I packed my -20 sleeping bag, compact shovel, “power mix” food (basically butter, brown sugar and oats), matches, water in an insulated container, my phone, two shortened ski poles, radio, and the camera.


I pulled the kayak down to the lake, dressed in my bright blue dry suit, and passed a few wide-eyed peoples along the way. A van stops by my side. “Hope you got an ice breakin’ bow on dat’ ting!” The old-timer that said this to me made no mention of what the hell are you doing or your gonna die, he just wanted to know if I had an ice breaking bow on this thing. “No sir.” I say. “Hm.” He drives away with a big grin which leaves me grinning as I march on towards the lake.

The lake emerges as I get closer to it. It seems to be mostly frozen over. As I get closer I can see that over to the East, my direction of travel, the ice must have blown out in the night. There looks to be about a mile or so of solid ice, then shifting plates the size of cars, then smaller chunks, then open water. I excitedly drag the kayak down to the shore and begin to go about my trip.
My first couple of steps are slow and meditated upon. It’s been 8 months since my last venture out here. I listen to the ice. It groans. Cracks. Moves a little. Makes a few bubbling sounds. I walk out further and go to my knees. Scraping away the drifted snow I can see right through to the bottom. This is a good sign. Clear ice means it’s pure and strong. The less imperfections the better. There is an air bubble stretching for about 2.5 inches. This, I assume, must be the average depth of ice of this color. Fine for walking. Not fine for cars or snowmobiles. I see one ice fisherman in the distance, to my West. He rests in a spot that I wouldn’t deem safe from my experiences. Good luck sir and I’m sure you’d say the same to me.

I walk for a while then stop and listen. Not that this accomplishes anything safety wise. But it sounds amazing. At certain times the ice almost sounds like loons. I can hear cracks forming and shooting past me. The ice doesn’t seem to move though. In the distance I can see the edge of the solid ice approaching. I’m clued in by the mirage like effects of the reflections and water rolling over the tops of the car sized, smooth, flat pieces of ice. They pitch and roll on the swells that heave the edges of the ice up and down.
Now I am within 100 yards and I decide it’s time to get into the Kayak and scoot over to the edge with the shortened ski poles I’ve brought along. I get in and do just that. I raise the poles into the air and drive them into the ice with all my strength, pushing myself forward in one complete and fluid motion. I glide over the ice at a surprising speed. I keep up the driving of the poles and within a minute or two I’ve reached the edge of the solid ice. I stop to contemplate how the kayak will react to being on this new ice thats moving around, half-covered in water. I’ve only done this in the packraft, which is wide and super stable. I expect that if I am going to tip over, now will be the time. I quickly run through a mental drill for “what if”, then I go for it.
Gliding onto the car sized floating pieces of ice, they become half-submerged and water rushes over their tops. The kayak continues to glide. I continue to ram the poles down through the water and into the submerged pieces of ice below me. I continue to scoot along. I bring the poles up and ram them down into nothing. I’m no longer over ice and I just about capsize from all my downward momentum. I pull it together though. As I switch to paddles the kayak bumps and ricochet off smaller, thicker chunks of ice. The ice is strewn about in chunks, like someone just sprinkled it out of a salt shaker.

The water is really cold. On the verge of freezing. With every paddle stroke I bust through an almost imperceivable layer of ice. This super thin ice moves with the waves. It makes the water look really thick and gooey. Almost like a sea of corn syrup or gravy. To my left are sandstone cliffs that are beginning there seasonal habits of succumbing to the lake and cold. Huge icicles dangle off the edges of the cliffs. Some of them are 30 feet long and 10 feet wide at least. Some clear, some blue, light blue, dark blue, clay colored, some sideways from the wind. All sorts. Ice is piled up along the shore.
I can see the Long Island light across the channel. I wasn’t planning on doing this much kayaking today. I am not yet the strongest paddler I should be for these things. But, I reason if the waves don’t get to big I can make it. I seem to know my limits pretty well so here goes.
As I start to leave the shoreline and become exposed to the elements and open lake the waves grow. From choppy little waves come bigger and bigger waves. Now they’ve become swells 2-4 feet high. Every fourth wave is breaking over the front of the kayak. Everything, including my poor Pearl Izumi cycling gloves, are covered in a thick layer of ice. Like a glazed donut. The kayak is yellow, my dry suit is blue, and I feel like a glazed banana with a blue berry on top bobbing up in down in a sea of corn syrup.
I‘m not seeing any white caps, or breaking waves, so things are still alright in my book. I plug along to about half way across the channel and realize, as the waves are getting bigger still, and my arms are getting tired, I’d better turn around. I drift for a moment and think. Not to long though. Spacing out in these waves is how people capsize. I can self rescue if I was to tip over, but nobody likes to take a drink if they’re not willing. The dry suit would protect me, but my waning strength keeps me conscious of the fact that it would be quite difficult to get back into the boat in this state.

I manuever the kayak in a big half circle and head back towards shore. Now the waves are at my back and I am able to “surf” with them. Distances that normally have taken five strokes now take two. I surf along at a leisurely pace while snow falls at my back and ice dangles off sandstone cliffs. I feel like a spoiled little brat. A visual schmorgasport lies before my eyes.
I travel the same route back to where I got into this whole thing. The same familiar icicles, the salt shaken chunks, the car sized half-submerged pieces. I pull up into a cave to take a leak. Going to the bathroom with this dry suit on is quite the operation. It takes me about five minutes just to get into a position where I can get my goods out. I notice to my right there is a staircase. Upon it rests a square piece of plastic. It reads “NO TRESPASSING”.

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Ta Ta,

Marlin

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