Mary Beth Writes

By the way, HAPPY HALLOWEEN today! 

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10/31/2022   Fata Morgana

A beautiful little hike on planet earth is the Houghton Falls trail just north of Washburn on Bayfield Peninsula. It’s a relatively easy path through woods, much on walkways, but it surprises as you suddenly come along a gorge that falls away on your right. The gorge is called Echo Dells and you can take stairs down into it. The trail itself continues to a rocky cliff overlooking Lake Superior. Although this isn’t a complicated or strenuous trail, I do advise crampons on your shoes or boots because there are mild inclines that tend to be icy. I did parts of this hike on my butt one year; we bought the crampons in Washburn after that hike and they are a good idea for people who don’t want to do free osteoporosis tests (falling).

We were the first people to this trailhead on our Ashland trip two weeks ago. The trees were in their whoop-whoop glory of reds and golds and burgundies and it had been snowing a bit all night and still was. It was so beautiful that cold morning!

So, lovely little hike in a nice place, quiet morning, pretty leaves. Nothing here to utterly knock your socks off, right? Well, we eventually got to the Lake Superior overlook which is here.

Len was looking through the binoculars when he realized that blue line in the distance was not an island. It was a mirage of the trees from an island below the horizon.

We tried to take photos but they are not as clear as what we saw through the binoculars. The image was an entire wavery misty pine forest floating along the lake as far as we could see.   

This photo he took later in the day on Chequamegon Bay shows more clearly the phenomenon we were seeing.

In case you as scientifically challenged as I am, this is more or less what’s going on. The weather had turned cold very quickly; the air was much colder than the water. Rays of light bend when they pass through air layers of different temperatures. A layer of significantly colder or warmer air can form an atmospheric duct (literally a long “tube” of air right above the horizon) that acts as a refracting lens which reflects images from below the horizon.

This phenomenon has the cool name of Fata Morgana. It refers to the Arthurian sorceress "Morgan the Fairy” as in, what you are seeing are Fairy Castles in the air.

There are many stories (Fata Morgana, Wikipedia) of early explorers turning around because of mirage mountains or sailing towards lands that didn’t exist. The mysterious Flying Dutchman is the ship that sails the seas forever and is undoubtedly a mirage ship seen by sailors. 

That was a good adventure. We went not knowing exactly what we would see and that is exactly what we saw.

 

                                                                                                                      

Comments

Thank you for the explanation of something I've seen many times. A Magical name for a magical phenomenon. Your hike looks like it was pretty Magical, too!

Gorgeous pictures. I’ll pass on the free osteoporosis testing. Ha Your adventure sounds like it was fun!

Beautiful!!! Thank you...

Great pictures!

Great pictures!

Too cool! Amazing photograph, Len! I am truly and unduly impressed!

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A-Z Danger

Years ago Len took this photo of a lone coyote. 

2/7/2023 

I just finished rereading Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News. Boy oh boy do I love her writing.

The story asks this. How do people who were damaged by their childhoods find purpose, meaning, and love as adults? Good question, huh?

A-Z Cats

This is Lil Girl hanging out while I wrote this. 

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2/2/2023

Cats

 “Every family needs a cat so there is someone to blame everything on who won’t actually care.” Quote attributed to Len. 

I was 21 when I got my first cat through the fraught circumstance of someone dropping him off on a highway. He made his way to the backstep of my brother’s house where Sebastian the dog began to bark his head off. Paul went to the door to discover a kitten hanging by its wee claws to the screen door.

A-Z Barbara

Barbara 1/26/2023

A-Z means I’m writing short takes on random topics and I’m going in alphabetical order. I love this quote: “Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.”

That’s the spirit I’m pursuing: Undisciplined, irreverent, and original.

A-Z, Alaska

1/25/2023 

I’ve never been to Alaska. I’m sure I’d love it but going there is not a big dream for either Len or me.

However, this. When our son was around 12 he developed a crush on all things Alaskan. Kid who lives in a ranch house on a Midwestern cul-de-sac wants to get lost in tundra and mountains with moose and wolves. Yup.

At first he just talked, dreamed, read books, and watched shows about Alaska. Then, at 14 he got a part-time job as a janitor at a vet clinic and he kept that job until he went to college. It was a good fit for a kid not drawn to homework.

A to Z

1/25/2023

I am not exactly depressed, but I can whip up a pretty good glum at almost any moment. There have been about three sunny days since Thanksgiving, and four colds, and I’m feeling it. How about you?

We can’t even properly whine. Not with the Atmospheric Rivers of Doom in California, and tornadoes in the south. And all the other glum and hateful news.

Sara Kurtz & Healthcare by Zip Code? Really?

1/22/2023 

Many of you have been very generous in the past. Please think about making a donation to the GoFundMe account of Sara Kurtz. Donate here. 

Who is Sara? She’s a friend of my niece Susan.

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