Winter is a quieter time at the lighthouse, and along the North Shore in general. It seems like this first week of each new year winter wants to get serious about letting us know how far the sun is away from our hemisphere and the temperatures drop like a rock thrown into the lake. This week the highs might get into single digits above and the lows at night are in the minus teen and twenties.
For those hardy folks that make the winter trek to the North Shore over the holidays (and there are an amazing number of people around this week) they can be rewarded with some spectacular conditions and photographs. This is the month when the full moon rises behind the lighthouse at sunset behind the lighthouse. Twenty years ago there were only a few people that knew about this or were interested in taking photographs of the moonrise. For this last moonrise on December 31 at least a dozen photographers who were willing to abide the single digit temperatures they were rewarded with a beautiful moonrise with just the right amount of cloud cover to make the photos more interesting.
This is also the time of year for lake effect snow. With the prevailing north or northwest winds in the winter the North Shore gets far less lake effect snow than the south shore of Lake Superior. From Split Rock you can watch the frigid winds pulling the moisture from the warmer lake in the form of sea-smoke (the old time local commercial fisherman called it “frost-smoke”). The tendrils of steam rise and move across the lake and as it comes in contact with the higher elevations along the far shore it drops this moisture as very fluffy snow…often feet at at time! The big lake will be ice free for another month before the water temperature drops enough for it to make ice on calm nights in early February.
The pastel colors of winter sunrises and sunsets, the bright sunlight and steam off the lake, and the quieter traffic does make this time of year a peaceful counterpoint to the hectic summers at the historic site. But then again, there is planning for the Split Rock centennial to see to.