I live in Arizona. Southern Arizona. Winters are mild. February is mild. In Tucson, in most years, it will get down to about 28°F. Once a decade or so it gets down to about 18°F. My two youngest daughters swim—indoors—for the University of Wyoming. There, any day in February that gets up to 28°F is a good day. Pleasant and balmy, if not for the shrieking wind. The Mountain West Conference currently holds its championships in Minneapolis. In winter. In February. We knew it would be cold. The hotel is indoors and so is the pool, but it is outdoors between the two. For our daughter Kristen, it’s like Wyoming at low altitude: similar temperature with a lot more oxygen. But coming from Tucson, it’s like stepping through the wardrobe to the Lantern Waste:
The first couple days were toothache-inducing cold, like this, so I did not venture out much except to actually go watch Kristen race:
One neat thing about downtown Minneapolis is that they have an extensive enclosed skyway system that connects a huge number of buildings to each other; you can walk through most of downtown, it seems, without ever going down to street level or venturing outside. (One word of caution: from what this out-of-town visitor could see, there are no public restrooms anywhere to be found in this extensive network. So, while Minnehaha may not mean laughing waters in the Dakota language after all, it could very well mean laughing at your waters.) We enjoyed being able to walk to restaurants and get some exercise without having to venture outdoors. There are even some nice views from within the skyway:
I always enjoy walking around city downtowns and taking pictures of the buildings; there is always such interesting light and shadow and reflections. I regret that I didn’t do more of that and plan to next year, assuming that the coronapocalypse has passed. Even with the limited time I spent outdoors downtown, I did get a few pictures that I enjoy:
This last picture was a quick iPhone snap while waiting for the light rail train to arrive. It was a little warmer that day, in contrast to our first foray using the train on the -8°F morning mentioned earlier. The train platform was only a block away from the hotel, but that first morning it was a brutally cold one block walk through the wind and shade between buildings. Unfortunately, I had to take my gloves off to fish out my credit card and buy tickets. The true tragedy, however, was that while the green line train showed up only a few minutes later, the sign at the train station assumed that I knew whether the East Bank station was in the same direction as the St. Paul end of the line or not, so I let the correct (not to mention enclosed and heated) train come and go unboarded and had to wait an extra ten minutes for the next one.
It was so cold that my face hurt. They have push-button activated heaters overhead on the platforms, but when its -8°F they only raise the temperature around the very top of your head to about -6°F. Ironically, you have to lower your hood to feel that meager warmth but then you don’t feel your ears, at least not in a good way. Why the heaters are so high I cannot imagine; do they really expect that the Timberwolves will ride the light rail to their games like the fans? I will admit, however, that the trains—unlike parking—are inexpensive and come every ten minutes very reliably and even run all night (although a little less frequently) so you never have to worry about missing the last train and being stranded on a platform in Minneapolis in February and becoming a human ice sculpture; the problem, of course, with being an ice sculpture in Minneapolis in February is that ice sculptures are abundant and no one may notice until mid-April when you start to thaw out and attract flies. All in all, it’s a nice system: you can also ride the train to Minnehaha Park (which I did), the Mall of America (which I didn’t), and the airport (which I will next year).
During those first couple frigid and hotel-bound days, I enjoyed looking out of our twelfth-floor windows at the city beyond and below. It think the original windows of the hotel were single-paned units and at some time since an extra window was inserted inside of the original to make a pseudo double-paned affair. The space between the windows was obviously not perfectly sealed from either the outside or the inside or both because there was moisture between them that had frozen in elaborate sheets of crystals on the inside of the outside pane. Since our window faced northwest, the winter morning sun hit the near side of the buildings opposite, at least those that were not in shadow from our building or others behind us. So, if you looked through the window at the right angle towards the right building at the right moment, the ice crystals were nicely backlit like the picture at the top of this post, and this one:
After a few days, the weather was striving to reach a high of 40°F, so I ventured down to Minnehaha Park for a few hours on Saturday afternoon. It seemed like half of Minneapolis was out enjoying the mild weather: walking dogs, pushing strollers, and climbing over barricades to clamber down ice-covered walkways to sneak down to the base of frozen Minnehaha Falls:
The big reason that people go to all of this effort and risk the infrequent fines is to see this spectacular ice curtain:
According to social media, the ice curtain is particularly spectacular when viewed from behind, but occasionally those massive sheets of ice break free without warning, hence the barricades and fines. Clearly, a lot of people ignore the warnings; there was even one couple that was trying to squeeze in a last-minute maternity portrait session:
The icy path down to this area really did look pretty treacherous, and this woman was eight months pregnant if she was a day. I am willing to bet she was wearing heels, too.
Rather than break out the crampons, I spent some time photographing the ice and flowing water along the creek above the falls and am happy with the results:
On my way back from the falls towards the train station, I loitered a while to photograph some of the trees that looked like they were enjoying the warm afternoon sun. These have a very different feel from the colder photographs of the water and ice near the falls:
Despite the brutal cold spell early during my visit, the weather was otherwise nice and I quite enjoyed the trip. Now that I am more familiar with how to get around (and which direction to take which train), I am looking forward to visiting again next February, when I plan to spend more time walking outside taking urban photographs downtown. I may even extend the trip a day or two.