Thursday, March 19, 2009
More ice fun
I think this is my third ice related post of the season and I promise it will be the last. Unless of course, something unusually noteworthy or stupid occurs and I can't help myself. Those of you in warmer climes probably don't understand the fascination that we northerners have with the water when it becomes solid. In addition to cooling your Irish whisky and keeping your beer cold, it can provide a means to catch fish without a boat, cause damage to bodily parts when you fall on it (ankle is about 75% back, thanks for asking), and allow you to go places it would be impossible to reach in the summer. The latter is what popped into my head when I read RangerBob's post about the Madeline Island residents who formed a caravan and drove out to Devils Island last weekend.
It sounded like a great time. Beer and brats on the ice with about 60 participants on a nice sunny day. In contrast to the guys in Ohio who jumped the large crack to get out to fish, this expedition was a bit more carefully planned and executed. These folks have to deal with ice travel as a daily fact of life for about a third of the year and generally have a good feel for it. Right now there is roughly a yard (or meter) of solid ice around most of the Apostles. From Bayfield to the Devils Island light is 22 miles and its roughly the same from LaPointe on Madeline Island. Had I known about this trip I would have most certainly blown off Canoecopia and headed for the park. My hat is off to the organizers of this adventure. I can only hope RangerBob is able to track down some photos from the event. His blog post has some excellent images taken by a Coast Guardsman stationed there in the 1960's.
According to NOAA, the maxium ice cover on Superior this season was on March 3rd. The sat photo of the entire lake was taken on that day. Normally the lake freezes over completely every 20 years but it was frozen pretty much solid in 2003 so we are a bit ahead of that schedule. Maybe some of those wolves on Isle Royale can return to the mainland via the same route they took out there in the 1940's. We even have a back up Coast Guard icebreaker headed our way from its home port in Maine for the start of the shipping season. The Thunder Bay will be joining the other three USCG icebreakers that are working to bust out shipping lanes for the 'opener' the end of this month. You can watch the Alder breaking ice in Duluth Harbor here. Warmer weather and winds from the south and southwest typically move the ice around and help break it up faster. It will be interesting to hear when the ice road to Madeline Island closes this year and the wind sleds come out. Who knows, it could be a record year.
Canoecopia gave me the paddling fever but its still not too late to play on the ice. Like anything outdoors however, a bit of planning, risk analysis, and 'what if' planning is essential. The mud season is upon us down here in the Twin Cities but, as a number of the SKOAC Renegades that are heading north to ski this weekend can attest, winter ain't quite over yet around Lake Superior.
P.S. As a followup to an earlier post, our buddies in Madison are blissfully moving forward with their stringent ballast water regulations. Gov. Jim ".08" Doyle is very proud of the state new permit program. Unfortunately for folks in the Port of Superior, all it likely will do is cause ships to dock in Duluth on the other side of the harbor. Then we have that pesky 'kid pissing in one end of the pool' problem. The one mildly positive item in the article stated that the Obama administration was having the EPA look into the water quality issue. Now maybe if they talk with Canada as well something constructive can be done. In the meantime, fine job Gov. Doyle! You've developed standards that no existing technology can meet and should be able to drive international trade out of Wisconsin's ports when the permit system goes into place.