Saturday, December 18, 2010

December 18, 2010

With a rare combination of weather events, Lake Wicwas right now has the best skating I have seen in 40 years.  The heavy rain last Sunday and Monday fell on top of the recently frozen, smooth lake, creating an inch or two of standing water on the surface.  Then with cold weather all week, the water froze with a beautifully smooth surface.  And with only a dusting of snow - which mostly blew off, leaving only a few paper thin patches of snow - the entire lake is a sheet of spectacular black ice, about 6 and half inches thick.

Air captured between strata in the ice
The rounded white shapes in the ice are thin layers of air captured at the interface between the original layer of ice and the new layer formed by the rain.

It was quite eerie skating, as the ice was constantly cracking, making long, echoing sounds reverberating across the lake, occurring much more frequently than the cracks that happen later in the winter.  A couple of times a crack went right underneath us; we could see it form, watching the leading edge move through the ice.  Most of the cracks seemed to be occurring in the top two-inch layer.

We saw no animals other than other humans, but there were lots of fox and squirrel tracks in the snow near the shore.

With warm tempertures, no wind, full sunshine, and a clear blue sky, it was perhaps a once in lifetime experience.  (Special thanks to Tom for the ice report!)

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