Monday, November 24, 2014

Nancy Lakes Ice Skate - November 2014

People put a lot of time into thinking about why they like skiing. To some its a religion, to others a way of life. I try to avoid deep thoughts, but with no sign of snow on either the horizon, I'm trying harder to avoid cabin fever.

The plan was to connect 16 lakes spread over 35 km into a loop of hiking and skating.

As the dry weather has persisted, we've started to hear about skating the Nancy Lakes canoe portage. People do it wearing nordic ice skates and skate ski boots, quickly clicking in and out of their skates for the short walks between the lakes.

This sounded great, and it would be Friday - no one would be interested in renting skates for such a fringe sport. On Thursday night I got a sad call from Malcolm that, indeed, this fringe sport had followers, and AMH was rented out.

No need to de-skate for moss.

I didn't want to work on Friday, and neither did anyone else, so we made do with our hockey skates.

Photo: Toni Godes

Skating onto the first lake was incredible. I had no idea how much frozen lakes have to say. Popping, groaning, moaning, chirping, echoing, and singing. These noises are produced by the lake acting as a vibrating plate. Sound waves are produced as bending waves travel through the ice. Because different wavelengths travel thru ice at different speeds, the waves arrive at different times. So, the different pitches produced by the ice vibrating the air are heard at different times.

Moving from lake to lake, it wasn't long before we were a bit off track. Having not participated in the planning, I was blissfully unaware of this.

After a quick readjustment we were back on route.

Around this time Tarah realized that shoes are superfluous for walking on moss.

Threading our way to the next pond:

At 2 PM, and not nearly halfway done, I let slip that I had been late that morning because of an article about cow diets (for them and for us). Haley and Malcolm immediately decided to cross this stream; with their shoes on. I think it was punishment.

Adventure ensued.

If in doubt about the snow conditions, see above.

We quickly realized that we were now on the wrong side of the stream.

Some, but not all of us, chose not to walk thru the icy water.

A plan was formed to get us back on track.

This plan involved a chunk of overland travel. Malcolm is carrying his skates so they will be instantly ready to throw at unsuspecting grouse.

Shortly before sunset we made it to Red Shirt Lake, and about the half way point of the loop.

There are cool public use cabins around the lakes that can be reserved here.

Despite the rapidly disappearing light, the skate across the longest lake of the day was an incredible sensory experience: perfect ice, sunset, wind on our faces, and ice song combined for a period of euphoric perfection.

Photo: Tarah Sweeney

On the flip side, it was night when we arrived at the final 4 km walk back to the car. Nor could we find the trail. Still, I had a great time watching the moonrise as I listened to Haley in the distance yelling "hey bear". Despite her heroic efforts, she never found that trail. So, we set off in the direction that we thought another trail might be. Crashing thru the woods, we never crossed the trail, or at least we didn't see it when we did.

Eventually, we ended up back on the "winter trail", a snowmobile trail that without winter, was a swampy stream. But, it did lead back to the car. With wet and frozen legs our adventure came to a memorable end.

So, what is it I like about skiing? Its what I like about adventures, traveling, and new experiences: that heightened sense of awareness, feeling of youth, exhilaration, and memories. But, more than anything, the friends.

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