Monday, December 3, 2007

Snow!! And soon an ice road

Glorious snow! We got what appeared to be about 6" or so on Saturday and with any luck at all it should stay to form a nice base for winter fun. While Lake Superior does not quite look like the above photo, taken last February in the Porcupine Mountains State Park, it will be in a couple short months. One of the more interesting phenomona on Lake Superior is the Madeline Island ice road. The ferry plies its way between Bayfield and Madeline Island on a daily basis for most of the year. Even after the lake freezes the ferry can still break about 6" or so of ice and continues to do so on its daily trip. At some point after the first of the year the ice just gets to thick. The diesels overheat and the ferry needs to take a couple of breaks in the 3 mile crossing. By then the ice is plenty thick to route the road from the Bayfield beach, launch site for many kayak expeditions to the Apostles, to the boat landing in Madeline Island. The ice road usually opens the day after the ferry quits, typically around 10 January although later the past couple of years. Sometimes, mainly in the spring breakup, a windsled is used to make the crossing.

The ice road is actually designated as an extension of Wisconsin County Highway H and your car insurance is in effect as are all other traffic long as you stay on the marked road. The road is monitored and marked with evergreen trees for when blowing snow and other nasty weather make visibility a challenge. You wouldn't want to go driving off toward Canada! Every now and then cars stray off the road and find themselves in 150' feet of water. Dragging them out is expensive and the DNR is pretty adamant about hauling a oil and gas filled car off the bottom of the lake. My friend RangerMark crosses to Madeline Island on a daily basis. A couple years back some guys ignored the signs and strayed on to some slushy ice and got stuck. They walked out to the island and when they got back to their car there was only a hole in the ice. Cars don't normally just crash through the ice; it usually takes about 10 minutes. RangerMark punched the spot into his gps as he peered down the hole on the day it happened. Good thing too, since he was the only one who did and it would have been real tough to find the vehicle in 190' of water without a good starting point.

We were remarking over breakfast that it feels like a normal winter. Snow during deer season, skim ice on the pond, and now a significant snow weeks before Christmas. If this holds up we'll all be skiing and snowshoeing before we know it. And maybe even inhaling a little chlorine at the pool now and then......


Kristen said...

I don't know whether to feel envious or grateful we don't get that kind of weather down here. Perhaps a wee bit of the former... ;)

DaveO said...

I think that with all that gear you described in your post today,you could head right up here and be perfectly comfortable!