Happy New Year to all of you!
We got about 3-4” of wet heavy snow yesterday. This morning it was clear and cold with every branch covered with snow. The lake had swirls of snow mixed with bare ice. A blue sky and bright sunshine turned our woods into an unbelievable world. Better yet, the groomers are already out packing and tracking the ski trails.
Looking at the ice with snow on top brought the subject of slush to my mind. This is not the stuff you drink. It is what is formed when new snow lands on the frozen lake. A surprisingly small accumulation of snow adds lots of downward pressure on the ice. Eventually the ice cracks and water comes pouring up forming a layer of slush. This slush is usually insulated from the cold by a layer of dry snow. As long as that dry snow is not disturbed or blown off, the slush will not freeze. The slush does not affect the structural integrity of the ice but it does other things. For example, slush and snowmobiles do not get along well.
Many years ago we had a family with two young teenage girls staying with us during the winter. The girls really wanted to try snowmobiling. Bruce arranged for them to borrow his mother’s Polaris Playmate. For those of you unfamiliar with snowmobiles, this was one of the smallest ever made. Bruce figured the girls could drive it on the lake and not get into any trouble.
Naturally, the girls found the only pocket of slush in front of the lodge. They got stuck and panicked thinking they were going to sink into the lake. Both jumped off the machine and ran towards shore. Then they realized the machine was still running so one ran back to turn the key off! Next stop was our house where they expected to be in big trouble. Bruce just smiled as he put on his coat. They watched in horror as he walked to the machine, started it, and drove it home. Then he sat down with them and explained what had happened.
Usually getting a snowmobile out of slush is not so easy. Robert and Lee put that same Polaris in the slush in front of the lodge another winter. Bruce wasn’t home so it was my job to help get them out. It is important to realize that you cannot leave the machine in the slush. Since the insulating layer of snow is disturbed, the snowmobile and slush will freeze together. Then you have to chip it out.
I knew all this but the machine was still in a big pocket of deep slush. What we did was to turn the machine on its side and clear all the slush from the track and boogie wheels. Then we turn it on the other side and did the same thing. Next we held up the back of the track and raced the motor to spray out more slush. That slush goes all over the person holding the track up – me. Finally we tried to drive the machine out of the slush but it just bogged right back down.
Now we repeated all of the above steps. It was a very tiring and very wet process. This time, however, we brought in branches and wood to prop the machine up out of the slush. Then we made a trail through the entire slush field back to the shore. The plan was that overnight our trail would freeze into a solid ice trail. Hopefully we had cleaned the track well enough that the machine's track would not freeze up.
The next morning an apprehensive trio (the boys and I) approached the snowmobile. It started fine. With a little burst of gas, the track started turning. Whew! Now it was just a matter of driving the machine home. We were all relieved and not a little proud of ourselves for solving the problem.