BY ED HUNGNESS
---- — Last fall I looked forward to the challenge of a northwest Michigan winter, complete with sub-zero temperatures, blizzards and mountains of snow. In September, I started researching long range weather predictions, and the weather experts were calling for another “warmer than normal” winter. The forecasts were not quite what I was hoping to see.
Winter, indeed, got off to a slow start with a minimal snowfall the last week of November and not much more during early December.
Fortunately we enjoyed a white Christmas, and by New Year’s, winter had gotten underway. Fife Lake froze from shore to shore and ice fishing shanties began to appear. Snowmobiles zipped across the ice and cross-country skiers schussed by at slower speeds.
In late January, a few bold fishermen ventured onto the ice and drove their pickup trucks to favorite angling locations.
The “snow that stays” had arrived, and the piles along our driveway kept growing while the woodpile kept shrinking.
The thermometer recorded -15 below on February 9, which was our record low for the season.
The shoveling, snow blowing and slippery sidewalks were beginning to get tiresome.
Vehicles were covered with salt, and chunks of dirty ice hung from wheel wells.
Potholes dotted the roads like landmines, with the roadsides bordered in waist-high gray frozen mounds. In the first week of March, I began to think spring!
The magical wonder of the little white flakes had waned and rumors of an epidemic of cabin fever circulated among hardy year-round residents.
By the third week of April, the ice began to break up along the shore, and on April 24, a pair of loons returned.
The ice totally left our lake a few days later, breaking winter’s firm grip, and we celebrated its departure.
Flights of mergansers, Buffleheads and Canada geese migrating north stopped in for their annual visit.
Three pairs of swans arrived, searching out nesting opportunities, and birds we hadn’t seen since last fall began to reappear at our feeders.
A few daffodils cautiously began to poke their heads through the remaining snow.
There was an unusual amount of activity on the Bald Eagle nest, which is perched high in the boughs of a nearby giant White Pine.
The female stayed close to the nest and her mate began to deliver food which could be seen dangling from its talons.
On May 4, the female eagle sat on the edge of the huge nest with two baby eaglets begging to be fed.
Last year we enjoyed watching our resident eagles raise two chicks to maturity, including their first flight. Hopefully they succeed again this year.
In four weeks, summer officially begins.
In the meantime, there are outdoor chores to take care of.
Many neighbors have already dealt with winter’s accumulation of downed branches, twigs, acorns, leafs and the never-ending supply of pinecones.
Gardens need to be planted, taking full advantage of the short northern growing season.
Boats are being retrieved from winter storage, engines tested and then launched, beginning a new boating season.
Soon, we will enjoy cookouts, picnics and visitors seeking a touch of northern living. The days will be sunny, warm and long.
The night sky will be filled with stars and perhaps an occasional view of the Northern Lights. Mosquitoes are already here, and the frogs are croaking.
Hopefully the fish will be hungry and leap into our boat.
We begin a new season of fun in the outdoors, creating lasting memories for our guests.
Brief as it is, we savor the wonder and goodness of summer in Northern Michigan.
Ed Hungness and his wife became full-time residents of Fife Lake in 2005 after Ed’s retirement. He can be reached at email@example.com or by mail at P.O. Box 57, Fife Lake, MI 49633.