The jungle telegraph was lazily tapping out messages: Bill Buchholz had forsaken iceboating in the high-pressure’s frustrating windlessness and taken up skating with visiting family. Bob Lombardo was, as usual, extolling his recent skates, this time in the Ellsworth area. Yet there is nothing, absolutely nothing, more apt to get an ice-person to point their hood ornament out of Dodge than the “blizzard deadline”. And the coming kibosh of all ice activities was a biggie.
So with hasty preparation, I found myself on the shores of Jordan Pond, Mount Dessert at 9AM on Wednesday. My fantasy was based on the kind of pictures of endless ice that the Vermont skaters sometimes send us:
(note sounding pole and emergency supplies)
What greeted my eyes on Jordan Pond would have made those Vermonties weep with envy. It wasn’t so much the quality of the ice, which had a slight orange peel—just enough to add a little sound to the skating—but it was the setting. The Bubbles–which in pre-National Park days were affectionately called Molly’s Boobs–dominate the North end, and Prospect mountain with its dramatic rock fall, borders the West side. To be skating on a dark green shiny plate there was simply spellbinding….here is the pond as skated:
I met Dan Falt, an avid MDI skater, as he pirouetting paradisiacally on hockey skates. He told me just how lucky I was: Jordan pond, being deep and wind-harassed, is seldom skate-able. Three seasons ago was perhaps one of the best:
(photo from his website danfelt.com)
After a few hours, stoned and pleasantly worn out, skating only the monolithic northern half of the pond, and not wanting to get too sweaty, I crawled across the narrow brash-ice border to the sun-facing pink granite rocks. As I crawled, I gave the ice a good solid kiss, and then nestled in and relaxed in my angled throne under the intense mid-day sun. It was one of those moments of total total happiness, where you feel you could die in the next breath and have lived a worthwhile life. I checked my body: hands, feet, core—all toasty, sweaty warm in their woolen cocoons. I checked my mind: well….. in that field of bliss, there was one tiny niggle: I wished I had brought my iceboat. I swear it could have sailed in the light southerly. I know I would have enjoyed pushing it around anyway. Lulled by the ice music—western movie bullet twangs and occasional tunks—I was soon asleep, only to awake later to a thunderous change of music channel.
Hungry, and with great misgivings, I violated that timeless rule: Never leave beautiful ice. Just die there. I was soon off to lunch in my favorite restaurant in Bar Harbor, and then had another lovely skate on Eagle Lake. There, the ice was smoother, but covered by a veneer of unbounded snow, half blown bare. Closing my eyes, the skating was still glide-forever. But….. High clouds now muted the morning’s sparkle. Dozens of ice-fisherfolk were noisily augering away, or relaxing in folding chairs. Sighing, I was now a mere pilgrim returning from Jordan’s holy cathedral. It was not the immediate situation, but the precious memory inside which warmed these old bones. And as some folks mysteriously intone: Blessed Be!