2007 brought in an usual amount of snowfall and cold towards the end of January. This caused a serious amount of ice to build up along Lake Michigan. When the ice builds up towards a mile or so off shore, when it melts the waves from wind across the lake pile it up on shore in stacks. Further helping this rapid pseudo geological process is a cold snap quickly following a melt. All of these events happened in sequence this year with the culmination of a 58 degree Fahrenheit, bright sunny nearly windless day.
Jim Svensson, Jason Roon and myself launched from the South Haven Ship Museum on the Black River. We paddled out along the channel and then paddled north. As soon as we crossed the mouth of the pier we were treated to a long unbroken series of shelves and cornices of ice along shore.
The average was about 5-8 feet from the surface of the water. The high end was about 10 feet. This is not as high as I’ve seen it in the past where 20-30 feet ice shelves tower over the lake’s edge. But it was great nonetheless. The warm sunshine and calm conditions made up for the lack in verticality.
The three of us paddled along until I found a low spot to get out and take pictures from a vantage spot. Unfortunately I’ve discovered the Achilles heel of the Pentax Optio. Bright sun and water droplets may ruin as many pictures as waterproofing may save. I couldn’t even see the lcd in bright sun. And due to this factor I couldn’t clear the lens.
I think I got some ok pictures nonetheless.
It was great to be back on the water in my silhouette on my lake with the ice along shore. It masked the familiar shoreline in every direction. And I forgot about all the houses, the familiar condo complexes, and focused on the ice. My eye followed the shape of the ice from the surface of the water to the sky, wallowing in the crevices, and cutbacks like I was paddling in Greenland, or Baffin Island. This is one of the best times to paddle Lake Michigan. It is a transportive moment where I forget that I am on the same old lake, because I see stacks of ice as big as Volkswagen busses falling from the shelf and landing in the lake.
We didn’t catch it on camera but a piece at least as big as a mini-cooper fell less than a foot from me while we paddled. I got the Disney water ride splash and a good laugh out of it.