BLOG: Chasing the Signs of Spring in Door County

I have to chuckle on February 2nd every year when a famous groundhog named “Phil” pops his head out of his warm den to predict the arrival of spring. Usually that morning, I go outside and get into my frozen car bundled up like an eskimo and scrape the prior evening’s frost off the windshield, so I can safely be on my way.  I know the reality of this situation. Spring is coming, but not for another two months…. or three… it HAS snowed in Door County in May before!

I am grateful for the change of seasons, especially from a photography perspective. Yet, have to admit by the end of February,  I’ve had my fill of shooting months of frozen icicles, snow and bare trees. Also, my fingers need a break, the poor little things are frozen!  So, when I overhear someone talking about the Coast Guard cutters heading out to start breaking up the ice in the beginning of March, I get excited because it is a sign that winter is finally going to start releasing its grip around here. Sturgeon Bay canal is the key spot during this month because the cutters and tugs are out in full force, preparing the way for the departure of the large ships that take refuge here in the winter. There is nothing like watching one of these freighters pass through the downtown bridges, gracefully negotiating the narrow passage of the ship canal and disappearing off into the horizon of Lake Michigan.  I refer to this as the sport of “ship chasing.”

Next on my list is the much anticipated event of ice turning to water. Trust me, this is more interesting than it sounds. The release of the peninsula from solid ice may not be welcomed by the ice fisherman, but for me it recharges my shutterbug battery as I remember how much I love to see water in liquid form. I traverse the shorelines at dusk and dawn because the light and color create amazing backdrops for these mystical waterscape shots. The sounds of creaking ice and honking geese are an added bonus in this full sensory experience.

Speaking of ice, another spring phenomenon I highly recommend witnessing is the brilliant, blue, mountainous formations called “ice shoves” that appear off the western shores of the county when ice, wind and temperature come together in a perfect combination. This past March, with camera, ice cleats and sheer determination I photographed them for the first time at Door Bluff Headlands County Park. Getting down to the shoves was a bit tricky but well worth the effort. My first thought upon gazing at the 30 foot high pile of crackling, glistening ice was, “This isn’t going to be gone by July!.” Of course, the little kid in me just HAD to climb to the top of the largest ice shove, along with the handful of other people there that day. *Amazingly, I can report that as of the writing of this in April, the shoves have pretty much disappeared.

But, if there is one visual I hold dear to my heart when I think of spring in Door County, it is the much anticipated arrival of the cherry and apple blossoms. This is the “grand finale” of the season and worth every minute of waiting.  I usually start my surveillance in mid May and when the time is right, cars will be scattered randomly along the orchard roads with many shutterbugs frolicking through the fields, myself included. I don’t know what it is about the explosion of white flowers, lush green grass and bright yellow dandelions that drives us all into a frenzy with our cameras. Maybe we are all anticipating the luscious cherry crop to follow? Whatever it is, it is one thing that definitely shouts “spring has sprung” and should be on the “must photograph” list for any shutterbug out there.

In closing, I would just like to say, every year I say goodbye to winter and chase the signs of spring, I find a renewed perspective of Door County and life in general.  The constant change of scenery Mother Nature provides during this time allows ample opportunities to capture things in new and interesting ways. Over the years, I have gained a greater appreciation for the cycle of life and this beautiful area I am fortunate enough to reside in. I hope to see you out there this spring, maybe crouched in a field of vibrant flowers, pulled over alongside a rural orchard or just exploring and discovering the visual bounty that is just a shutter click away.