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This is how we know winter is here!

Some people look at the calendar, some folks check the thermometer. Here we just take a look out the window at the Moses Lake. When there is ice on the lake it’s winter… and it stays winter until there is no ice on the lake.

The geese, ducks and seagulls get a chance to rest on the ice as winter shifts into gear on Moses Lake

The geese, ducks and seagulls get a chance to rest on the ice as winter shifts into gear on Moses Lake

This morning when I got up and looked outside it was clearly winter; half the lake was covered by a skim of ice. By afternoon there was still enough ice so that ducks, geese and seagulls could stand on the ice an look out over the open leads. There will still be leads for another couple of weeks but at some point the lake freezes solid to a thickness of several inches. And at some point before that point there will be ice fishermen testing the ice and giving the paramedics practice reviving hypothermic ice fishermen.

Winter spells the end of my workout paddles, of course. I used to go out ice-breaking in my boat but gave that up when I nearly capsized in ice about the thickness of your living room window. My paddle – which I was pushing through the ice so that the shaft would move the boat forward – got caught in the ice and startled me. If I had capsized it would have been serious.

When our daughter lived here in the lake house one of her huskies got out of the yard and ended up trapped and scared on a peninsula flanked by the freeway. I put a small kayak onto the ice and used ski poles to slide myself along the relatively safe ice until she ran over and jumped into my boat and started licking my face. We turned around and slid home. That was the last time she tried that stunt. Every year we lose someone who is trying to rescue a dog from thin ice. A few years ago some guy slid himself out on an 8×4 piece of 3/4-inch plywood which worked well until he slid forward to grab the dog and the additional pressure of his weight on a pressure point broke the ice and in he went. The dog survived. The guy didn’t. Turns out an 8×4 sheet of 3/4-inch plywood will only support the weight of a dog.

For the next few weeks I’ll have to drive 200 miles to the Seattle area to paddle. At some point in the next month the state will begin to groom the cross country ski trails.  The price for the permit to use them has gone from $40 a year to $80 a year in three years! Aren’t you glad they don’t have to groom kayak trails?

For the ice skaters life is good as the local rink – with free admission – is open. The free admission keeps the kids off the lake ice and, hopefully, out of trouble. But skating the lake back before global climate change was one of the real joys of childhood. It’s still “probably” safe to skate but I wouldn’t risk my kids’ lives out there; I take ’em to the ice rink.

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