I had been on a combination training run/photo hike for a couple of hours already. It was early February in Minnesota and I was somewhere in the middle of back-country Hyland Lake Park Reserve, Bloomington, MN. I had come here often without snow to run the trails, but coming here with a good snow pack made for quite a different experience.
Recently I have been much more interested in leaving the trails and following animal tracks into the woods wherever I am, but on this occasion it was a necessity. All of the major trails were groomed for cross country skiing, and I had received a few sideways glances already for walking across the nicely manicured skate tracks.
Thankfully there were plenty of well marked sets of footprints leading into the non-maintained areas of the park, which I had been following when I suddenly ran out of trail on the edge of Hyland Lake. The only way to proceed from here was to follow a classic ski trail, or to try and go back from where I had come from. Now, I wasn’t sure that going back along my trail would be simple, given that I had been carving my own path for a while. Besides, I wasn’t really interested in moving backwards at this point, even if the light was changing. That was certainly another factor. The sun was on its way down. I had time left, but I hadn’t brought a light, and definitely didn’t want to spend an hour trying to find a trail only to end up trekking in the dark. I knew if I could get around the lake I would be able to catch up to a main trail and head back.
After walking along the ski trail for a few minutes, and enduring a few comments from skiiers zipping silently around the blind corners, I decided the only other good option was to head down to the lake itself and follow the shore along the ice.
It was clear that the ice was very thick in this part of the lake, and there was plenty of evidence of other people following the same track. I was keeping my eyes on the shore, looking to find an interesting picture that one could only take from this unique vantage point, when I noticed something dark and round on the ice further out into the lake.
Apparently, after someone has drilled a hole for ice fishing, the ice re-freezes much as one clear piece, rather than the cloudy layer of ice that has built up over the rest of the lake. This leaves a black hole, often cracked, resembling an unblinking eye.
It was a wonderful experience of encountering something I never would have considered looking for. During my circumnavigation of the lake I was able to find several more, noting how each one, though formed the same way on the same lake, had its own character based on how the ice had refrozen and cracked in the process.
Capturing the depth of the ice and the natural contrast proved to be quite difficult, and I wish that more of the images had turned out as interesting as they looked in real life, but for me this wasn’t so much about the final image as it was about the reminder that there is more out there that I can imagine, and the things that take me by surprise are often the most beautiful.