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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

And We'll Have Fun, Fun, Fun 'Til Somebody Takes This Winter Away!

Sometimes I just have to devote an entire blog posting to just one extra long and delightful weekend! And the Presidents' Day-Valentine's Day Extra Double Special weekend that just passed was extra double special!

Our dear friends Lee and Bill, who currently live in dry, sunny California, were crazy enough to visit us in the middle of the snowiest February in a long while. Here they are in milder weather, September of 2013, on a very auspicious day -- the day of our wedding -- as they strolled through the early autumn forest to take their places at our ceremony... notice their relaxed smiles and lightweight jackets...


Lee and Bill flew into Minneapolis and drove up north to our place in the middle of a snowstorm... not this particular snowstorm, but one just like it... 
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Fortunately, the weather cooperated for their first full day of their Winter Weekend Extravaganza... Perfect blue skies and a crisp winter morning, temps hovering around zero! 
The drive in to town was exciting as we passed through what seemed like one of those bobsled tracks we've all been watching on the Sochi Olympics...
...we wondered whether we'd wandered onto the Half Pipe snowboarding track, the banks of our road were so high!  

We all arrived safely in Grand Marais, in time for a leisurely Valentine's Day breakfast at The Blue Water Cafe... Everyone had their excellent blueberry pancakes, of course! 
Bill wanted to be an authentic tourist and stand next to the giant pinecone! If the Worlds Best Donut Shop had been open, I'm sure we'd have gotten a photo of him poking his face through the Brunhilde billboard cutout... If you've been to Grand Marais, you all know what I mean... maybe next summer, Bill...
Our Valentine's Day kept getting better, next with a visit to Grand Marais Sled Dog Adventures, run by Matt Groth and his team of very excitable sled dogs! 
Next year's team... I've never seen so many tails wagging at once...
Bill and Lee are major dog lovers, and wasted no time getting to know the pups!

Um, no, you can't take her home with you, Lee! 
Awww...

Greeting the canine members of their team...
Matt starting to get the sled ready to go...

Lee playing with his new friends...
...hooking the pups into their harnesses...
...what a handsome boy! 
Getting ready...
So excited! We get to run! And pull! Let's all yelp and bark at once, and freak out Val over there by the car! 
Matt the Musher showing the team who's boss...
Sled dogs are not as big as you'd think... but they sure are strong...

Everybody's in line...
Sled's ready ...
Bill's prepared for the Minnesota winter wind... or maybe for a poison gas attack, it's best to be ready for anything...
The California Guys, dressed in at least six layers...
Ready to ride! 

OMG these dogs are so excited! 
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Unfortunately, my short video of the team, the sled, its occupants and Matt the Musher taking off into the woods was a bust... but a fantastic time was had by everyone! We returned 2 hours later to find our friends sipping coffee by the wood stove, all toasty and warm! 

Valentine's Day night we cooked a very nice meal and fired up our little sauna.  Then as dinner was coming to a close, Val and I snuck outdoors and prepared the path to the sauna especially for Valentine's Day! 

...sweet...
Full moon shining down on the snowy scene...
Aww... we "heart" you, guys! 

One shot with the flash so you can see the path slashed through the snow...

OK! The weekend's not over yet! Saturday was another snowy day... cold, too... so on borrowed snowshoes and with our ski poles that have got to be 30 years old (and still working fine) we all got out into the woods! 
What handsome dudes -- we hope they'll be bragging about this adventure back in Sacramento!
Oops... I'm the one holding the camera, so when yours truly fell down, the moment of indignity wasn't captured for this blog posting... sorry, Bill! (Not really...)
Showing off the proof of their fun winter activity...
Here's more along the theme of "that was then, this is now" started in the post before this one... This trail sign marks the beginning of the "Duffy-Strand" trail that heads down to the river bank... And when I hung this sign on this aspen last summer, I had to stand on a ladder! 
Now, the bank of snow along the roadside is about six feet high! Lee and I climbed up just to prove it! 
Goofballs!
Once again -- what a difference five months makes! Here's a shot of our fire ring on September 21, 2013....Looks nice and cozy, relaxing around the campfire... Keep that image in mind as you look through the next few pix from Feb 17, 2014...

One of the risks of visiting Cascade Bluff is that you might be put to work! Here's Bill with a snow shovel... what the heck is he up to out there? And more to the point, what did I ask him to do? Dig a new road to Ontario??
At least he's staying cheerful about his appointed task... which was to find the fire ring and carve out a sort of snow cave around it! 

Success! And let the evening festivities begin...
Here's a view back out the entrance from inside the snow cave...
... a shot looking inward, with flash, to show off those big walls of snow...
....mysterious looking, isn't it? 
Lee and Bill warming up by the fire...


Sizzle sizzle...
Adult beverage holder... built in chilling adaptor...
I bet that bench is kinda cold, fellas...
RIght! Let's all stand up after all.
The Snow Cave Fire Pit from up on the deck...

And one more shot, with flash... to show off that of course, it's snowing again!! 
Our final dinner before our friends head back to warmer climes...

In the morning, snow coming down like mad... getting packed up and ready to go... in Babe the Blue Jeep with Tracks! 
Whew, that wind is fierce! 
With the tracks on, you pretty much have to get a running start and leap into the Jeep...

One final video as Val drives them down to their rental car down "off the hill"... 'bye, guys, see you in California! 
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What a fabulous time we had, and what fun, fun, fun to enjoy so many aspects of life in Cook County with our great friends from California! Thank you, Lee and Bill, for being such great sports and such wonderful friends. And thanks, Cascade Bluff, for providing us all with a glorious winter weekend! 




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