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Spring Thaw

Spring, at last, is making its presence felt in the Republic. The days are noticeably longer and warmer, the snow has almost completely melted, and ice is gradually yielding to open water. Patches of grass are even turning green!

There doubtless remain a few snowy days ahead, and we can never forget the risk of frost, but the weather has turned. The long, cold winter of 2014 is finally relenting. Spring is here.

Yesterday was mild and gloriously sunny. With so much open water, I wanted to get out on the lake for a short paddle in a canoe. It's a great way to start the day, outside in the fresh, cool air under a gently warming sun, with the glassy water slipping past the canoe's hull.

I swung by our offices to enlist some company for my paddle. Only one volunteered: Andrew, our digital marketing guy, is always up for an outing on the water.

With the canoes loaded, we headed down to the water on Sleeping Bear Bay. The wind had changed overnight and jammed the bay with small ice bergs.

Northerly winds blew Sleeping Bear Bay full of ice bergs. Northerly winds blew Sleeping Bear Bay full of ice bergs. Not exactly ideal for canoeing!

Next, we went up to Pyramid Point, hoping to find some open water. Even there, ice still dominated the water as far as the eye could see. I don't see any return addresses on this ice, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of this is from Wisconsin!

Sand-coated ice at Pyramid point. Sand-coated ice at Pyramid point.

Although it may look depressingly like winter is still holding strong, this is primarily wind-driven ice. If we'd headed south, we probably would have found some open water near Empire or certainly down around Frankfort. But there's none here until the wind changes.

We gave up searching for open water on the big lake, and instead headed for Big Glen Lake.

The ice on Big Glen has really started to break up, and although there are still some large sheets of ice, there is plenty of open water too. With the crisp overnight temperatures, the open water was covered in a thin film of ice that shattered like glass before us.

Bob canoeing on a frozen Glen Lake Here I am canoeing through very thin ice on Glen Lake. Look at how that wispy cloud is reflected in the ice.

We paddled through the thin ice and between the thicker ice sheets. There can be few more invigorating ways to start a day.

Gliding through a gap between two large ice sheets. Gliding through a gap between two large ice sheets.

It's such a contrasting time of year up here. Winter is stubbornly present in the ice sheets and snow patches, and yet the encroaching spring is obvious in the warmth of the sun and the arrival of the migrant Bufflehead and Canvasback ducks.

Strange ice crystals These strange ice crystals had formed at the edge of the ice sheets. We have no idea how they form like this. If you know, let us know in the comments. We'd be fascinated to find out.

I had such a great time paddling in the morning, that I decided to head out again in the evening.

It was a beautiful night and I had gone to take my dog for a walk along the beach. I still had the canoes in my truck, so I decided to try to paddle through the ice flows. I got about 40 feet before recognizing the futility of the attempt. I put my paddle down and gazed up at the setting sun and the first stars to emerge.

A futile attempt at finding some water to paddle in amongst the ice bergs in Sleeping Bear Bay. A futile attempt at finding some water to paddle in amongst the ice bergs in Sleeping Bear Bay.

Despite all the ice that has blown in to Sleeping Bear Bay, the evidence of spring's arrival is overwhelming. It's hard to imagine just how much snow has melted over the last month.

A couple of weeks ago, I took a spring skate-ski in a big loop around the historic D.H. Day Farm. The snow was receding, but there was still plenty of cover to go wherever I wanted.

Hard-packed snow around D.H. Day Farm Hard-packed snow around D.H. Day Farm

I skied across to where the old Plowman house used to be. Many years ago, they were farmers, but since the soil wasn’t very good, they moved on and rented the house out from then on. There is a story of them renting it to a family that didn’t do a very good job taking care of it. When the toilet broke, they just yanked off the plugged pipe that directed everything that went into that toilet outside. Unfortunately, this resulted in all the waste going into the basement one winter.

The site of the old Plowman House. The site of the old Plowman House.

This old Chevy deep in the woods that was never scrapped gets me thinking that someone ditched this car in a hurry.


The abandoned Chevy The abandoned Chevy

Here is a copy of its vehicle identification plate if someone wants to do some investigating.

The abandoned Chevy's identification plate. The abandoned Chevy's identification plate.

I had so much fun skiing, I brought the boys out the next day. Here is Colebrook sitting on the hard snow with the Day farm in the background.

Colebrook skiing at DH Day Farm. Colebrook skiing at DH Day Farm

Our skiing is probably over for this season. The snow is melting everywhere. In some places, it's revealing some surprises that have lain buried under feet of snow all winter. Just outside my office, the heavy snow squashed and preserved this pumpkin, a decoration from last fall. It's now providing a tasty treat for the awakened wildlife.

A smashed pumpkin, well preserved by the frigid winter. A smashed pumpkin, well preserved by the frigid winter.

The ice will remain for a little while longer, but the amount getting blown into Sleeping Bear Bay will lessen. Just a few days ago there was hardly any, and doubtlessly it'll be clear again in another few days.

Sand-covered ice in Sleeping Bear Bay Sand-covered ice and open water in Sleeping Bear Bay.

Although it may take the lakes a little longer than usual to warm up this year, it is sure to be another glorious summer. Warm weather, camp fires and s'mores, starry nights, and endless fun on the water lie ahead. We can't wait!