Gunflint Lake froze over on the 26th. It is one of the latest freeze times we have even seen. As a result the lake ice is still not safe. In fact there have not been a lot of really cold temperatures, so we are not making ice fast. Everyone is very nervous about people trying to go on the ice.
Lee had a scare just the other day. One of our guests decided to go ice fishing without saying anything to us at the lodge. Lee saw him just as he was walking out onto the ice and quickly stopped the guest.
Several years ago Eric Thompson at Borderland (now Moosehorn) saw a snowmobile go out from the bridge onto thin ice. The machine and man went through. Quickly thinking on Eric’s part saved the man. Eric laid out a long extension ladder on the ice and crawled out to help the man. I don’t know that I would have had the courage to do that.
Even when the ice is “safe,” it is still possible to go through. As the air temperature changes, the ice expands and contracts. At the coldest temperatures the ice expands until the only way left is up. We will hear a loud bang as a pressure ridge explodes. These ridges can be 5’ high.
Many years ago Charlie Cook, our Native American neighbor, came over to warn us of a pressure ridge. This one had exploded down rather than up leaving a patch of open water. Overnight the open water skimmed over with ice but it was nowhere near safe. Because the lake was “safely” covered with ice, no one was expecting thin ice. Without Charlie’s warning, someone could have easily gone through.
When we look at a lake covered with ice, it is difficult for us to remember that ice is not a static thing. It is continually changing due to the air temperatures, snow load, and unseen currents. Even in the coldest part of winter, it is important to know exactly what you are getting into when you journey across a frozen lake.
As a boy Bruce went through the ice right in front of the lodge. He was quickly pulled out and hurried up the hill to his mother’s house. By the time he had made the 150’ trip, his clothes were so frozen that they had to be cut off. Bruce said it was the coldest he had ever been in his life.