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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Farewell to Winter

Air Date: Week of

In winter when the ice is thick on New Hampshire's Lake Winnipesaukee, some folks take snowmobiles, cars, even airplanes onto the ice. They set up tiny shacks called bob houses complete with wood burning stove and a hole in the floor for a fishing line. Living on Earth marks the end of winter with this audio postcard of life on the ice, soon to thaw, from John Rudolph.


CURWOOD: In the towns that rim Lake Winnipesaukee, the largest lake in New Hampshire, the arrival of Spring means that bets are being placed for the day and time of the big Ice-out. Ice-out comes when the cruise ship Mount Washington can, theoretically at least, make all its ports of call. That's usually about mid-April. But this year's mild winter has the odds on Ice-out nearer to the end of March. Ice-out marks the close of a season that begins when the ice thickens to a foot or more. Then folks bring snowmobiles, cars, even airplanes onto the ice. They set up tiny shacks, called bob houses, with wood-burning stoves and fishing holes in the floor. John Rudolph recently visited Winnipesaukee, and he sent us this audio postcard of life on the ice.

(Whipping winds)

RUDOLPH: You know, I'm a sailor. In the summertime I do quite a bit of sailing on these lakes. And I think in the wintertime we just miss this action, we miss being out in nature and this is just a reason for us to get out here. It's not too often you get this vantage point, and I've got my vehicle here next to us and here we are parked out on the lake.

(Footfalls, a door opening)

MAN: Come on in, Bob.

BOB: Just to tell how specially nice it is at night out here.

MAN: Oooohhhh....

BOB: Oh, yeah, quiet, and the stars you can see the Milky Way and everything when it's nice and clear --

MAN: Yeah.

BOB: I like it, yeah.

MAN: Away from the lights.

BOB: Yep, it's beautiful.

MAN: When the ice starts talking to you, too.

BOB: Yeah.

MAN: Late at night when it gets crackin', you know, it's expandin' all the time. You hear it. Yeah. (Laughs) You hear the ice cracking through here sometimes, even though you know you've got a foot and a half, 2 feet of ice under you, you hear it.

BOB: It moans and groans.

MAN: The lake's talkin' to you.

(Airplane engine overhead)

MAN 2: We fly float planes in the summer and love being out here on the lake. So that's part of it. The other part of it is, just, I think people like to walk a path a little less traveled, and when it comes to aviation there's a very limited number of people that actually do get a chance to land planes with wheels on the ice. So it's braggin' rights or something. It's just fun.

MAN 3: We were here --

WOMAN: A few years ago.

MAN 3: Gee whiz, more than a few. But and that particular year there were a number of skimobilers who were quite active. And they were being challenged by a few sections of open water.

WOMAN: Oh my goodness.

MAN 3: And they were trying to jump the open space. And with each jump the space --

WOMAN: Got bigger?

MAN 3: Got a little bigger. They kept nibbling away at it. And at that point we decided that we were going to leave, because we didn't want to witness a tragedy, you know --

WOMAN: Yeah.

MAN 3: They were they were persistent.

MAN 4: There's a name for that, what do they call that?

MAN 3: Stupidity, I think. (Others laugh)

MAN 4: Skimming. Right, skimming.

MAN 3: Skimming, yeah.

(Laughter continues)

MAN 5: You've got to pay attention, you know. You pretty much have got to keep an eye on things. I've driven out here when there was 3 feet of water out here (laughs), you know, to get the ice all so often, all the gear off, you know. And it can be tricky, you know. I've seen people lose vehicles through the ice, been out all night trying to tow somebody out of the ice, you know, that's no fun, you know, everybody's freezin'. Especially at night, it gets cold out here at night.

(Wind whips)

MAN 6: I think it's a different kind of people out here in the wintertime. I think a lot of people tend to shut in for the winter and wait for the spring. And it makes for an awfully long winter that way. We made decisions like that earlier on with our children, that if you're going to live in New England you have to embrace the seasons and get what you can out of them, you know? I think the end of each season brings you a longing for the next season, and I look at winter the same way.

CURWOOD: Our audio postcard from Lake Winnipesaukee was produced by John Rudolph.



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