A Day at the Beach

These are the days of deep cold that make you think about the atmosphere. Scientists say it’s “an insulating blanket” that filters out harmful rays and moderates the temperature on Earth. Yes, I’m grateful. But this is moderate? After a night with a low of -22 in Hibbing, suffering Minnesotans might well ask – how much worse would it be with no atmosphere at all?

If you consider our moon a reasonable test case, the answer is – a lot worse. The moon is, of course, roughly the same distance from the sun our Earth. With very, very little atmosphere, the permanently shadowed craters get to be -397 degrees Fahrenheit. The good news – there’s no wind – is also the bad news. No air.

A couple of days ago astronaut Neil Armstrong left a comment on Robert Krulwich’s blog at NPR that overturned my uninformed thinking about lunar weather. I look at this photo of Buzz Aldrin on a lunar walk during the Apollo 11 mission and I’m glad he has a suit to keep him alive in the brutally cold vacuum of space.

NASA/Courtesy of Nasaimages.org

But actually, in this scene, it’s hot.

Armstrong told Krulwich “We were operating in a near perfect vacuum with the temperature well above 200 degrees Fahrenheit with the local gravity only one sixth that of Earth.”

I’m having a hard time getting my head around the idea of a hot moon.
Maybe this would help.

Where is your favorite sandy beach?

58 thoughts on “A Day at the Beach”

  1. Joni’s Beach in LaPointe is a small neighborhood beach on Madeline Island, cute and unpretentious. The beach at Big Bay State Park on the same Island is also lovely.

    Out-of-area, I loved going to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware in the fall. Hot caramel corn, a cup of coffee and talking to those crazy people getting ready for the Fall Surf Fishing Classic-pure heaven. The postcards of the same beach in summer show it so covered with people, you can’t see the sand. Never went there then.

    Sorry if that isn’t the summery image you all were hoping for, but you should know me by now, I prefer cozy to hot, that’s why I live in Minnesota, you can appreciate the cozy more once you’re more than half frozen.


  2. holy goat, Dale – that puts things in perspective! i’m glad we’re here and not on the moon. like MIG, i like cozy rather than hot; but i like cozy rather than cold also. it’s not cozy in the barn. it’s not even cozy in the house!
    my favorite beach is the formerly known as “Brighton Beach” – that little half-mile strip just north of the Lester River’s mouth on Lake Superior. they’ve named it something else (Kitchee Gumee park or something) but we all call it Brighton still. my friend’s husband loved BB so much it’s where he wanted his ashes scattered. and this summer, on the anniversary of his death, she scattered flowers in the waters at the beach as a remembrance. i’m sure Clyde remembers BB.
    a gracious good morning to You All – it’s minus 21 here in zone zero.


  3. I like the one up in Steve’s neck of the woods near Cornucopia – the National Lakeshore – I can’t remember the name. You can walk for a long way all alone and wonder at the enormous empty fullness. The last time I was there I saw a lake kayaker heading toward the Apostle Islands. I was so impressed. He was the only other human I saw.


    1. Gee, Krista, you are welcome to come up any old time you want to. The Siskiwit Bay beach is a wonder. You can stroll for about two miles just drinking in the beauty of the area, and no worries about property lines or rules or anything. I didn’t know until I experienced the total absence or regulations up there how much our lives are pinched in by rules in most places. On that beach you can just set off walking with your dog, watching the wind play over the dune grass.

      Seriously: write me, and I can make that available for you. I do recommend waiting for warmer weather 🙂


      1. Thank you. I really appreciate your offer. I love the solitude up there and the quirky charm of Cornucopia. It seems like a town out of Northern Exposure.

        The last time I was there was a birthday gift I gave myself last April.


  4. Darling Daughter gets a second snow day today, courtesy of the Minneapolis schools. Lucky her. Husband gets to be home today as I have back to back meetings this morning (yipee). Maybe I’ll sneak out early this afternoon and Daughter and I can set up an imaginary beach next to the Christmas tree and play some Beach Boys, crank the heat, and pretend…

    I don’t really have a “favorite” beach, but do have fond memories of a small beach that is no longer maintained as a beach on Lake Harriet; the former Morgan beach (a smaller, slightly more tucked away beach a little farther down the path than the 44th street beach that is still open). I would bike there as a kid in the summer with my family and we’d spend the afternoon splashing around, having a bit of a picnic. The clearest image from then is my dad floating out in the lake on his back with his little round belly and his toes poking up out of the water; he’d move his hands just enough to keep himself moving and afloat. (Think of a yard gnome, minus the red hat, floating belly-up…that was my dad.)


  5. To my surprise, my favorite beach is none of those near my cabin but a secluded beach on St. John’s Island (US Virgin Islands) called Maho Bay. I went snorkeling there once and had a dreamy, peak experience. For about fifteen minutes I swam along with a giant green sea turtle. Once I was swimming deep in the bay when I encountered a school of silvery tarpon, fish bright as mercury and as long as me. And even though I knew tarpon are harmless, I felt a thrill to be meeting such giant fish like that. While I communed with the fishes the brown pelicans were dive-bombing into schools of small fish, smashing down into them from a great height in the sky. A magic place.


    1. Steve, I was going to mention Cinnamon Bay, which isn’t too far from Maho Bay. I have many good sandy beaches in my repetoire, but I love the St. John’s beaches because of how you come upon them. You’re driving along through the trees, usually at what feels like a 90 degree angle, you come around a curve where there is a break in the trees and suddenly, you see the bay and the beautiful sand and the blue water unfolding below you. Breathtaking.


      1. sherrilee, we stayed at Cinnamon Bay! “We” meaning my wife at the time and I. One of the loveliest beaches in the Caribbean, and when you dive the coral reefs the little fish are so colorful they wear your eyes out! All of that sounds mighty nice today.


    2. When hubby returned from his deployment in September, we went to St. Thomas & St. John for a week. I loved it there and would go back any time! We stayed on St. Thomas but spent a fair amount of time on St. John, especially liking the bays on the south side. Next time, I’ll check out Maho Bay!


  6. Good morning hardy people of the North,

    I don’t spend much time at beaches. I’ve been to the beach on the West side of Lake Nakomis in Minneapolis a couple of times and I think that is a good beach. I like the rocky shores of lake Superior which really aren’t beaches. I’m not very attracted to the sandy Lake Superior beaches because the water is too cold.

    Beaches where I live in Southern Minnesota are on lakes where the water quality is not great and I’m not likely to visit them. The best beaches I have visited are those on the Caribbean at Playa del Carmen in Mexico.


  7. I agree with Jim that southern Minnesota beaches aren’t much to write home about. All we have n Rock county in the way of swimming holes are gravel pits. I like Cannon Beach in Oregon for tide pooling and burying people (temporarily, with their permission, of course).


  8. It’s not a spectacular beach by any stretch of the imagination, but the beach on the south shore of Lake Superior at Muskellunge State Park in Michigan will always be special for me because my wife and I spent the first night of our honeymoon camping in that park and we watched a beautiful sunset on the lake during a perfect mid-June day. 32.5 years later we’re still going strong.

    I always laugh at the reality shows where people compete to have the fanciest weddings and ignore the honeymoon. We did the opposite–a dimestore wedding (backyard, no band, modest refreshments, few flowers, a friend took the wedding photos, only invited 80 people-about 50 showed up), but shot the wad on a 3-week honeymoon to Cape Cod and points in between. The “wad” was probably about $1000 (in 1978 dollars) and we camped the entire time with the exception of a night in an alpine-style motel in eastern Quebec because the campground we were intending to stay at had not been completed by the time we arrived! The lavatories hadn’t been built, picnic tables and fire grates were not in place and crews were still cutting trees to clear campsites.

    We arrived home road-weary, broke, and jobless, with many wonderful memories–and got busy and found jobs, moved to a new town, and started making what I consider a very nice life for ourselves. Had our ups and downs like anyone does, but I think I got a winning ticket in the lottery of life by finding my better half early on in the discovery process.

    Now, what were we talking about? Oh, yeah, beaches! 😉 They can be memorable no matter how forgettable they appear to be.

    Chris in Owatonna


    1. Nice story, Chris-sounds like you did win the lottery.

      We are very fond of a little stretch of sand along the Mississippi at Crosby Farm in St Paul and have many memories of afternoons spent there. Nothing special about it and usually flooded over in the spring, but has the advantage of being very close to home-even went there on Christmas Day one year (we fear not the Northern Beaches!)


      1. Across the river and slightly upstream lies the Minnehaha Off-Leash Dog Park, which is dear to my heart. When Katie could see, we went every day. There is a significant stretch of sandy beach that attracts a fascinating collection of humans and canines–all shapes, sizes, colors and creeds except Republicans are really rare! If you love dogs, this is “the” beach in the Upper Midwest.


  9. I don’t know if there’s an actual name to this beach, but my favorite are the Squeaky Sands along M-28 on Lake Superior. There are two wayside areas with steps leading down to the beach. The sands “squeak” because there is a high amount of quartz in them. The beach is long and the water here is generally warmer than the rest of Superior because it is so shallow. You can walk out for hundreds of feet and still not be over your head. It’s just beautiful 🙂


  10. When I lived in El Granada CA (Hwy. 1 south and “over the hill” from Pacifica, South of San Fran) there was a little village called Princeton-by-the-Sea across the road. Had a breakwater there that formed Half Moon Bay, and a public beach. But if you went up on the bluff just north, there was a hidden beach (called, I believe, Hidden Beach) where I could go and find complete solitude most of the time. (Unfortunately the one time there were others, it was Former Boyfriend that I was still in the process of “getting over”, but it didn’t stop me from going.) You had to climb down the rocky side toward the water, fairly steep going, but worth it. No swimming, mind you, without wetsuits, too cold, but bring a blanket to sit on, a book or a journal, a thremos of coffee (at the time there were no coffee shops), and a windbreaker…


  11. I do very much like walking along the sandy beaches on Lake Superior even if the water is kind of cold for swimming. I also like walking along the beaches of Lake Michigan in Michigan and Indiana where there are some large sand dunes


    1. Are you talking of the Sleeping Bear Dunes? One summer, my family and I took a week and drove/camped the entire circumference of Lake Michigan (it was a rather lopsided circle…including parts of Lake Superior, haha). My favorite picture of all time was taken on the shore of Lake Michigan at the Sleeping Bear Dunes. My two brothers and I are standing in the water, facing the lake and the waves, with the water an absolutely gorgeous teal blue. My dad took it from the shore. I love the Great Lakes, haha. I don’t need any hot, tropical paradises to keep me happy.


  12. Beaches? You mean those places too close to water full of parasitic organisms and vicious fish, out in the open under the bright hurty thing in the sky with more hurty reflection off the water and sand, where people go to show off parts of their bodies no one needs to see?


    1. Sometimes people go to these places and sit on the grass next to the beige-tone parts under one of those brown and green leafy things. Sometimes. And then you can read a book while others tramp around in small pieces of clothing and splash in the infested water with the bitey fish. Sometimes.


      1. Once we went to the dead-dog party at WisCon. Since it was Memorial Day weekend and hot, the concom in their wisdom decided the party should be on the lake. So, amongst the lithe tan college students playing frisbee, jogging and sunning themselves, groups of pale, flabby, t-shirted fans clustered under the few trees and kept on talking. It was pretty hilarious.


  13. I think I mentioned this before. When we lived on the NS, an older couple who lived in town owned a cabin across the road and about 150 yards up the road. They had a cabin on a very small lot that sat 33 feet above the lake. They had below the cabin a cove which must be about 200 feet wide at the lake shore and about 75 feet deep at its deepest point. About half of that width was a rock shelf sloping down into the lake, of the sort most of you have seen I am sure. The other half was sand at the lake and then rock behnd that, the kind of rock beach you have almost all also seen up there. In exchange for use of the cove, my next door neighbor and I took care of their property including building and maintaining a set of steps down to the cove, quite apiece of engineering, which we had to redo evcey so often as rock eroded or the lake took par tof it away. The bottom 20 feet we took up each fall or it would not have surivived the winter ice piles.


    1. It did not all post–try again for the rest.
      He and I built and maintained steps for three other neighbors too.
      Our kids grew up on that beach. They even were known to go into the lake; you could always tell how far in they had waded by the line of red skin. When it actually got hot, like over 83, we would go over there, where the temp would be down in the mid 70’s, even if it was in the 90’s above. We had many private evenings and neighborhood potlucks, both usually with bonfires. The potlucks would include as many as 30 people of all ages and income levels and 3-4 dogs. My neighbor and I would put up a pile of about three cords of wood each year, which we would both burn through each summer having bonfires. On calm spring (early June, remember) and fall evenings, the cove would hold the heat. We would often stay until 1 or 2 in the morning when the kids got older.
      The man of the couple (in his late 80’s) would come out each morning and putter all day and leave after supper. The wife (in her early 80’s) would come out late afternoon and make supper and stay until 10 or 11. Many summer evenings the neighbor who helped with the upkeep with his wife and sometimes kids would go over in the late evening, and my wife and I and maybe our kids would have a later treat. Another neighbor or two might join us, especially a couple about ¼ mile down the road. My wife would often come home from the library at 9 and join us then. Or I would greet her with a bonfire in our back yard.
      Then the couple got too old and my next door neighbor’s wife ran off with the husband of the couple 1/4 mile down the road. But it was so wonderful while it lasted. Few people get to enjoy Superior as fully as we did.
      The couple who owned it were quite a pair. She was a woman way ahead of her time, emancipated in many ways, including, if rumors hold, and I believe they do, in her sexual attitudes and life. She was a character out of my children’s childhood. I got to do her funeral; a fun but carefully constructed sermon.


  14. Morning– dropped to -23 just for a few minutes at our house in the valley this morning.

    I haven’t spent a lot of time with beaches… One side of my family has ‘Christmas in July’ up in Shorewood. I don’t know which lake, but there are some fun family memories there… I spent a few days this summer in Alexandria and had a few minutes between things to walk over to Lake Le Homme Dieu. Visited a friend in Florida and burned my legs in the Atlantic Sun… Our Honeymoon in Seattle and the San Juan Islands and related beaches… so I would guess the Honeymoon beaches would have to be my favorite…

    Enjoy the crunch snow!



  15. One of the joys of having a job in the travel industry is being able to visit places that you never would have been able to on your own.

    I spent a blissful hour once, sitting along the bank of the Sabi Sabi river in South Africa. It was almost sandy and was a very small river (I could have walked to the other side without getting my shorts wet) but it was beautiful and serene. On the other bank there were two large herons checking out the edge of the water, not even remotely worried about me.


      1. That’s why I was just sitting along the bank, but not dipping my feet in the water. The staff had said that they didn’t see many crocodiles at that part of the river, but I had my eyes open just the same!


  16. Our biggest lake here is Sakakawea. It is a result of the Garrison Dam, which flooded a gazillion acres of land. There really are no beaches to speak of, since the edges of the lake are grass and pasture and farm land. I think Lake Metigoshe, in the Turtle Mountains, is a real lake, but I have never explored the beaches there. Most other bodies of water are from dams or are what we call prairie potholes, wetlands that fill and empty of their own accord. I live about 60 miles from Beach, ND, but there is no beach in Beach.


      1. Well, Beach is more in the middle of nowhere than other places around here-it is the gateway to beautiful and exotic eastern Montana, after all, but I think the good citizens of present day Beach really like their little town. The school team is called the Buccaneers. Perhaps Capt. Billy is familiar with it?


  17. I have fond memories of a small public beach on the Wisconsin side of the St. Croix. south of Hudson. I don’t think it’s public anymore, but it was 40 years ago. There was a little gravel road between the summer homes, and people brought fishing boats down to the shore on trailers. Upstream a little way there was a house where the people lived year-round, and in the wintertime they would sometimes clear an area on the ice for the kids to use as a skating rink.

    During my teen years I spent many a summer day at the beach area in Hudson known as The Dike. It’s a long road that used to lead to a bridge to the Minnesota side, but now goes nowhere, just truncates in a wide sandy beach in the middle of the St. Croix. A real treasure of a river.


  18. Also OT (would have been more timely over the weekend) — just received this poem in a newsletter, think you may enjoy:


    Everywhere, everywhere, snow sifting down,
    a world becoming white, no more sounds,
    no longer possible to find the heart of the day,
    the sun is gone, the sky is nowhere,
    and of all I wanted in life – so be it – whatever it is
    that brought me here, chance, fortune,
    whatever blessing each flake of snow is the hint of,
    I am grateful, I bear witness, I hold out my arms,
    palms up, I know it is impossible
    to hold for long what we love of the world,
    but look at me, is it foolish, shameful,
    arrogant to say this,
    see how the snow drifts down,
    look how happy I am.

    – Joseph Stroud
    from Of This World, Copper Canyon Press 2009


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