Lake Hubert in December
by John Holbrook

(This monthly series is dedicated to those who live elsewhere but have always wondered what it is like living at Lake Hubert during the winter)

 An Icebound Lake

The month of December is when Lake Hubert freezes over. The first tentative ice usually forms by Thanksgiving, but this early ice often breaks apart due to high winds or a short warm spell. By the first of December, however, seasonal ice is usually in place and quickly grows thicker with the nearly sub zero nights and freezing days. By mid-month, the ice is typically several inches thick, enough to support anglers, snowmobilers, and lake residents curious about the novelty of a frozen lake.

On the north side of the lake where we live, the ice is usually smooth and clear, perfect for ice skating! If there is no snow cover yet on the ice, skaters can glide for great distances while actually viewing fish, clams, and weeds through the transparent ice. If there is only a light snow cover, it is very easy to shovel off a personal “rink.” Our rink is usually a maze of twisting trails, straightaways, and curves designed to entertain both adults and neighborhood kids. The rink will last until the first heavy snows which make the rink shoveling too much of a job.

There is a misconception among folks who have never lived close to a frozen lake in winter that the lake is essentially “dead” once it freezes over. Well, nothing could be further from the truth! Amazingly, lake ice has its own distinct personality mostly because of frequent temperature fluctuations. On frigid nights, for example, when the thermometer drops quickly, ice contracts which will often cause significant cracks in part of the lake. Water will then seep through the cracks and flood over some of the existing ice. On larger lakes, such as Mille Lacs, the cracks are sometimes big enough that resort owners specializing in ice fishing will need to build temporary bridges to span the fissures just to get out to their rented fish houses.

If the weather warms up significantly, the ice will expand often creeping up the shoreline. Anything left too close to shore can be damaged and rip rap in particular is often rearranged. For some reason, the northeast side of the Lake Hubert is most vulnerable to this type of activity as there have been times where ice has advanced ten feet or more up on the beach.

Those persons who disbelieve all of this only need to spend a couple of December nights
close to the frozen ice pack as they will then be able to actually hear the ice in action. The shifting, moving ice will produce sounds ranging from disturbing booms and cracks, to a
totally unique “pinging” noise. At our lake home, we have had overnight guests who have been frightened by such a cacophony of unfamiliar sounds.

Indeed, it is always so interesting living year round on Lake Hubert. December, with the coming of the ice, is truly among the most fascinating of all of the months.

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