Monday, February 18, 2008

from Door County: winter storm

We saw it coming. And sure enough, we wake up to the sound of ice pellets hitting the glass door.

It’s going to be a long day.

I lose myself in work.

The Inn is empty except for us and the innkeeper. We go downstairs to confirm that we will be staying an extra day. I don’t think this was in doubt. The weather looks…severe. Our innkeeper tells us that we may get snowed in by mid-day (the Inn is a couple of miles away from the main road). He’s urging us to think about food early, before the snow piles up.

By early afternoon, we’re restless. We borrow a shovel (just in case) and venture out to town. To stock up. To eat. To walk around a little.

Not bad so far, I tell Ed. The road by the Inn feels very manageable.

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We get bold. I suggest crossing the Peninsula to Bailey's Harbor. These are short distances and if the roads aren’t too bad, we can eat there. We can even head north along the coast. How about that! A peek at the wilderness in a snowstorm!

We go slowly, but really, it seems very drivable. Some businesses are still open, the main roads at least are being plowed regularly, even as the storm dumps more snow and ice with each hour.

Along the coastal road (Q), it’s very very quiet. We see the lake and it looks so very different today.

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The road bends into the forest. We’re surrounded by evergreens, now not so green, because of the snow. Sometimes the windshield is hit by pellets, at other times by the quiet flakes. No one is out playing in the snow today. Okay, almost no one.

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I remember this stretch of road well, from summer days of many decades past. Days of wildflowers and creeping rose bushes. I pick up the woodsy Rustic Road toward Cana Island – it’s where you can find Door County’s remaining lighthouse. We get out and hike to the island’s edge. You used to have to slosh through water to get to Cana and the lighthouse. But now, I can see clumps of growth through the snow. But just barely. It’s all being covered by torrents of snow.

The lighthouse looks lonely, out there, facing the full force of the storm. We walk around it, trying to keep our faces away from the gusts of sharp pellets of ice.

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It’s hard to say where the island ends and the water takes over. Much of the shoreline is under a winter cover. And there isn’t an edge, really. Just a swirling mass of water and frozen bricks of ice.

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And now the wind is really picking up. The snow is persistant and dense. One last look at the frozen waters of Lake Michigan…

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…and we start to head back toward the car, leaving behind an island completely buried in ice and snow.

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The Rustic Road is looking very rustic now. The snow covers tracks quickly and so movement is slow.

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Still, by the time we reach the village of Bailey’s Harbor, I'm sensing that the snow has again changed it's tone. It's become more gentle. There’s time for a late lunch/early dinner at the Harbor Fish Market. It feels good to shut the world of snow out for a while.

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We order the “catch of the day” (which, btw, comes, not surprisingly, from Maine) and mop up every last drop of sauce on the theory that you never know where your next meal will come from… And still no appetite for dessert.

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We cross the peninsula and pass one village, then another. Some eating places are actually opening for dinner, but we've had enough. I turn in toward our Inn, gun the engine and push our way up the hill, following someone’s tracks, assuming that the vehicle knew the road better than we do.

And we get back without so much as a slide.

It's Monday now. The drive back to Madison is like child’s play. Even though the 220 or so miles moves us from bright fields of glistening cherry trees to landscapes of blowing and gusting snow. All beautiful. Really, I forgive my state for being so cold. For now.

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