle up some with the pollutants we have dumped into the water and the air, but the process still works well enough that you’re safe drinking rain water, a lot safer than drinking from the cesspools we’ve made of the bodies of water on land.

So the next time you find yourself caught in a rainstorm, don’t think of it as something that you need to get away from, put on a rain jacket and rejoice in the fact that you are witnessing nature’s way of providing safe water for us to drink!

The other thing about storms is that they are the way the Earth redistributes heat energy. Without storms, the planet would be a much different place, with a lot less habitable land available to us, or the animals of the world. I don’t see storms as bad in any way, shape or form. Without them, we probably wouldn’t survive, the planet wouldn’t be fit for man nor beast, so I celebrate them!

Anyway, that’s it for this one, long and as disjointed as it is. Thanks for stopping by!

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5 responses

  1. Northern Narratives

    When we have a winter storm, I always think of the little chickadees and hope they are staying warm 🙂 Great post.

    January 2, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    • I do too, but they seem to weather storms better than most other animals, they’re tough little birds!

      January 2, 2012 at 9:56 pm

  2. I never thought about weather being neither good nor bad before. Interesting perspective, nice post.

    Mel
    massachusetts-is-wicked-awesome.com

    January 3, 2012 at 10:04 am

    • Thank you! I have weird outlooks on lots of things. 😉

      January 3, 2012 at 2:14 pm

  3. A fine essay on keeping things in perspective during this winter season. I’ll keep your parka recommendation in mind!

    January 6, 2012 at 10:34 pm