Ice Out

The ice went out on Saturday, I’m sure of it. We weren’t actually there to see the last of the winter melt away, but with temperatures forecast to reach the 80s on Saturday and knowing how thin a membrane of ice remained on the pond on Friday, I’m willing to call what I wasn’t there to see.

I should explain that I’m writing this in the middle of the night before we leave for a sun-and-sand vacation with my extended family. I may this very moment be swimming in the ocean with Jim and the kids; Ursula and Virgil may be playing in the pool with their cousins; we may be gathered around my 76-year-old father with three generations and 30 family members.

We've been taking this late-winter trip every couple of years for 20 years. (Early April usually feels like late winter this far north.) But this year, after several runs of warm, sunny days, spring has come early nearly everywhere. The big lakes near us lost their ice in March — some even in the middle of the month, which is unheard of around here. Our pond stayed frozen longer because our higher elevation, around 1,500 feet, translated into especially colder temperatures and more snow this winter. We think even the migrating birds are confused, because mallards have buzzed the pond several times over the past week.

We’ve tracked the ice-out date ever since we moved here. April 3 isn’t particularly early in our dozen years of record-keeping, though one year the ice hung on until May 4. Our friends and family couldn’t believe that late date, and their amazement made us feel northern and hardy.

Determining ice-out, at least on this pond, isn’t terribly scientific. We gauge how far the ice has pulled back from the shore, and we expect to see a fair amount of open water in the middle of the pond. When those conditions have been met, we take our first plunge off the end of the dock into the new season.

Much as we enjoy our beach vacation, we don’t like missing that moment. So earlier today, even though the ice wasn’t fully out — the middle of the pond was still a matte gray — we took advantage of the open water around the dock to jump in.

And so we did, each according to her or his personality. Virgil hollered each time and churned through the water as fast as he could back to the dock. Then he turned right around and jumped back in. Me, I went in all the way to my shins before backing out again. Ursula came up from each dunking sleek, wet-haired, and smiling, like a sea mammal glad to be back in the water.

When we return, we’ll have ducks on the pond...

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

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