And the winner of the ice guessing contest is: alas, nobody!
Well, that was a short-lived "ice out" contest! On Saturday, April 3rd, the ice went out of East Bearskin Lake. Bob watched it go and as always, it was an amazing event to watch. Of course, Bob and Quinn have already paddled all over on the lake.
We didn't have an "ice out" guess that came even close. I thought I was being radically aggressive in my own early "ice out" prediction of April 15. Most people chose dates in late April or early May, often optimistially pushing the "ice out" date a couple days earlier than the typical May 8th. Then there was Shane Mossman, who suggested July 24th. That seemed about as probable as April 3rd, honestly.
One of Bearskin's regular fans, Catherine Woods, watched the ice go out on camera Satuday. She didn't get the usual forewarning we generally give our regular web cam viewers for this event. Normally I set the camera to record pictures much more often, and then we hype it a little. Because the ice out date and the fishing opener have often been in a "neck & neck" race, we always get a huge viewership of the webcam as the ice melts. This year I was away for Easter and didn't even suspect that the "ice out" was already occuring. Catherine was lucky to spot it!
It's pretty surprising that the ice is gone, not just because it's so early but also because of how thick the ice still was. From far away our ice looked just like early May ice, but it was more solid than it appeared. Bob and I were out by the campground picnic grounds on Wednesday, lobbing big rocks out onto the ice to see if they'd go through. They didn't.
At this point, not every lake is like East Bearskin. Bob, Quinn & Kate were on Pike Lake Sunday (a few miles more south and a bit closer to Lake Superior), where the ice on the south shore still looks walkable. It will be awhile before the ice is gone on all our area lakes.
There's always a good reason to visit the Gunflint Trail but, realistically, April has never been a top month to be here. Too late to ski, too soon to canoe or fish, trails could be covered in snow or covered in mud — April's biggest selling point has been the solitude, not outdoor activities. This year, however, could be quite different. Hiking on the ski trails has been fantastic lately, and now canoeing or kayaking is also an option. Cabin rates everywhere on the Gunflint Trail are always at their all-time low in April. We know anything could happen with Minnesota weather in the spring, but this just might be a great time for an April getaway in unusual spring conditions that probably won't routinely occur in the future.