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Heavy snow at Custer State Park.
Heavy snow at Custer State Park.
Winter sunset at Salem Lutheran in rural Hutchinson County.
Winter sunset at Salem Lutheran in rural Hutchinson County.
Sunset light coloring a snow drift.
Sunset light coloring a snow drift.
Winter sunset in rural McCook County.
Winter sunset in rural McCook County.
Winter sunset in rural Union County.
Winter sunset in rural Union County.
Red-breasted woodpecker at Good Earth State Park.
Red-breasted woodpecker at Good Earth State Park.
Black-capped chickadee at Good Earth State Park.
Black-capped chickadee at Good Earth State Park.
Winter sunset in Minnehaha County.
Winter sunset in Minnehaha County.
Winter evening on the farm.
Winter evening on the farm.
Meltwater icefall at Palisades State Park.
Meltwater icefall at Palisades State Park.
Snowfall at Palisades State Park.
Snowfall at Palisades State Park.
Snowfall in the sumac patch at Palisades State Park.
Snowfall in the sumac patch at Palisades State Park.
Snowfall at Palisades State Park.
Snowfall at Palisades State Park.
Sundogs behind an ice-encrusted fence line near Wall Lake.
Sundogs behind an ice-encrusted fence line near Wall Lake.
Sundogs behind an ice-encrusted fence line near Wall Lake.
Sundogs behind an ice-encrusted fence line near Wall Lake.
Sunrise sundogs above Falls Park in Sioux Falls.
Sunrise sundogs above Falls Park in Sioux Falls.
Sunrise sundogs above Falls Park in Sioux Falls.
Sunrise sundogs above Falls Park in Sioux Falls.
Brilliant morning sundogs just west of Sioux Falls.
Brilliant morning sundogs just west of Sioux Falls.

Frozen in Time

Feb 13, 2019

Winter around these parts isn’t for the faint of heart. I don’t know about my fellow South Dakotans, but the last month and a half has been a struggle for me. The cold feels colder than it should. I think my truck’s heater is on the fritz, and it’s not especially great timing for that. Personally, the old internal gas gauge feels like it is constantly hovering around a quarter tank and leaking. Work has been, well, a lot of work, and when I’m not earning my bread I want to sit or hibernate. I never thought I’d be jealous of a wild grizzly, but you have to admit, that long winter’s nap has some upside. To fight off the winter doldrums, I forced myself to layer up and go for a couple of winter hikes. The challenge of finding beauty while your eyebrows feel as if they are about to freeze and fall to the ground can be exhilarating … among other things.

Sundogs have been out quite a bit this winter. One of the best displays I saw was at dawn during the polar vortex event we had in late January. I’ve never been to Falls Park in Sioux Falls when there wasn’t another soul there, but that isn’t true anymore. I guess a guy must be some kind of nut to take in the park’s rugged beauty in 35-below wind chill. The sunrise sundog display was worth it, until that brutal winter cold hit me the next day. In the midst of an all-day sneezing fit and into my second box of Kleenex, I wondered if I maybe I should have skipped that photo shoot. Oh well.

On one gray weekend there was a pretty good snowfall happening, so I donned long johns and coveralls and headed to Palisades State Park to catch some winter beauty amongst the Sioux Quartzite cliffs. Again, I was alone in the cold park. I read somewhere that a walk in the woods is therapeutic, both physically and mentally. Trudging through the snowfall and hunkering down by a sliver of water running along the icy edge was just that — soothing, calming and good for the soul.

Later in the week, the weather warmed enough to rain — and was immediately followed by another cold spell. Ice formed on grass, fence lines and fence posts. I caught a faint sundog sunset with the ice after work. It was a lovely 10 below zero with a pleasant 15 mph breeze from the northwest. My face felt the brunt of the 30-below wind chill. Soon the sun was gone beyond the horizon. I re-gloved my hand, hoping the feeling would return to my fingers as I made my way back to the truck and out of the wind. The heater struggled to keep up, but home and a hot bowl of soup were a mere 10 minutes away, so I had nothing to truly complain about. Winter has a way of bringing out the grouch in me, but if I try hard enough there is always some beauty to be found out in this weather. Even so, the most beautiful thing to me is that it won’t last forever. Those perfect June evenings will feel all the more wonderful after this frigid winter.

Christian Begeman grew up in Isabel and now lives in Sioux Falls. When he's not working at Midco he is often on the road photographing South Dakota’s prettiest spots. Follow Begeman on his blog.

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