In cities, winter is something to be endured, but life goes on. Out in our wilderness, though, the world itself seems to freeze, letting us capture these rare moments in time.
Sometimes, even if you really know where you’re from, it’s good to get a chance to reset and have a new perspective on the land. The texture of the world can turn around so easily with just a few degrees of change. And the way our breath and our words and our thoughts seem to just freeze in the air, lingering among us while nature sleeps, our cameras capture those moments back out of the air, crystallizing the best of the frozen world.
The last time I regularly used a camera (when it was something akin to a mobile phone now, an accessory you had to have with you before you left for an adventure) was in the late 90’s, back when I lived in Oregon. A wonderful place, if there ever was one. Vancouver was a weekend jaunt, taking in the scenery or a Canucks game. The rain and mist was something wonderful, like a friend, sitting out at Tillamook or Cannon Beach, watching these grey sheets pound the ocean flat. The lights on in the occasional shop or restaurant showed themselves as quiet oases, to get warm and fed and socialize.
US West, the old telephone company on the west coast, used to use “life’s better here” as their tagline. And life was great there. My only regret is not living there longer, but rare is stability in one’s late teens, and soon I was back in the Midwest.
After bouncing around some of the metro areas of the Midwest—mostly Chicago—I made my way here, to what I think is the best place on the planet. We have four true seasons, and we have winters that are rare in North America. The city (with a few thousand residents, it hardly seems like a city) I live in has the third most snow in the United States, averaging 211” a year. No, that’s not a typo. We get just under six meters of snow each year, a lot of it lake effect since we’re on a peninsula sticking out into Lake Superior.
The summers are incredible, and I’ll share plenty of pictures of the summer and fall later in the year. But winter is something special, the landscape frozen in place. It’s a chance to pause, to consider the land, think of what we value. Right now we have about 40” of snow on the ground, right around 200” total for the year, and that snow won’t go away all at once. It will probably be May or June until all of it is gone.
I’ve spent more time at the coast than in the woods this winter, a rather pesky cough keeping me off my Nordic skis more than I’d like. What’s cool is that a lot of the shots I’ve taken are normally about five hundred feet out into Lake Superior. It’s a different perspective of the land than we normally get. Sometimes, it’s good to get reset like that.
Soon, the mountains of snow and ice will make way to land and sea, a kind of balance restored. Then our thoughts wander out with our adventures, into the endless sun and the laughter and tears and solitude and companionship of life in summer, when we live. For now we think, we watch, and we wait.
Words and photos by Kevin Hodur. Previously calling suburban Chicago and Portland home, Kevin now lives and works as a writer on Upper Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Catch more editions of The Road Rarely Traveled with next month’s Early Signs of Spring, a look at the slow awakening from the winter slumber that brings melting snow and amazing shades of green.