Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The Saga of Ice

Just like your families, Christmas and New Year’s have now come and gone for our Gunflint family. We have had time to remember how much there is to be thankful for.  Let's hope we can remember this for more than a few days.

The cabins at the lodge have been filled to overflowing. I counted and for one week we have only four nights open in all the cabins. The dining room has been equally busy. After a huge breakfast buffet this morning, there was a family driving by looking for lunch at 11:15. A short bit of waiting with coffee and cookies and lunch was on their table.

The last few days have been clear and cold. It was -7 at our house this morning. While the lake is frozen, we have not tested it yet. To be cautious, we are asking everyone to stay off the lake. It is probably safe to walk right along the edge but that is as far as we go.

Don hopes to get out to test the ice in a couple of days. He puts on a dry suit. We tie a 50 foot rope around his waist kind of like a dog lease. Out he goes to drill holes every 50 to 100 feet. I follow holding on to the lease and with a radio in my other had. Of course, I don’t really need the radio because everyone is watching us from the lodge windows. Sheryl will take a picture for next week.

As I have been home this afternoon, the sky has clouded over. The weather forecast is for 70% chance of snow. Everyone is ready for it. A foot would be perfect but even 6 inches would work. The clouds have also warmed things up. We already have 10 degrees above zero. That may not sound like much in your part of the country but it is almost a heat wave up here. It also brings snow. Keep your fingers crossed!

One of the interesting things about winter is to watch the changes in the ice. As you know, the colder it gets, the more the ice expands. The shoreline keeps it from going out too far. Eventually the pressure builds up so much that a pressure ridge explodes across the ice. It can sound like rumbling or like a shot. Right now we have a pressure ridge that is horseshoe shaped from our side of the lake to the west and then going down the northern shoreline of the lake. It is clearly visible from the lodge.

All of this will disappear if we get snow. A new development will occur. That light, fluffy snow will push down on the lake so hard that fine cracks will appear in the ice beneath the snow. Water from the lake will flood the snow creating slush. There will still be dry snow on top to keep the slush from freezing. Eventually the unwary skier, snowshoer or snowmobiler will venture into this covered slush and get wet all the way up the leg. The insulating snow is disturbed and the slush will quickly freeze. If this happens with a snowmobile, you have mere hours to get it out before the machine freezes in.

So we will look tomorrow to see what happens. I’ll write next week more in the saga of ice.

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