Of all of the various states of water, from snow to sleet, steam to rain, the solid variety is by far the most popular.
In the North Country, ice has provided unrivaled entertainment. It has proven much more valuable than snow. There has long been a fascination with ice. We slide on it, ride upon it, climb up it and drill holes through it to fish. We use it for work and play.
Ice has aided the transportation of logs from the woods and to haul construction materials to camps. In some instances, entire buildings have been moved over its firm surface. In Saranac Lake, they actually cut it into blocks to construct incredible ice castles, an annual project which locals have enjoyed for over a century. On other lakes, ice blocks are still cut for refrigeration or to provide cubes for a cocktail.
While enthusiasts of ice sports anxiously await for the day that the region's lakes and ponds safely 'set up,' many others patiently await the day it finally breaks up. It is this same sense of anticipation that keeps hardwater anglers watching for a tip-up flag to fly.
The power and force of ice is considerable. Ask a ferry captain on Lake Champlain, a contractor on the Saranacs or a homeowner along the AuSable. Ice can move a ferryboat or a house, with equal force.
As it rumbles and moans, heaves and cracks or flows with the spring runoff, ice presents a fierceness that defies it's often smooth, gentle texture.
The attraction of ice is equally moving. Witness the shanty villages of Port Henry, the ice boats off Grand Isle, the athletes assembled at Mt. Van Hovenberg or the climbers high upon the soaring cliffs of Chapel Pond.
Equal fascination is given to the intricacy of delicate frost flowers on the smooth black ice of the Cascades or the violence of massive ice flows along the Hudson or the ornate, blue ice walls of Pitchoff Mountain.
Over the last month, many of the worlds fastest athletes have traveled to the Adirondacks to race on smooth hard ice. These sports have long been a part of the North Country's heritage. Lake Placid upheld this tradition by hosting the World Championships for bobsled, luge and skeleton at Mt. VanHovenberg's track. Never before has one site hosted the World Championships in all three events.
This proud sledding heritage received a golden shine as Steven Holcomb recently drove his "Night Train" four man bobsled to win the World Championships in Lake Placid. At speeds topping 80 mph, his efforts ended a 50-year drought for the U.S. Men's team.
The team's triumph was the first for the United States at the World Championships since Arthur Tyler took the gold medal at St. Moritz, Switzerland, in 1959.
I've spent much of the past month enjoying the local ice. While visiting the bob run last week, I was intrigued to learn the Olympic Authority is now offering skeleton rides for the public, rather than the usual bobsled rides.
The opportunity to pilot a small skeleton sled down the iced chute offers the thrill of a lifetime. With a skeleton sled comfortably under your chest and abdomen and your chin just inches from the iced run, a quick push sends the rider hurdling headfirst down the lower section of the mile-long track.
While approaching speeds of 35 mph may not set any track records, a rider's close intimacy to the ice certainly amplifies the feeling of speed.
More recently, I have been busy sailing the icy surface of the Saranac Lakes in a pair of small iceboats.
The lakes were resurfaced by nature's Zamboni as a thaw and accompanying rains erased the snow cover. Even with mild winds, the iceboats raced across the smooth cover.
Although we never challenged the world speed record of 143 mph, set in 1938 on Lake Winnebago by the stern-steerer, ice boat Debutante, it was great to be out on smooth ice in a stiff breeze.
Adirondack Sportsmans Dinner returns
On Saturday, March 14, the Adirondack Sportsmans Dinner will again be hosted in Schroon Lake. The featured speaker will be Charles Alsheimer, an award-winning outdoor writer, nature photographer, lecturer, and whitetail consultant.
Mr. Alsheimer is the northern field editor for Deer and Deer Hunting magazine and host of their national television show, Deer & Deer Hunting TV. His specialty, both as a writer and photographer, is the white-tailed deer.
The event, which includes a full banquet menu and sportsmans show, also offers a wide range of seminars on outdoor skills including such topics as Flies For the Dog Days of Summer, Hunting With a Primitive Flintlock Rifle, Deep Woods Deer and Bear Hunting, Survival with Marty Simons, Dog Hunting and Upland Birds, Muzzleloader Hunting Made Simple, Backwoods Brook Trout, Lost Proofing, Adirondack Whitetail Deer: Hunt Harder, Hunt Higher, Best Trophy Trout Fishing on the East Coast and A Hunter's Year in the Adirondacks. For information and registration visit www.mountainsideny.com
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org