~ John Muir
Today was one of those days that you just felt great being alive. Each winter everyone in N.E. Ohio complains about how much snow we have or how cold it is. And I must admit that every once in awhile I am one of those people. Living in Ohio my entire life and getting hit with two winter storms this month is not always the easiest thing to deal with. However, today I just had to stop, look around, and say... Wow... This is awesome!
After a West Branch night run last week with Bob, Jim, and my brother's friend Mark, I came up with the idea of trying to circle the entire frozen Michael Kirwan Lake on foot, which is close to 31 miles if you include all of the inlets. So, last weekend Jeff and I headed over to the park but decided to bail on our attempt after hearing a crack in the ice. With all the cold weather we've had this winter it was probably nothing to worry about, but we thought too much about it and ended up wussing out. As soon as we finished our run we were already talking about when we could head back to the park for another try. We decided to pick today for our second attempt since this entire past week had temperatures below freezing during the day and night, and there was also the chance that it could be partly sunny!
I woke up around 7:00 and after grabbing a bite to eat I looked out my window and was able to enjoy this beautiful sunrise. Definitely a good start to the day...
I drove over to the west boat dock and met Jeff a little after 8, and after gathering our gear we were on the ice at 8:30. At this point the sky was still cloudy but it looked like the sun could peek out at any time or even clear up as the day wore on.Leading up to today's run we were anticipating a lot of snow to be on top of the ice due to the last winter storm, but much to our surprise there was only about 3-4 inches in most areas. There's a lot of wind that blows across this lake so I guess most of the snow blows across until it hits land. About a half mile into our run (where we bailed last time) I felt like I was sinking into the snow a little more than usual. I then looked down and noticed that my feet were actually sinking into slushy holes, which then filled up with water about an inch or two deep. Man.... Once again we were thinking that we might have to call it a day. Jeff broke a branch off of a tree that had fallen in the water and we used this as a digging tool. We noticed that there was still thick ice beneath the slush and after some discussion we decided that some of the rain/sleet we got from the last storm probably got snowed on before it could freeze, thus, keeping it soft. Either that or this section just doesn't freeze as well. So, we continued on and sure enough our footing became good again with solid ice still beneath us.
Every once in awhile as we ran/walked Jeff would push down the stick that he brought along into the ice to make sure that we were on solid ground. On our way towards the dam (which can be seen to the left of the water tower in the top picture ) we walked around the perimeter of the lake and covered most of the inlets but skipped the ones that weren't too large. We only ran into one other section in one of the inlets that had a few soft spots. As we continued on we could tell that the sky was beginning to clear up more and hoped that eventually we would have complete sun.Sure enough, the clouds all moved aside, leaving us with wall to wall sunshine. The sky was a beautiful dark blue and reminded me a lot of Colorado. It felt so good compared to our starting temperature of 8 degrees and it made our journey even more enjoyable with the frozen snow shining like diamonds. Here are a few more pictures I took along the way.
As we got closer to the water tower we noticed some picnic pavillions along the shore so we decided to stop and have lunch. We soon realized that the area we were at is known as the West Branch beach during the summer months. We didn't stay here for too long though because the wind was really starting to pick up and we wanted to continue on towards the dam before heading back.
As we got closer to the dam we noticed a couple guys ice fishing in the middle of the lake and they had a couple tents set up. We decided to head over and talk to them since they were the only people that we saw out here today. They were probably just as surprised to see us. You should've seen the one guy's face when we told him where we came from. He couldn't believe it and said, "you know there's a lot better places to go for a hike... like Hawaii.. and.." This made us laugh. I told them "Just to make us feel better could you tell us how thick the ice is?" And the one guy said that it's at least 12 inches and that we had nothing to worry about. This made us feel a lot better and on our way back to our cars we were more aggressive and walked a lot more down the middle. We decided to cut the corners a little bit on the way back because the wind was pretty strong at times, gusting up to 20-25 mph.
During the summer Jeff and I had noticed this small island in the middle of the lake that we thought would be pretty cool to stand on. Well, today gave us the rare opportunity to check it out. As we got close to standing on it I could tell that the snow drifts were deep and at one point I stepped and the snow went all the way up past my knee!We ran/walked at a pretty good pace on our way back and finished up about 9 miles in 4 hours. Overall it was a good workout and I'm looking forward to potentially circling the entire lake another time.