Lake Walking in Late Winter

Lake Walking in Late WinterThis is the warmest winter ever. I’ve become so used to temperatures hovering around the freezing point that it seems really cold on those few days when the temperature is ‘normal’. Snowfall was moderate around the lake until the early days of March. Unlike southern Ontario, up north we still have plenty of snow to keep us happily skiing, snowshoeing and sometimes just hiking.

Before the heavy snowfall last week, I set out across the lake without snowshoes. I thought it would be easy enough to walk on the ice. There were just five to ten centimetres of snow, I thought. Turns out it was more like 15 cm in most places. A little deeper in others. Ah well. It was an effort to slog through this snow, but not so much that I needed to go back home to get the snowshoes. Was it?

The first 20 minutes were the hardest, then I got into the rhythm and plodded along. By leading each step with my toe, my boot slipped easily through the layers of snow. Half a kilometer out, someone had been by on a snow machine so I walked on its track for the next half kilometer. The track turned north, but I was going east so it was back into the soft snow again. By then I was well warmed up, and there wasn’t much difference between walking in the track or the loose snow.

The afternoon was unusually quiet. No ravens, no chickadees, no squirrels. Just me out in the middle of the big lake. Then I heard the tiniest little crunch, just a second before my boot broke through a thin layer of ice. Ahhhhh!  But just for a split second. A little adrenaline in the bloodstream is good for you now and then.

There’s lots of ice on the lake. There just happens to be a layer of slush on top of that ice in a few places, and a thin layer of ice on top of the slush, with a thick layer of snow on top of that. I crunched through 30 cm of snow/ice/slush for a few more steps. Then it was back to just snow, then slush again, and snow once more.

My goal was to walk around the big island. The snow got deeper when I cut through the little swampy bit. My thoughts turned to summer. When the water level is high, I can paddle through this narrows. Now I slogged through knee-deep snow. Maybe I should have brought the snowshoes.

Along the western shore of this big island there is a narrow peninsula. Thinking again of last summer when I paddled here, I decided to walk over the land to the swampy bit on the other side. That’s something I couldn’t do in summer!

Snow under the trees was easy to walk through, but once I hit the swampy bit it wasn’t easy any more. With each step I sank thigh deep into the snow. I’ve watched moose dance through snow deeper than this. I wished I had their grace. No matter. The snow was mostly soft. I muddled my way through, then delighted once again at the ease of walking through a mere 15 cm of snow on the lake.

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