It was brief. Although it is now written (in ink) on our calendar that the lake froze on Thanksgiving Day, it was not to be. As I had noted here previously, we woke up to a lot of ice on Thursday morning. As far as we could see to the west, it was completely covered. Across from us to Canada, and towards the east, we could still see a large lead, but even that was deceptive. Initially, the lake was so calm that the shoreline and trees were reflected in that lead. Until the snow started to fall a few hours later, it was difficult to decide if it was mirror ice or flat water. Once the flakes came and it wasn't turning white over there, we knew that it was still open.
While the south shore was frozen, a number of beings enjoyed it. The humans wisely only took a step or two, testing the thickness just a foot from shore. The animals must know something instinctively, as they ventured a bit further. In my morning walk, I saw fox tracks looping along in the bay. Past the point I found some interesting tracks and slides. I could also see some larger canine tracks. I had my own thoughts about who may have been walking along, but then our guests Sue and John filled in the picture for me. They had been fortunate to see a wolf meandering the shoreline. She had some excellent photos of him. He looked fully coated, and strong and healthy. As to the tracks and slides, she reported that they had lots of fun watching an otter make his way along in front of Birch cabin. Steps, steps, sliiiide; steps, steps, sliiiide. This little guy merrily continued that activity well past the point. Doesn't it seem like the life of an otter would be really fun? I picture them like children, giddy with the new ice on which to play.
But as I said in the beginning, it was over before it began. We didn't see any changes on Friday, and then on Saturday, the thermometer started to rise. Large black patches and streaks appeared. The ice was cracking, and water was seeping to the surface. By Saturday night, the wind was beginning to blow. In the early stages of ice formation, that is a death knell. Sure enough, by the next day, it was all gone in front of us. Here we are, back to stage one. The wind is continuing today, and the trees are once again frosted over from the moisture blowing up off the surface. For a while, I was thinking that we would have only five ice-free months on Gunflint Lake this year. But it looks like we are back to six--June through November with open waters. That's pretty average, and it's all right by me.
Bitter temperatures have accompanied the wind. The lake is definitely cold enough to freeze completely, so it is once again a matter of waiting for things to calm down. Our wind forecast only goes a few days out, and right now, it is to continue. It may be this week for a freeze, it may be next. With a fresh slate like this, it gives us another chance at skate-able ice, once it does go.