The crystal surface of Lake Erie glistened in the afternoon sunlight. I had traveled from Pharr, Texas – some seven miles from the Rio Grande River – one of our country’s southern most borders to the northern shoreline of Presque Isle State Park in Erie, Pennsylvania. I came to visit my son Christopher and see the ice dunes over the lake.
As we drove along Interstate 90, we noticed that unseasonably warm February sun melted most of the snow. Even the roads leading to the park showed little trace of winter but for the dusty white residue, the remains of a season’s worth of municipal road salting. In contrast, Presque Isle looked like a winter wonderland alive with activity and people who enjoy the season.
Across the bay, ice fishermen worked augers drilling through the ice. Hundreds more crouched in temporary tent-like huts and a few had erected more permanent structures, a mini cabin of sorts. This was a fishing village on the icy surface. Chris told me the scene would remain like this until the ice around the shoreline began to melt, and then there’d be a rush to remove the huts. He recalled an occasion one spring when the Coast Guard had been called to rescue a fisherman who stayed on the ice too long and became trapped in his hut floating on the slushy bay. “Some guys just don’t know when to quit,” commented Chris.
Beyond the ice fishing community, a new neighborhood claimed part of the icy smooth surface of the bay. We saw rainbow stripped parasails zipping tugging the daring and strong on skis across the ice.
Lake Erie itself had frozen over. How far beyond the shore? I can only say that the mounds of ice stretched to the horizon and probably beyond. Where Chris and I had walked in the sand last summer, we now stepped carefully so as not to slip on ice. Wind and snow built up cliffs of ice towering over Christopher’s head. It was a majestic scene for someone who loves the snow!
February 24, 2008