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Column: Viki Mather’s taking a few months off from walking on water

Spring is the most exciting time of the year, Sudbury.com’s longtime outdoors writer says
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(Viki Mather)

Late April is the most exciting time of the year. Such transformations to the world outside my window! Ice is leaving the lake, and it is magical.

Still, it is with mixed emotions that I watch the ice fade away. Ice on the lake gives me freedom. When the ice is good, I can go anywhere. For nearly four months, I have done just that. The ice was thick and safe. And now it is not. 

I am a student of the ice. I watch with rapt interest as it freezes in December. I make notes as to which part of the lake froze when because how the lake freezes correlates closely to how it will melt. 

If the lake freezes in many stages, so it will melt at different times. When we get a fast freeze as we did this winter, the melt tends to be even. This is reassuring as I walk on it every day in April.

No one else has ventured onto the ice for more than a week. But I have. How else can I learn the secrets of its life?

On Friday of last week, there was lots of ice. I stepped easily across a foot of open water at the shore onto more than a foot of ice.  Eight inches of that ice was clear, solid ice. The top four inches was frozen slush. I took my bicycle with me and rode to the north. I wanted to see the narrows, the outlet, the trail to the north, the islands to the south.  

Water flows at the narrows all winter long.  A shallow section of lake a hundred feet long stays open through the coldest nights.  On Friday, more than a 100 yards of lake had opened. I stayed well back from the water’s edge. The outlet had even more open water, but I was able to step onto a shaded shore some distance away and walk on land to watch the stream splash its way to the little pond.

I might have been able to get across the thin ice at the edge to walk the trail to the north, but I had more things to see, places to go on the ice. On the eastern shore, a small stream flows noisily down a steep hill. There I did step across the narrow water gap. The sun shone warmly on the bedrock of the pond at the top of the stream. A reminder that it was time to get back on the bike before the surface of the lake turned back to slush.

I biked for nearly three hours, exploring the shore, making notes of where the ice was good, and where it was gone. Some islands kept lots of ice between them, and other places had been open for weeks.

I might not be so bold on a lake I did not know. It’s only because of the decades of study of my home lake that I feel so comfortable exploring so late in the season. It is just so beautiful, so captivating, so magical.  

Viki Mather has been commenting for Northern Life on the natural world and life in Greater Sudbury since the spring of 1984. Got a question or idea for Viki? Send an email to editor@sudbury.com.

Viki Mather has been commenting for Northern Life on the natural world and life in Greater Sudbury since the spring of 1984. Got a question or idea for Viki? Send an email to editor@sudbury.com.

Ed. Note: Watch the comments below, readers, as Ms Mather plans to provide regular ice condtion updates in the comment thread.



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