We’re slowly lurching our way from winter to spring, yet the transition is never smooth or straight. Our expectations (and our dispositions) soar when the sun comes out and starts to thaw the ice. The temperature rises to an unseasonable 60 degrees and everyone is smiling. The next day the thermometer drops back to winter, all that was liquid refreezes, and we know deep down that the “final” transition has not arrived. There’s snow in the forecast again tomorrow. This open water will likely freeze but hopefully the ice layer will be thin and ready to thaw once again when the sun returns and the melt begins anew.
We are experiencing our transition season as winter slowly gives way to spring. In northern Minnesota and Wisconsin it means give and take – warmer temps one day and snow the next. But our waters are starting to thaw, allowing open water for the birds that are beginning to migrate into the area. The oak trees are holding onto their rust-colored leaves, and the air has been heavy with moisture creating some foggy conditions. It almost seems like fall but this time we know there will be green in the landscape and ice-free lakes and ponds soon.
We are seeing the start of our spring thaw. Warmer temps and bright sunshine have had a significant impact on our snow pack. Slowly we are seeing brown lawns reappear and some garden beds have small green shoots near the ground. The lakes have a much longer way to go before they are clear of ice. Gradually the ice near the shoreline goes out, but still the lake has a good 12 inches of ice. The snow on the surface has become mushy and uneven, and eventually will melt completely. The silence of winter is also giving way to the sounds of spring. When I walked out onto the lake I could actually hear the snow melting, and high overhead the Canada geese, the ducks, the swans, and the sandhill cranes were all calling and honking.
With our spring thaw in full force, I wandered along the banks of the Mississippi River yesterday. Where normally the river is ice-covered, there was only a thin layer of ice that lined the shoreline. The wind was brisk causing the clouds to hurry quickly across the sky. Fishermen were active on the river, launching boats and heading out to their favorite areas with nary a thought of ice. The scene was more like one from early April, but we’ll embrace and welcome spring at any time it makes its appearance.
A couple of days with temperatures in the 30s and 40s makes Minnesotans think of spring. I was at Como Lake last night and the evidence was everywhere – people walking, running, biking the perimeter path; cars driving by and splashing all the snow melt water that was standing in the road; and an outdoor event at the Pavilion across the lake – complete with music and cheering. The temperature was 42, but it was easy to imagine a warm(er) spring day. There is open water on the lake, and what ice remains is becoming thinner and slushier. Ducks and geese were flying overhead, coming into the lake, swimming, and then taking flight again. The sunset lit up the clouds in the western sky, and the thin ice allowed the sky’s reflection and beauty to be repeated below. Eventually spring will come, and stay, but it’s a bit too early just yet.