Let’s see, I haven’t been doing much lately, therefore explaining the lack of updates to the blog. I did go to Banning State Park in Sandstone – yes, that Sandstone with the sprawling federal corrections institute south of town – two consecutive weekends in February, but I decided not to post any pictures because, well…I don’t really know, maybe due to laziness. Anyway, I’ll try to get some of my photos of the park posted to the moblog this week.
The park, as well as the city of Sandstone, is actually pretty scenic; definitely go to the park if you’re in the Sandstone area and either have one of those yearlong permits or don’t object to paying the $7 entrance fee. $7 is actually pretty paltry when you think about it; I mean, isn’t the cost of watching a motion picture at a theater about the same price? I’d much rather go wandering around in one of Minnesota’s state parks than sitting in one of Minnesota’s movie theaters.
Getting back to the park and its scenery, however, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The entire park features not one, but two large waterfalls, created by the relatively small, yet powerful, Kettle River. This same river, out of which “Kettle River sandstone” was quarried for years to be used in structures all over the country, has also created massive bluffs replete with sandstone boulders. Now, to top it all off, a very tall, very long railroad trestle can also be found at the southern border of the park, near where the city of Sandstone has established a city park with a picnic shelter and public restrooms. I suppose I could take back what I said about posting pictures to the moblog to show you exactly what I’m talking about. Well, here it is:
I can’t see how anyone wouldn’t enjoy seeing a train on this massive structure. Believe me, I tried to photograph a train on the bridge, but I was largely unsuccessful. Besides there being relatively few trains running on the tracks on the bridge, it is also pretty difficult to tell when a train is going to be coming. In addition, while there is a summer hiking trial that can be used to get up close and personal with the bridge, it takes a good 5 minutes of walking in deep snow to get to the bridge from the nearest parking lot.
I think I’m going to try again to get a picture sometime later this spring, preferably after the snow has melted but before the leaves have grown on the trees. Since a good deal of the trains using the bridge are headed toward the Twin Ports, there should be a greatly likelihood of seeing trains after the harbors of Duluth and Superior open back up for shipping on March 25.
Now, moving onto another topic, I was also going to post something about the mock trial meet in Duluth I was a part of on February 23. I brought my camera along for the trip and was able to take some pictures of the courtroom we were in for our competitions. I didn’t spend any time talking about my mock trial experience on my blog, and now I kind of wish I would have. It’s kind of late to do so now, however, since my team lost to the other Brainerd team by two points in the sub-regions competition in Duluth. The other Brainerd team – known as the Brainerd green– was allowed, by winning against the team I was on – the Brainerd blue team – to advance to the next round. This round was held this past Wednesday in Duluth and was highly successful for Brainerd’s team. By scoring 14 points more than opponent Hibbing, the green team made it into the state mock trial meet. Hopefully everything will go well when the team is pitted against the best mock trial teams in the state!
Since I can also fill the rest of this entry up with talking about the weather, I think I will. February marked the end of the three month period known as meteorological winter. Although winter doesn’t start until well into December, and end well into March, it is the three months of December, January, and February that meteorologists use to study winter weather. The months of December, January, and February ended up averaging 7°F above average in Brainerd. February, following an exceptionally warm spell that lasted for the first 15 days, ended up being an astonishing 10°F above average.
That the 2004-2005 winter was seven degrees above normal wouldn’t be such a mentionable occurrence had the winters that preceded it not been so much warmer-than-usual as well. Since the 1998-1999 winter, there has only been one winter that yielded below-normal temperatures. And that’s a total of 7 winters. All of the winters that have been above-normal have been so by more than a few meager degrees – we’re talking five, six, and, in one case, fifteen degrees above normal; meanwhile, the winter that ended up being below-normal was so by only 2 degrees.
This unprecedented stretch of unusually warm winters, unique to not just Brainerd, is one of the facts used to point out the reality of global warming. However, since I don’t want to present just one side of a story, we could also talk about some of the cold experienced during the winter of 2004-2005.
An arctic air blast in the middle of January 2005 chilled Brainerd down to -38°F on January 17. This temperature was not only the lowest temperature recorded in Brainerd since February 4, 1996’s -40°F low, but was also one degree shy of the record low for the day. In total, there were three nights in the winter of 2004-2005 that featured nights with lows colder than -30°F. The last winter with that many nights of -30°F or colder lows was 1996-1997, when 5 such temperatures were recorded.
However, the 8 year gap between winters with 3 or more -30°F or lower lows is the longest in Brainerd’s 107 year temperature data. In fact, Brainerd went for an incredible, unprecedented 6 years from 1998 to 2004 without recording a temperature of -30°F or lower. In an average year, Brainerd sees about 3.5 days with lows of -30°F or lower.
Finally, three temperature records were also set during the warm winter of 2004-2005. Not surprisingly, all three were for record high temperatures, and all three came in the first week of February.
I think I’ll again break my promise to post pictures of Banning State Park to only the moblog. Attaching a few pictures should be a good way to wrap up this blog entry.
Looking up among the bare birch/aspen trees
Another view of the railroad bridge, and the trail leading underneath it