We were away for a week in balmy BC, and enjoyed our visit immensely – the great food, wonderful local wines, the chance to get our hands into the garden, and mostly, the sights of spring flourishing all around us. All the birds both local and migratory, the trees and flowers in bloom, and the incredible vivid green of spring grass. It was hard to come back to Yellowknife, to say the least. It’s been a nonexistent spring here so far – the temperatures haven’t hit above zero yet, and its been much more cold than usual.
However, all that has changed in two short days, and we are reminded again of how beautiful and special this part of the world is. It’s been warm – even though the thermometer tells us the temperature is about 12 degrees, it’s warm enough for short sleeves and a beer on the deck. Because the day light is so long now – its still sort of light at 11 pm, the sun’s effects are powerful. The snow has been melting very quickly, leaving lots of water on the ice. The ice is still thick enough to drive on, although it is unnerving to drive on the ice under 6 inches of water. However, the planes are still landing and taking off from the ice, and yesterday a grater drove by, so its obviously thick enough. The problem with vehicles is that soon, very soon, any day now, the ice at the shoreline will melt and we won’t be able to drive off and on the ice. So we’ll be back to walking for the next month. This is the time to do last minute shopping and trips to the dump.
The ice will apparently undergo some interesting transformations. First the snow melts, and then the ice will dry out as it separates from the shore and pops up. The water will all run away, and the ice will ‘candle’. Apparently it looks like the top of a candle at this point. It will be dry and soft and white. This ice is safe and solid. It’s already happened on the ice road ( now officially closed to traffic, although still used by the fishermen), which makes for terrific skate skiing and biking. The surface is textured, like hoarfrost, so it’s not slippery.
Eventually all the lake ice will candle, which is the time of year that people wax lyrically about. You can travel easily on the ice by skate skiing or cycling, and go pretty much anywhere. It doesn’t last for long, perhaps a week or two, but its a wonderful while it does. Already there’s lots of traffic of people on bikes and skis going by our house to get to the ice road, some being pulled by dogs too. This is the time of year to travel out to distant islands for camping and picnics. Usually this is the weekend the lake opens up near Horseshoe Island, and one neighbour goes out every year to camp at this time – the open water is full of hungry fish, hoards and migrating ducks, and bears just waking up. It will happen late this year, but hopefully next weekend, and if so, I should be able to go along and see it. Can’t wait! You have to time things just right, as if you wait to long, you can’t get onto the island. Or you might get on, but then not be able to get off the next day, as the water melts along the shore. (People have any number of crazy strategies to get around this, including dragging out ladders behind the bikes. This, I have to see.)
After the ice candles, it apparently becomes black (safe) and then blue (not safe) and then it breaks up into large chunks, which can quickly blow out of the bay. The process can happen quickly. You can I guess go from walking on the ice to paddling on the water in only a couple of days. Around the houseboat things are a little different. Because of the solar radiation off the metal siding the ice melts beside the house quicker, and soon enough I guess we’ll be floating again. After that we’ll have to use our ice walker, also a water walker, to get off and on the main ice. I don’t know yet how the dogs will manage this phase. Luckily we’ve had 3 spontaneous offers of places to stay on land during the break up. We may have to do that, just for the dogs. Right now they are loving the warm weather and the chance to lay around on the cool snow.
Along with the warmer weather of the last two days, the seagulls have come back. (Although what they might be eating is not at all apparent.) You can hear them calling from inside the house, and suddenly, it feels like summer. There is one pair that seem to have taken up residence on the small rock right beside our house, likely the same pair as last year. They don’t seem bothered at all by us or the dogs, however this might change when their babies arrive. And last night as I went to bed, for the first time, I could see the lights of town reflected in the water on the ice. Summer seems possible, suddenly.