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Mather: Spring’s arrival, canoe gets wet and the magical sight of open water

Exploring the water, freshly free of ice

May 11 saw the last of the ice on our lake. I woke at dawn to a perfectly calm day. Then tried to go back to sleep. Dawn is way too early this time of year. My eyes kept opening just a sliver, and I could see that glassy lake, beckoning.

I gathered all the things needed to get out floating on the lake again; canoe and paddle, PFD, bailer and throw rope, an extra paddle and an extendible grabber to pick up flotsam and jetsam. And my canoeing cup. Icy cold water dipped right from the lake is a joy.

I needed to wear rubber boots to get to the dock for launching the canoe. Water levels are as high as I’ve ever seen. But the high water won’t last. In just a week or so, the water will naturally drop to the perfect level for the dock.

Islands of ice floated near the far shore. As I approached, I could see that new ice had formed all around the old ice. Great long crystals of Jack Frost ice has grown through the night. By morning, there was more ice on the lake than the night before. Such a magical sight, so beautiful I wanted to float among the ice floes forever. I didn’t want to break the crystals by paddling through so I took a longer route all around the edges.

Over near the far shore a beaver swam silently along, leaving only the ‘V’ of her wake in the water. Beavers! I’d forgotten about the beavers. All winter long they made a life inside their little lodge and swimming under two feet of ice. What joy must be in their little hearts at the opportunity to swim with their heads above water again!

With the water being so high, I thought I’d paddle through a little swamp that splits the island on the far shore. Ice filled the bay at the entrance to the swamp. Old ice, still two inches thick had packed in tight. The overnight chill had hardened it well beyond my ability to break through. 

I went north instead. Back out to the big part of the lake where another large flow drifted slowly. Same long icy crystals surrounded the old ice. Like an island, the ice floe had little inlets and long peninsulas. 

The first loon of the lake floated silently in one of the icy bays. It watched me as I watched it. I cooed quietly to the loon. It ignored me. I got distracted by the beauty of the ice, and the loon disappeared.

Sun high in the sky by now, I headed back home for breakfast.

Viki Mather has been commenting for Northern Life on the natural world and life in Greater Sudbury since the spring of 1984.