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home : outdoors : outdoors
February 21, 2019

5/11/2018 7:24:00 AM
the lake where you live
All is forgiven
Ted Rulseh
Columnist

Last Friday night, May 4, I was like a kid on Christmas Eve, waiting for Santa. The gift: ice-out on Birch Lake.

As it happened, Santa didn't come. I'd been hopeful because on that warm and windy Friday, by sunset, the lake had opened from the north shore to almost halfway across the main bowl. To no surprise, though, cooler night air set progress back to just about zero. In the morning the lake looked about the same as when I went to bed.

What a winter it had been - the worst in my lifetime. Two feet of snow still on the ground at the end of March, and then nine inches, six more, another three, and the final blow, 17 inches on the weekend of April 14-15. After that came Monday and Tuesday, temperatures in the 20s, a little more snow still maddeningly drifting down.

So here we were past mid-April, the fishing season opener just a shade more than two weeks off, and the lake under three feet of snow and, most likely, two-and-a-half feet of solid ice. Those middle days of April I walked outside head down, grumbling at every step. I'd seen colder winters, maybe a few with more snow, but none that persisted so hard and so long.

Would the ice be out by May 5, the first day of fishing season? It seemed impossible. Would it stay until mid-month? Until Memorial Day? That all depended on the weather.

And then the miracle happened. Suddenly the 10-day forecast called for a string of days not in the 30s or low 40s, but the mid- to upper 50s, and sunny besides. Then came predictions of days in the 60s, even some in the 70s.

The sunlight went to work first on the snow, melting it off our rooftops, our property, and the lake, all at a pleasing pace. I came to regard watching snow melt as a most satisfying pastime. By around May 1, the lake ice was looking deep blue with a matte finish, a sure sign of ice rapidly deteriorating.

On a trip to town on May 3, I noticed a couple of smaller lakes I passed either partly or completely open. That very evening Sand Lake, across the road from us, opened almost all the way; from a neighbor's house I saw a loon on the water, then heard its call.

The next afternoon on Birch Lake I spotted open water in patterns like rivers coursing through a landscape, and on the opposite side ice receding from the shore. Just before sunset I thought I saw a loon, though it was too far away to verify, even with binoculars.

On Saturday, a lovely 70 degrees, the ice kept melting, until by evening well over half the lake was clear. It would have been possible after all to fish on opening day. A few brave souls installed their piers that afternoon. Ours went in on Monday; we launched the pontoon boat on Thursday.

Winter stayed too long, it's true. But it's definitely, emphatically over. The warm season is here. All is forgiven. Well, mostly.

Ted Rulseh, who lives on Birch Lake in Harshaw, is the author of "The Lake Where You Live," a blog where readers can learn about the lakes they love - the history, geology, biology, chemistry, physics, magic, charm. Visit lakewhereyoulive.blogspot.com. Ted may be reached at trulseh@tjrcommunications.com.





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