Monday, January 21, 2013

Thoughts on climate change while skating on a frozen lake

If you've never skated on a frozen lake, the songs it sings might surprise you at first. The lake booms, mutters and cracks. It is a constant symphony of noise. You might be forgiven for sprinting for shore, but what is happening is that the ice is expanding and contracting due to temperature, wind, or other weather condition.

Though some people in this town refuse to believe in climate change, it is a fact that Wallowa Lake, our six mile long glacial lake, used to freeze across on a regular basis. People drove trucks out on it and even landed small airplanes. It is also a fact that it has been years and years since this has happened (2001 according to the website).

I have been hoping since I moved here that the lake would freeze, and this winter so far has been bitterly cold, dipping down to zero often. Every time I passed the lake on a run, I would focus on the progress of the ice. Finally this weekend the whole lake froze.

This town doesn't have an indoor ice rink. It doesn't have a pool. We don't have a movie theater that is open right now. Nobody's teaching yoga or pilates or any other kind of class. The gym is two small rooms and if someone is working the weights, that pretty much counts you out. There's no clubs (well, I think there's a chess club and oh yes, a chapter of the Well-Armed Woman) and I have to drive 65 miles to the dentist. A metropolis, we are not. One thing we do have is lots of mountains and people who like to get out in them.

So the lake freezing has galvanized the subset of folks who like to skate and ice fish. When I arrived at 10, nobody was there yet. I paced on the ice, gauging its thickness. I could see where people had walked and someone had skated, and where someone had even driven out on it.

A Zamboni could do wonders on this lake; you have to watch your blades. I fell twice when transitioning through a frost layer. It's extreme skating, just like most every other sport around here. Nothing really comes easy, not the running, not the skiing, not the hiking. But that's okay. I'd much rather be out skating on a real lake than indoors at a rink.

I'm not a great skater, but there were places where I felt like it, places where the ice had frozen so fast and smooth that I skimmed along. The sun bounced off the mountains.  The lake muttered and grumbled. It was the most perfect day of ice skating I've ever had.

Will the lake freeze again in the next ten years? It makes me kind of sad to think that it might not. I don't think you truly understand the implications of climate change until it happens close to home. I know I didn't.
For now I'll skate on the lake and hope.


  1. Lovely! Sun and skating on a REAL lake with moraines and mountains.

  2. Wow, I love the views, I never thought that it could be very beautiful.

  3. Would someone flood a park or field area for an outdoor rink? There used to be about half-dozen here and kids had fun (adults, too!)

  4. Wow, it's been so mild there in the past several years, now I'm away and missing the cold snap!
    There should be an outdoor rink in Enterprise, there always has been in the winter - used mostly for hockey games I think - is it there this year?
    I grew up in Colorado and there was a lake we would drive to up higher in the mountains that was a 'formal' outdoor rink, with ice clearing and ice depth signs and a warming house and all. People would take sheets and hold them between them to sail down the lake.
    It was great. I remember the popping and cracking, and that deep ice view as you gazed at the frozen surface. I'd forgotten. Thanks, Mary


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