The Playground in the Front Yard

At some point each winter, we have a thaw that melts away the snow on top of the lake ice.  This happened earlier this year, in February, and for a few days the lake was very wet.  Once the colder weather returned, the surface re-froze on top of the thicker ice below.  Not a lot of snow has fallen since then, and when it has, the wind has taken care of sweeping it off the ice.  The end result is an amazing surface on the lake that provides a playground of sorts. 

From my view in the lodge, I can see some white patcheson the ice, and lots of grey swaths.  I can also see (and hear) lots of traffic.  Not only are there snowmobiles and four-wheelers traversing the lake, we also have been seeing trucks and cars.  You may recall my post of a few days ago, with the Volkswagen beetle just off of our point.  Sometimes it feels a bit like a mini-rush hour out there, as the vehicles head back from their eastern fishing spots at the end of the day.  But I wanted a closer look at things, so I took a walk out there to take a few photos.  Here is a gallery of some of the sights from the flattest stretch of earth we can find up here right now.

The Roar of the Lion

As the old saying tells us, March either comes in like a lion or a lamb, and reverses that when departing.  But what does it mean when the lion starts to roar loudly several days into the month?

The weather early on was moderate, cloudy and quiet.  Perhaps the lion was lurking in the shadows, lulling me into thinking that the pattern of grey would continue.  But on Monday night, the change began with a thunderstorm, bringing rain and lightning, too.  It was really eerie and cool at the same time, to watch the flashes play out against the snowy backdrop, so unlike our summer storms.  Then the winds began, and have barely let up since then.

We had need to be in town on Tuesday, and we had the good fortune to witness the kind of waves on Lake Superior that we usually only hear about after the fact.  It was so amazing! I felt like we were seeing an inland ocean, sending up its very best show.  Though there wasn't much time for photos, I did attempt to take a few.  It isn't easy to hold the camera still when being blasted by gusts and spray.  Not to mention the fact that it was cold!  I have a new admiration for the stellar local photographers that we have.  They truly are dedicated to spending time in those conditions, in order to achieve the magnificent shots that they get. 

Since then, the wind has continued, though from a different direction.  The skies are clear as can be, and the March sun is shining down and warming us up.  We got fresh snow, and the trails have been groomed once again.  So dress warm and get outside, as these days will disappear in a hurry.

A Bug Sighting in Winter

This past Sunday, Gunflint Lake was the place to be for the annual trout derby.  This event is hosted by the local snowmobile club, the Cook County Ridge Riders.  Fishermen and women descend on the lake, fanning out to favorite places in search of trout willing to take the bait.  The bigger the fish, the better, as you might win a prize.  Most of the activity is near the public access, but we often see people setting up near our point.  We also see plenty of traffic headed down towards the east end.  This year was no exception.   

Most folks travel by snowmobile, but given the warm weather of a few weeks ago, the ice conditions currently allow for car and truck travel as well.  When I headed out to clean one of the cabins, this is what I saw, just out from Cedar Point cabin.

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This was a first for me to see.  A bug on the ice!  I looked closer, and realized that it was probably my nephew Cassidy out there, so I took a stroll out to say hello.  One of the fellows was busy working the jig on the end of his line, and I admired the trout that he already had on the ice.  He said that he had barely cleared the hole of ice and dropped down his line before that one bit.  It was a lucky day for him, as that fish ended up in second place and he took home a portable ice house!  Nice to know that our point still produces some good fish. 

Trout season is open until the end of the month. Recent reports tell me that there is at least eighteen inches of ice to drill through.  That means that there is still plenty of time to come up and wet a line.  You might win the prize of a tasty meal to bring home!

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Spring's Arrival

From there to here, we have come full circle and are once again in springtime.  If I think in calendar terms, it was only five weeks ago that my front room view was this. 

 April 8, 2016

April 8, 2016

Now, in mid-May, we can once again see the north shore, and the lake is open, but if you look closely, you can still see a bit of snow on the rooftop.

April 14, 2016

 While we enjoyed temperatures in the mid sixties recently, with one blip up to eighty, we are once again back in a more familiar range.  It was about 28 degrees this morning, and I can only imagine that it was a bit chillier than that when fishing officially opened at midnight.  Greg said that he heard one boat go down the lake last evening, and it looked to be loaded with camping equipment.  Kudos to the hearty souls that carry on the tradition of staying on the islands and in the shoreline campsites.  In the past, we would have several cars and trucks parked here for folks who wanted to be as close to the good fishing spots as possible.

On my recent trip to Fairbanks, I got to see spring arrive.  Snow was still in piles and patches throughout our son's property,  In fact, Addie got to go dogsledding one morning with Robert's wife Amanda.  They loaded up the dogs and sleds and drove a short ways to the mountains.  She said it was an awesome experience.  I stayed up there for two weeks more, and in that time, the snow melted away, mud season came, and the leaves all budded out and popped on the trees.  It was amazing to see it happen in such a short stretch.  I came back at the beginning of May, and now two weeks in, the buds are still holding tight in most places on our property. Here and there I see a brushstroke of chartreuse on the tree tops, but then the cold wind blows again.  My poor tulips (all three of them) are trying hard to open up and be cheerful! 

With the mailing of my postcards yesterday, I promised that I would tell the story of what inspired our ice out card for this year.  Each winter, we watch the lake cool off on a daily basis, and we wonder if the ice will form in a fashion that will allow for some ice skating.  Greg and the kids enjoy getting out there when it is possible.  (I gave up skating many years ago--my ankles ache at the thought of it!)  Some years back, the whole lake froze overnight, right before Christmas Day.  Greg, Paul and Addie were out there as soon as it was just thick enough, and one of the best parts was that the ice not only felt like glass, it looked like it, too.  If you missed seeing my Christmas card the next year, we sent it with a link to the movie that Greg put together.  You can see that here: Skating the Mirror Ice

This year was a different freeze-up than I recall seeing before.  The west half froze several days before the eastern part.  The line ran roughly from our point, northwest to the Canadian shore.  Ice to the west, wide open water to the east.  Once Greg deemed it safe, he was out there skating each day. We never know how long skateable ice will last before a snowfall comes to cover it all up.  In this case, the window was short.  And at that, the area available to skate was fairly small.  

On one adventure, the west wind was blowing quite hard.  Greg skated a ways into it, then turned around and headed east, the wind at his back.  As he glided along, he noticed movement to his left.  He looked over to see an otter not twenty feet away, traveling in the same direction.  Greg sped up a bit, and sure enough, the otter followed suit.  So Greg increased his speed yet again, aware that not far ahead was the end point for him, where the ice stopped and the open water began.  The otter cruised along, too, keeping up the pace.  Greg stopped before the edge, but the otter did not.  He kept right on going, and slipped easily into the water.  Soon, he popped his head up to look and see where Greg was, and if he had jumped in, too.  Greg said that it was like the otter was thinking, "C'mon!  What's wrong with you, buddy?"  In the absence of a camera, Greg just had to fully enjoy the moment and share the memory with us.  He said that he thinks the otter was not afraid of him, since it was willing to run so closely to him.  Otters are such playful little creatures, he probably just really enjoyed having another being out there to enjoy the new ice with him.  Such a rare experience!

So hats off to a new season!  More adventures lie ahead for all of us, people and otters alike.