by John Holbrook

(This monthly series is dedicated to those who live elsewhere but have always wondered what it is like living at Lake Hubert during the winter)

Moon over Lake Hubert, February 12, 2006
by David Lindman


Folks who don’t live in Minnesota during the long winter are likely to ask, “ What can possibly be different about February compared to January in the Northland ?” Careful observers of winter phenology would be quick to respond, “There are, indeed, differences between the two months. And, while the differences are subtle, nevertheless, they are significant.”

For starters, daylight begins to return to Minnesota. While December and January are months of very limited daylight, and often sparse sunlight due to persistent cloud cover, February is typically bright and sunny. Compared to mid-January, February days provide over an hour more of daylight. Those of us who get up early to go to work now enjoy spectacular sunrises over the Lake.  Coming home after our labors, we get to enjoy lingering sunsets giving us the first ephemeral promise of an eventual end to winter.

February also brings a much more powerful sun. By mid-month, even if the temperature is well below freezing, water will be dripping off the roof due to the more direct rays of the sun. By the later part of the month, new falling snow can not keep up with the melting of the existing snow pack. If you can stay out of the wind, one can be quite comfortable soaking up the newfound warmth from a very old friend who has been away for several months.

February also brings other changes on our Lake. By the end of the month, all fish houses have to be removed. Now, the lake horizon is clean and clear from shore to shore without a visual obstruction. The wind is free to sculpture the loose snow into fascinating patterns and drifts. It is pleasing to look out from the comfort of one’s home and see nothing but a wide expanse of snow and ice.

My favorite time to cross country ski is in the month of February. The fierce wind chills of January have now moderated and even in freezing weather it is easy to work up a good sweat wearing only a light wind breaker. Skiing on Lake Hubert offers a great opportunity to closely observe the shoreline, other cabins, and the numerous animal tracks that are all over the Lake. Skiing at night might also bring a fleeting glimpse or sound of a great horned owl or even a great gray owl depending on the severity of the Canadian winter.

For me, without question, February is my favorite winter month. The longer hours of daylight lifts one’s spirits. The crisp clear weather is perfect for outdoor sports. Finally, there is that faint hint of an impending spring that definitely suggests that it is the beginning of the end for a long Minnesota winter.

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