The mud month is officially here in the north country. Other than the massive piles of dirty gray snow at the ends of parking lots, we are pretty much in the snow free, sloppy brown mode. Things are much the same in northern Wisconsin, as we discovered on our trip this weekend. Our timber sale is completed but spring thaw weight restrictions on the roads have left lots of wood sitting on the landings until the roads dry out. North flowing creeks are delivering millions of gallons of snow melt tinged with red clay into the big lake and the water had a red ochre color for at least a half mile out into the lake, with the break from the crystal clear water clearly visible from shore.
The normal plan for this St Pat's party weekend, hosted by the WoodFondling Barrister, is to ski on Saturday, take a power nap to build stamina, and then eat corned beef and cabbage while listening to quality music through a soft mist of Bushmills Irish whiskey. The plan changed when Saturday dawned with 50F temps, mashed potato snow conditions, and a drizzle. We took a trip down to Saxon Harbor to see the new marina expansion that Federal stimulus money purchased. Due to the fog we could only see about 50 yards out into the lake and a bunch of ice had blown into the shore. Rumor was that the herring and coho had been biting the week before but the ice looked very shaky and no fisherman were present. We then tried to hike down to the falls on the Montreal River but the trail was so slippery we feared we might be in the raging river. This left bar stool warming in Saxon, WI as the only viable form of entertainment in the area. The Saxon Pub was deemed a bit more 'light' on a number of levels and was chosen over the Bear Trap, Don's, the Driftwood, and Harbor Lights. This faciliated the power nap much more readily than the skiing did, and the rest of the day went as planned.
Sunday was a different story however. Once we descended Birch Hill on US 2 toward Ashland, the sun came out and temps were in the 50-60F range. People were out running and cycling in shorts and the ice fisherman in the photo (sorry about the cell phone image) were hugging the edge of the open water. We drove along the lake and most of the south shore it open and could be paddled. This realization, combined with the loss of snow cover, put my brain firmly in kayak season. I'm thinking that next weekend a guy could pull on the dry suit, break out the neoprene gloves and hood, and do some playing in the big lake.
I didn't make Canoecopia this year and that's what normally gets me in the paddle mode mentally. Seeing open water in my favorite kayak playground however, drove home the point that the season is here for those of us that have the gear for it. Even though I didn't make it to Madison and my wallet stayed in my pocket, I am officially ready to hit the water.