Well, the kitchen refit is done, the drywall dust has cleared, and the final touches made. Hence, we found ourselves with an evening between house projects! I suggested a drive down to Presque Isle State Park to catch the sunset and to see what the beach looked like in winter all covered with snow. Sounds easy right? Lovely way to round off an evening and celebrate the end of the kitchen refit….kick back and relax a little.
Come now…You’ve certainly been following me long enough to know that’s never the case around here!
When moving to a new area, there are a lot of things you have to figure out. Here, you need to learn to drive in snow. You need to learn the shortcuts from one place to another. You need to learn which road signs to take seriously and which signs are just display. I thought I’d been doing just fine with these things. However, on this fateful trip to the park, it became very clear that this last one about the signs is more important than I ever knew and what you don’t know can kill you!
It was a nice day actually for these parts anyway….no active snow and, though temps still in single digits, not so cold that our faces would freeze off. We did all take heavy hats, gloves, etc. knowing the state park, being a peninsula, is always colder than other places. Son, husband, and I piled in the vehicle and took off.
Passed this sign on the way into the park…..
And of course the roads in the park were indeed iced and drifted. So much so that I didn’t actually want to venture the entire 13.2 miles trek around the park, but instead pulled off in the first little alcove on the eastern side of the peninsula. Here, we noticed people walking out onto the frozen lake and actually, on closer inspection, discovered that they were ICE FISHING! How neat is that?
My guys started to walk out on that frozen lake too,
but I held them back saying it was getting close to time for sunset and I wanted to go over to the beaches on the west side and get a few pix. So we hopped back in the truck and cut through from the east side to the west side to the closest beach (avoiding that whole 13-mile trek in the vehicle) and headed up to the beach on foot.
At the top of the slight grade of sand (now snow), we entered a surreal dimension! The wind was blowing and the silence was overwhelming! No waves could we hear as we usually did. Only the footprints on the snow let us know we weren’t the first to venture into this strangely silent and white land. This is a beach I’ve taken pix on many times.
But what were these things….these small strange mountains between us and the water? No idea.
Obviously, we had taken a wrong turn and landed on Mars!
However, after our initial silent awe, my guys had no hesitation. They headed straight for the mountains determined to explore them and see the water on the other side.
But in the whispers of my mind, I was remembering that sign we had passed at the entrance to the park. I tried to stop them telling them that perhaps these were the noted Ice Dunes of the sign that we weren’t supposed to be on. Husband said no, ice dunes had to be the sand dunes behind where we stood and now covered in snow which also had small signs beside them warning to stay off due to special plant life underneath.
These things in front of us, these great mountains of snow, were just impeding his view of the frozen lake beyond. I wasn’t so sure. But off he went…my son and his tiny dog a little further behind but, nonetheless, curious enough to follow instead of heeding my warning.
Having lost the battle against the testosterone, I decided I would walk further down the beach to one of my usual spots and take pix of the soon-to-happen sunset against the strange snow mountains. Even as silent as it was out there, with the wind blowing, once my guys had gone over to the other side of those snow mountains, I was strangely cut off from them. By the time I made it to my perch for pix, I was probably about a half mile away from them and I couldn’t see or hear them at all. But it was really going to be a spectacular sunset for sure.
Sadly, these were the closest to sunset pictures I got.
You’re probably asking yourselves why, if I was there so close to the moment of the sun dipping below the horizon, these were the only pix I got.
Well, once over them, it seems my overbold husband FELL THROUGH THE DUNES AND INTO THE FREEZING LAKE!
The pictures above look as if the water of the lake starts beyond the dunes. In fact, the dunes are already on the water and the other side of the dunes where my men were is actually such deep water that when my husband fell through he was not touching bottom. He tried a few times to pull himself up out of the water; but every time, the ice kept breaking under his hands! Quite quickly, he began to know that his body temp was dropping rapidly.
Mind you, while all this is going on, I’m serenely taking pictures on the other side of the dunes a half mile away and totally unaware of any issue at all.
Enter the 15-year-old superhero of this story. My son saw his father go in from where he was standing still on top of the dunes. Once he realized his father couldn’t get out, he sat down his little dog and headed down to help. However, on his way he too FELL THROUGH THE DUNES AND INTO THE WATER! Thankfully, he has so little weight that he was able to pull himself out of the water and, by walking with a wide-legged stance (“like a cowboy”) trying to distribute his weight so as not to upset the ice again, make it over to my husband. Standing behind him, he got his hands under his father’s shoulders/arms and hefted him out of the water and tossed him up onto the ice. (Thank you God that he’s taken up swimming and skiing this year and has muscles like never before!) And then, both totally soaked and out in the harsh wind and frigid air, they both hiked back up over the dunes and onto the beach.
My first realization of what had occurred was when I saw them coming back up over the dunes and husband yelled for me and made a motion with his hands indicating to head toward the car (now about ¾ mile away). I snapped a few pix of them coming over the dunes again and at that point noticed how shiny their pants were, but didn’t think much about it. You can imagine my anger, fear, concern, panic, shock, etc. when I reached them and found out what had occurred and how I almost came back from this celebratory trip a widow and minus a son!
We drove home fast and got them both into hot showers and began the long process of drying boots, coats, etc. Both of them warmed up fine and thankfully, there were no lasting results from this little contretemps.
Later that evening, we got online and looked up ice dunes. Much to our surprise, Presque Isle is actually given as an example on Wikipedia’s page about ice dunes! Apparently, an “ice dune is a formation of ice that accumulates on the shores of many arctic beaches and is also common along the shores of the Great Lakes during the winter.” And the kicker, “Because of the way ice dunes form, they are inherently weak and filled with cracks and air pockets. People who venture out onto the dunes sometimes will fall through. If the dune extends out over the water, persons who do this can fall through the dune and into the freezing water underneath; if this happens, hypothermia and death by drowning are urgent, immediate dangers.”
Right. Would’ve been nice to know this beforehand, huh?
As it is, having been rescued by his own son and having to watch while his son fell in and he could do nothing to help him seems to have curbed the edge on husband’s need to explore….for the moment anyway. I have no illusions, but at least I’m pretty sure the ICE DUNES OF DEATH are now on the DO-NOT-DO list for both of them.
So there you go — men being men, a bit of danger, some beauty, a little education, and a teenage superhero all in one post!