Archive for the ‘Ice on East Bearskin Lake’ Category

And the winner of the ice guessing contest is: alas, nobody!

Monday, April 5th, 2010

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.

Could winter really be over? Nah…. Time to start guessing the “ice out” date!

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

No snow to measure!

 Winter disappeared on the Gunflint Trail rather suddenly.  We didn’t expect that.  

The last two winters went on far too long, with snowfalls in April, May, and even early June.  The ice barely went out in time for the fishing opener.  This extended winter made it very difficult to deal with the seasonal transition at Bearskin.  We can’t put in docks when there is ice on the lakes or take off storm windows when a cabin is surrounded by two feet of snow. We assumed it would be more of the same this year. 

So now suddenly the snow is gone.  It happened quickly, during a time when skiing is normally fabulous.  Guests handled the peculiar change well.  Midwesterners are so thrilled by the first budding days of spring that it offsets the disappointment of saying goodbye to winter activities.  The combination of frozen ground and no snow makes hiking on the ski trails this March exceptionally nice — there’s been much less of the “caked mud on shoes” experience that often defines spring. 

We aren’t so naive as to think that we won’t get hit hard with snow again in April.  Check out the pictures from April 2009 and April 2008.  The Gunflint Trail has a history of April snowstorms.  But this has been a pleasant reprieve, even if it doesn’t last. 

We’re all wondering how the warmer temps will affect the ice.  Ice fishermen reported very unusual March ice conditions when they drilled holes in some nearby lakes — in places, they said,  the ice looks “rotten” or “like a snow cone.” A car went through the ice near shore last week on a Gunflint Trail lake north of us.  Yesterday East Bearskin Lake was covered with huge patches of water.  Today the patches seem to be frozen again, but ridges are forming across the lake. Near the lodge, East Bearskin lake looks like a teacher demo for an 8th grade earth science class about plate tectonics. Each night the lake makes huge, loud booming sounds. 

Ice ridge forming on East Bearskin Lake

A little of the past “ice out” history is documented in this blog from last spring.  The date the ice goes out has been fairly consistent, but we’re wondering how the warmer temps and lack of snow cover will affect the ice this year.  Last year we had a fairly informal “guess the ice out date” contest through this blog; a few guests came remarkably close. 

Guessing this year might be more of a challenge!  We’ll offer a T-shirt prize this year to the person who comes the closest to the date.  The guess has to be posted 5 or more days before the actual ice out date. No fair watching the ice go out on web cam and posting “now, now, now!”  (Although last year many people called to say they did see it go out on the web cam — it was really quite absorbing to watch.)  Post your guesses as comments on this blog or, if you have a Facebook account, on Bearskin’s  Facebook  fan page.  

If you’re seriously into date guessing games, there’s also a contest on the Gunflint Trail Association Facebook fan page.  Facebook users can make a guess for East Bearskin, Gunflint, and Saganaga Lakes. To find the guessing game discussion, look for the tab near the top of the GTA page labeled “Boxes.”

“Did I just see the ice go out?”

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

webcam5609826pmaSomebody called around lunch time today to ask, “Did I just see the ice go out on  on the webcam?”

Yes, indeed, that is exactly what he saw.  Just like last year,  it was as if the ice suddenly decided to march eastward down the lake.  A little before noon, the ice began rapidly moving past the the lodge, carrying with it remnants of this winter’s history — a broken tipi pole, bits of dog bedding straw, a mysterious log that had been lodged in the ice, an escaped broomball stick.  By early afternoon, as far as we could see into the distance on East Bearskin Lake it was totally clear of ice.

No doubt there are still some piles of ice on the BWCA end of the lake; the wind could change and send ice charging back to this end of the lake.  Last year an ice flow made a return visit shortly after Bob and Andy had secured the main dock in its correct position, crashing into the dock and causing aggravating  problems. 

Tonight Bob and I sat outside on the lodge deck eating ice cream, watching the mist rise from a totally calm lake and listening to the frogs chirp all around us.  Last night, we heard only the sounds of rain falling on crackling ice. Tonight, we are surrounded by the definitive songs of spring.  

There’s the scent of a new season outside.  For me, winter doesn’t trigger many aromatic connections — maybe I identify the odor of a wood-burning fire or of a balsam tree with winter, but overall my winter memories are devoid of olfactory associations. You don’t “catch a whiff” of winter.  But spring is an aromatic extravaganza, a sudden reminder that that yes, we do have a sense called “smell.”  This afternoon Bearskin had the fragrance of  “just rained”  mixed with the scents of pine needles and moss and moist earth. It felt restorative to smell the outside again.

Spring has finally arrived at  Bearskin Lodge.  It’s about time.

Black ice

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

black-ice-54091The ice all over East Bearskin Lake is becoming increasingly black.  It resembles a spotted animal print fabric, covered in white ovals  interspersed with jaggedy black splotches of dark ice. 

Last chance to make an “ice out prediction.” Predictions range from May 6th to May 12th to August.

Of course, with our luck this year we will probably have a snowstorm tomorrow and the lake will refreeze. 🙁

Prediction: correct

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008
Quinn & Andy try out the new ice Tuesday afternoon.

Quinn & Andy try out the new ice Tuesday afternoon.

In our last blog ( we said, “Andy and Quinn are both predicting a totally frozen lake in the morning.”

Obviously, as you can see from this photo, they were right about the ice.

Some people are in a big hurry for the winter fun to begin.

For the mothers who are getting heart palpitations just thinking about these guys skating on one day old ice, it helps to know that this area of ice started forming earlier and was already quite thick; they didn’t actually venture out very far.  You don’t want to hear about the experiment with the canoe on fresh ice that occurred next. 




Watching the ice form

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

After an interminable number of cloudy, overcast November days, Sunday was finally clear and bright here. Quinn and Bob decided to take a sunny day break and head out on one final lake exploration, a trip to the somewhat inaccessible Rocky Lake.  The shorelines of the lakes were ringed with borders of brittle, chunky ice, but they made it into Rocky Lake with only a moderate amount of ice breaking.

Ice along the shoreline near a portage

Ice along the shoreline at the portage between East Bearskin and Alder Lake. Bob and Quinn broke ice to get to the portage. It had refrozen by the time they came back out.



Ice forming on Rocky Lake

Ice forming on Rocky Lake



 That was Sunday.  Monday morning we awoke to this:


Ice forming on East Bearskin Lake on Monday morning. Hard to believe that Quinn & Bob were canoeing on the lake just the day before.

Forecasts are for a low of between 15°and 20° tonight — thankfully, that’s still  15° – 20° ABOVE zero at this point!  Andy and Quinn are both predicting a totally frozen lake in the morning. 

Based on our “Day by Day at Bearskin Lodge” pictures from last November ( the lake was far more frozen at this time last year, until the ice began to melt again around November 19th. By Thanksgiving, on November 23rd, the ice was firm enough to walk across on the bay.  That seems fairly improbable this year, but we could be surprised.

 Whatever happens, it’s a very quiet time here at Bearskin right now, so keeping an eye on the changing ice qualifies as our current form of daily entertainment.