Wednesday, February 19, 2014
|My snowshoe tracks leading from the beaver lodge to my plunge just yards from shore.|
photos by Jonathan Schechter 2/15/2014
Oakland County, Michigan
It happened four days ago. It was a frigidly beautiful day and the third week the temperature had not climbed above the freezing mark. Deep snow added to the drama of the woods and wanderlust fever was running strong and so I set off with my camera to photograph a beaver lodge on the far side of a small lake in a wildland of Oakland County.
Less than 90 minutes after strapping on my snowshoes and walking across the lake to explore the outside of the lodge I had a a bitter cold reminder on my return route across the ice that no ice is guaranteed safe ice. I was about 10 feet from the far shore - a glacial moraine - when suddenly there was no ice under the snow. I sank to my knees in bitter cold water. I leaned forward, spread my weight and crawled to shore. And of course I turned around to take a photo of my plunge hole.
Without unsettled weather streaming into Oakland County let my experience serve as a reminder that no one can safely judge the strength of ice by its appearance or whether or not the ice is covered with snow. Strength is based on many factors and in this case I failed to notice subtle warning signs there may have been a hidden spring. There was.
Ice that forms over currents or streams or small hillside seeps is always dangerous and the insulating effect of snow slows down the freezing process. And as I discovered ice near the shore is often weaker than ice further out.
(But I did get my beaver lodge photo and a cold dash of wild woods ice safety wisdom.)