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    Custom Cabins March 2016 eNews



    During the winter in Ely, Minnesota, the days grow quite short. The winter solstice, our shortest day of the year, on December 22 saw the sun rising at 7:51 a.m. and setting at the ripe old hour of 4:23 p.m. Though we don't have the complete winter darkness of our northern neighbors in Canada or Alaska, the short days don't leave much time for recreating in the daylight hours. 



    We do get our sunlight back, though. The 23 of December saw a whopping five seconds more daylight than the 22, and the momentum slowly grows with each day receiving more and more light. As we write this now in early April, we're gaining about three and a half minutes of daylight a day. By the summer solstice on June 20, we'll see the sunrise at 5:15 a.m. and the sunset at 9:06 p.m. 

    Though we're gaining light daily from the end of December onwards, the real power and warmth of the sun starts to rouse Elyites from their slumber by mid-March.


    Sunrise at Prairie Portage



    The Boundary Waters Canoe Area and surrounding region received ample snowfall, and up until early March, most of the snowpack remained intact. With warm temperatures reaching the 40's, 50's, and even the low 60's, the deep snow resting in the woods and covering our lakes began to subside. Coupled with several days of heavy rains, many of us were preparing to say goodbye to winter and hello to an early spring.

    With the combination of heavy rains and runoff from the melting snow, the woods began to fill with water that couldn't drain into a still frozen ground. Swamps filled and flooded roads where culverts were still frozen, and lakes turned into shallow pools as water drained onto still solid bodies of ice.


    Evening reflections on a water-covered Ensign Lake.



    Winter wasn't quite finished, though. Following the big melt and rain, the jetstream dipped south, bringing bits of snow and temps for a second freeze-up.


    The aftermath of flooding and freezing in a swampy, balsam and ash grove. As high water receded beneath the ice, a "ceiling" remains intact.



    Low, swampy areas in the woods that swelled to ponds during the melt were covered by several inches of ice. While cold temperatures persisted, the water in the woods began to dissipate and drain-leaving small caverns beneath the sheet ice that would eventually break apart under its own weight.

    Throughout most of the winter months, the lakes, rivers, and swamps are covered in the winter's total snow accumulation. With the warm-up and subsequent freeze, the lakes and woods developed a hard pack not unlike a well-groomed downhill ski run. This spring "crust" provides skiers and mushers with ideal conditions for travel across lakes and portages. A trip that may take you two to three days in January could now take less than a full day.


    Ideal travel conditions from Moose Lake to U.S. Point via Prairie Portage-trip time: under three hours.



    With our days growing longer we also begin to receive more direct sunlight. South facing hillsides slowly reveal grass, small moths begin to hatch on our warmest days, and our evergreen trees shed their winter coats of snow and begin to add some color to the landscape. 


    Old growth white pine stand enjoying some vitamin d.



    The increase in the sun's power also affects our bodies of water. Lakes may not completely open, but areas with moving water, slight current, or reef structures will open to provide small oases to creatures returning for the spring and summer or those just stopping by on their way farther north.  Seagulls were spotted on Knife Lake on March 25, while geese were seen traveling north on the same day. Other creatures take advantage of the open water to refresh themselves after a long winter.


    A quick, refreshing cleanse in Ensign Lake after a long cold winter.


    So far the spring of 2016 has not disappointed. While an early thaw left many of us believing the long-awaited spring travel conditions would have to wait until next year, winter returned to remind us that flip-flops and walleye fishing from a boat would have to wait until at least June. And while many of us anxiously await sunshine and waves on the shoreline, we'll settle for one of the greatest shows the Ely has to offer-the changing of the season.


    Melt water catches the sunset on Ensign Lake.



    Openings still exist for the 2016 season. Give us call or drop us a line to get started on planning your wilderness getaway.