Mary Beth Writes

By the way, HAPPY HALLOWEEN today! 

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10/31/2022   Fata Morgana

A beautiful little hike on planet earth is the Houghton Falls trail just north of Washburn on Bayfield Peninsula. It’s a relatively easy path through woods, much on walkways, but it surprises as you suddenly come along a gorge that falls away on your right. The gorge is called Echo Dells and you can take stairs down into it. The trail itself continues to a rocky cliff overlooking Lake Superior. Although this isn’t a complicated or strenuous trail, I do advise crampons on your shoes or boots because there are mild inclines that tend to be icy. I did parts of this hike on my butt one year; we bought the crampons in Washburn after that hike and they are a good idea for people who don’t want to do free osteoporosis tests (falling).

We were the first people to this trailhead on our Ashland trip two weeks ago. The trees were in their whoop-whoop glory of reds and golds and burgundies and it had been snowing a bit all night and still was. It was so beautiful that cold morning!

So, lovely little hike in a nice place, quiet morning, pretty leaves. Nothing here to utterly knock your socks off, right? Well, we eventually got to the Lake Superior overlook which is here.

Len was looking through the binoculars when he realized that blue line in the distance was not an island. It was a mirage of the trees from an island below the horizon.

We tried to take photos but they are not as clear as what we saw through the binoculars. The image was an entire wavery misty pine forest floating along the lake as far as we could see.   

This photo he took later in the day on Chequamegon Bay shows more clearly the phenomenon we were seeing.

In case you as scientifically challenged as I am, this is more or less what’s going on. The weather had turned cold very quickly; the air was much colder than the water. Rays of light bend when they pass through air layers of different temperatures. A layer of significantly colder or warmer air can form an atmospheric duct (literally a long “tube” of air right above the horizon) that acts as a refracting lens which reflects images from below the horizon.

This phenomenon has the cool name of Fata Morgana. It refers to the Arthurian sorceress "Morgan the Fairy” as in, what you are seeing are Fairy Castles in the air.

There are many stories (Fata Morgana, Wikipedia) of early explorers turning around because of mirage mountains or sailing towards lands that didn’t exist. The mysterious Flying Dutchman is the ship that sails the seas forever and is undoubtedly a mirage ship seen by sailors. 

That was a good adventure. We went not knowing exactly what we would see and that is exactly what we saw.

 

                                                                                                                      

Comments

Thank you for the explanation of something I've seen many times. A Magical name for a magical phenomenon. Your hike looks like it was pretty Magical, too!

Gorgeous pictures. I’ll pass on the free osteoporosis testing. Ha Your adventure sounds like it was fun!

Beautiful!!! Thank you...

Great pictures!

Great pictures!

Too cool! Amazing photograph, Len! I am truly and unduly impressed!

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