On Thin Ice

My heart tells me that the notion of climate change is responsible for this meager winter weather. With almost no snow since October when we received more than two feet, and temperatures reminiscent of weather in November, I have to remind myself not to jump to conclusions. There is far too little data to assume any specific reason for the slow winter start. As I scientist I have to remind myself to remain objective. Only time will tell the answer to this riddle. Still I am frustrated when my heart and my brain are in conflict.

Despite the warmer than normal winter we have had there has been enough cold to form ice on nearby lakes. Nearly every night it dips well below freezing and during the day it rises into the mid thirties. About a week ago I went out to test the ice depths with my ice auger and was surprised to find that it was four inches thick. With a short stretch of cold weather predicted for a couple of days I planned on ice fishing by the end of the week.

Three days later I drove to the next town north of me. This little hamlet in Vermont has a large eleven mile long lake and a small lake of just under 200 acres. Reasoning that big water would not yet be safe I opted for the smaller of the two fisheries. I tested the white ice by stepping onto it with my feet and the weight of my body. The ice did not bend or give under my more than adequate bulk. I walked out about 50 feet onto the pond and drilled a hole with my hand auger. These ice augers are razor sharp and shave through ice like there is no tomorrow. About every three turns of the handle cuts an inch of ice. I turned the handle twenty one times before I cut all the way through. I cleaned the hole with a large slotted spoon know as an ice ladle and measured the ice of the depth. The measure on the ladle handle revealed that the ice was six and three quarters inches deep. This ice thickness passes the test for human traffic.

I started the long walk to the opposite side of the lake where an old channel marked the area of a former river bottom. This was an area where I have had success in the past. As I traversed the lake a sharp blast of wind brought in the first of many snow squalls that day. Visibility was near zero as I trekked across the ice pulling an ice sled with my right hand loaded with tip ups, a bait bucket, and a lawn chair. My left hand balanced the ice auger carefully placed on my shoulder so that if I fell the cutting edge would not come in contact with my body. I walked about fifty yards. The falling slow on the ice made travel very treacherous. My feet almost slipped out from underneath me several times. A hard fall on the ice could end my day given I am still not fully recovered from back surgery. I stopped, pulled out the long chair, sat down and slipped some ice grippers over my oversize Sorrel boots. These would help to keep me upright and prevent the a dangerous fall that could end my day.

There was only one other ice fisherman on the lake this day. He as a good quarter mile away on the opposite shore and only occasionally visible. I took little comfort in the fact that I had company. Given the lack of visibility and distance any accident would likely go unassisted. This thought allowed me to proceed cautiously checking for ice thickness periodically so that I could assure myself that ice fishing would be safe.

It has been years since I have fallen through winter ice. My last such event was in the 1980′s.  I was checking a cross country skiing route where a 15K race would happen the next day. The middle of the race crossed a ten acre pond. The weather had been a little shaky so my assignment was to “secure” the route making sure that it was passable and safe. The pond I was checking was just off of a public road. There was little or no ice in front of the culvert that drained the pond underneath the public road but that was not that unusual. I stepped onto the ice about fifty yards from the culvert. The wind was blowing and there were fierce snow squalls that severely reduced visibility. I could see two ice fisherman with their back towards me in the middle of the pond. My idea was to walk out to them and inquire about the ice depth given they had already drilled about ten holes. I knew that this pond had several springs where warm water created ice domes which appear as small mounds on the ice where the ice can be thin. These areas were to be avoided but the visibility was poor due to the blowing snow. I was about 30 yards from the two ice fisherman when I stepped onto one of the ice domes and fell straight through the ice. The shock of the cold water was immense. I started to sink and looked up. I could see the light peering through the hole in the ice and started kicking my feet and paddling wildly with my hands. I went straight up and cracked my head on the bottom of the ice. The pain was blinding. I let myself sink back down towards the bottom. My feet were now on solid ground. I remembered that light bends in water and this time I kept my eye on the hole after I pushed off the lake bottom with my legs. I was now in a panic. The cold was crippling my muscles. I swam towards the surface with all of my might , kept my eye of the shaft of light, and grabbed the edge of the ice on opposite sides of the hole as I neared the surface. I used all my remaining strength to thrust my body out through the ice hole. I landed on the surface like a walrus having fun in the arctic.

The two fisherman had not seen me fall through the ice but had heard a loud cracking noise when I did so. The first thing they really saw through a fog of blowing snow was me flying out of the ice hole landing on my belly on the cold hard surface. They yelled and jumped back in shock. At the sight of me emerging through the ice. They couldn’t imagine where I had come from. They ran over to me. I was flopping around trying to get my muscles to work. They pulled me onto my feet. I only wish I had the presence of mind to say something like “the fishing was pretty good down there but I just had to come up for air”.

The two fisherman were white from shock. The first thing they said was “Where the hell did you come from?” I was too cold to answer them. They helped me to my truck where the cab was still warm. I took of my boots and tipped them over. Cold water came pouring out. I drove home barefoot. Given it was less than a mile to my house I knew I would be alright. I had a second shiver as I thought about what could have happened.

The next weekend I saw the same two fellows ice fishing on the pond. I knew they might be there and went up with a six pack of beer to give to them as a meager way of saying thanks for helping me get back to my truck. They told me that they had no idea someone had fallen through the ice. They couldn’t figure out what the loud cracking noise was and where the splash had come from. They even heard a loud thump on the ice when I cracked my head on the bottom. When I came through the ice one of the chaps said it scared the hell out of him and he thought he was going to have a heart attack. We all had a good laugh. Over the years I ran into these two chaps several times. Each time we would review the entire incident and laugh again. I can only say that I am glad I survived to laugh about it a few times.

With all of this in mind I proceeded cautiously. When I arrived at my desired location and bored the first hole I was relieved to see that the ice was seven inches thick. I felt that I could now proceed with confidence. I cleared the hole of ice, rigged the tip up, dropped the baited hook and line through the hole in the ice, and set the flag.

Augering through through ice by hand can work up a sweat and even though this day hovered around twenty degrees I found myself taking off layers to avoid over heating. Getting soaked from sweat can bring on a severe chill later on when your activity level drops. Knowing the what’s and if’s of staying warm in cold conditions is important to staying on the ice for extended periods.

As I bored the fourth hole the ice let out a long cracking noise followed by a very loud groan that echoed across the lake. Although this can be unnerving, particularly early in the season before your psyche has become reaccustomed to the ways of the ice, I let my rational mind take over while it told me that all was still safe. There is a tremendous amount of tension in ice. Sometimes while boring a hole and cutting through the ice it relieves that tension and the result is loud, booming cracking noises and ominous groans. It’s all part of the ice fishing experience, particularly early in the season.

I was having a hard time getting all my ice fishing rigs set up. The fish were biting and I was spending as much time tending my tip-ups as I was setting up new ones. This is a good problem to have when you are ice fishing. Given the entire purpose of being there is to catch fish and have fun how can you argue with success?

For the next three hours I never had an opportunity to sit down in the lawn chair. I spent the entire afternoon cruising the ice, pulling in fish, releasing most, clearing my ice holes of snow, and resetting my tip-ups. The snow squalls came and went all afternoon. The winds were beyond fierce, sometimes tripping the flags on the tip-ups. Every once in a while I would look across the lake to see if the other ice fisherman was still at it. The visibility was to obscured by the blowing snow to confirm or deny his continued presence. I was alone with the wind, heavy blowing snow, and the excitement of knowing that this was where I was at my best; tested by the elements in an environment that challenged even the hardy.

With the last dark storm cloud and heavy snow squall I knew that I would not emerge from this in daylight unless I broke down my ice fishing equipment at this point in time. And so I began taking down my ice fishing rigs. I had caught thirty one fish on twenty four minnows. I would return home with a dozen keepers which would be fileted and put in the freezer for a future meal.

After I picked up all my equipment I noticed that my bare hands were frozen. I never feel comfortable working with gloves on despite how cold it may be. I slipped my numb fingers into my elk skin gloves, grabbed the rope to the loaded ice sled, and began the trek back across the lake.

As I pulled the ice sled across the frozen lake through the blowing snow and darkening skies I thought about ice domes, the cold water underneath, frozen limbs, and how to avoid all three.

There would be no one to help me if I fell through the ice. I was on my own.

And what could be better?

Written for www.wildramblings.com in January of 2012

  • http://www.landingoncloudywater.blogspot.com/ Emily

    Hmmm… so many things about this one. First, we’re completely brown in Minnesota, too. Today it will probably reach 45 degrees. I remember we had a January similar to this in 2002. So, so strange. I still don’t grab the right jacket half of the time when I head into the world.

    Third, your memories of falling through the ice sent shivers through me! This very experience is one of my greatest fears, actually, and certainly contributes to why ice fishing has never been something I’ve been drawn to. You are a hearty soul, Bill! It sounds like any trouble was worth it on your recent trip, though. I’ve had students bring me fish from frozen-over lakes, and they always tasted delicious. :)
    Cheers!

  • http://shoreacres.wordpress.com/ shoreacres

    There would be no one to help me if I fell through the ice. I was on my own.

    And what could be better?

    My answer: Nothing.  Your experiences with the ice are mirrored in mine with sailing, and being around the water generally. I’ve had my own tumble into January waters, and although we rarely have even a skim of ice, winter waters are cold, and opening one’s eyes to the sight of barnacle-covered pilings isn’t something to be hoped for.

    Still, being “on one’s own” is a marvelous gift and accomplishment, all at once. I could rant on at quite boring length about those who wish to cosset and protect, imagining they can remove every ounce of risk from life. Even if they could, in the end, it wouldn’t be a life worth living. Independence, attentiveness to the real world, the development of competence, physical strength – the same qualities that keep us safe on water or ice allow us to thrive in other arenas of life. And, as I’m increasingly coming to realize, those qualities may be the difference between a limited and passive old age and an engagement with life that goes on until its end.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com/ Wild_Bill

    I try not to think about things gone wrong in the past that will prevent new adventures, even small ones, in the future.  There is so much to see out there, so much to experience, and so much worth trying that small risks should not deter us.

    Yes, a strange “winter” indeed.  I’m trying to adjust but its difficult.  I love winter and I don’t take to this warming trend very well.  But enough complaining.  I’ve got to get ready to go ice fishing tomorrow.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com/ Wild_Bill

    Yes!  I love your zest for life!  And so what if we taunt danger just a little bit.  There is a “rush” of experiencing life on the edge that brings us to new levels of consciousness.  And the idea that there are those who seek to protect us form everything is absolutely correct.  What they really protect us from is love of live. 

    That’s not to say that being crazy wild is acceptable.  But competent people who have talent and skill are quite capable of navigating what may seem dangerous to others without interference.  That’s all I have to say about that.

    Hurrah to your comment!

  • http://everyday-adventurer.blogspot.com/ Ratty

    I’ve always been fascinated by ice fishing, but I’ve also been too afraid to try it because I’m afraid I’d fall through the ice. Your story tells exactly the kind of thing I imagine happening to me. I can’t swim very well even though I took two years of lessons, so I mostly stay away from the water. I’d still love to try ice fishing if I could ever get over my fear.

  • http://yakkajam.blogspot.com/ JaM

    and what is the name of the saint to whom you are married? 

    Beautifully written, even to this lover of tropics. Our Wet Season appears somewhat delayed. Yes, we had an early spate of rain and another bit just after Christmas, but then nothing. Pantry stocked, but no problems getting to town. Guess we’re still a little shocked from Cyclone Yasi and floods around this time last year. 

  • http://www.wildramblings.com/ Wild_Bill

    There are many people who fear walking on ice, so you are not alone on this Ratty. Ice fishing can be very rewarding.  It can be very active because if you are using tip ups you are managing five or more lines.  However, the downside for those who don’t like to cold, is that it is normally a sport for the very hardy.  Really, if you test the ice it is normally not that dangerous.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com/ Wild_Bill

    Although not quite a Saint, my wife’s name is Maureen.  The Catholic church will probably nominate her for sainthood immediately after I pass on.  After all she does deserve some great reward for putting up with me all these years.

  • http://primarilypets.blogspot.com/ Barbara

    Well my friend, I do admire your love of and excitement with winter’s challenges. I’m always outside in all kinds of weather because I’ve always had animals to feed or walk, or outdoor things to attend to, like bringing in wood for the wood stove that heats my wee home. I’m not sure I would ever, no matter how daring I was or think I am, go out ice fishing in snow squalls on ice I wasn’t sure of. Obviously you were sure of the ice. And sure of your skills and abilities in this kind of weather. Of course! I keep forgetting you’ve been doing this kind of thing all your life!

    I remember walking out about half a mile off shore in winters as a youngster when my father would take the family to visit the cottage we rented in summers on Lake Simcoe, north of Toronto. We would see the ice huts way out and always walk out to see the anglers. It amazed me at how cozy they were in their huts, sometimes even having tiny enclosed wood stoves. And the eerie light coming from the thick ice shining through the hole that was carved into the ice somehow haunts me and is clear in my memory. I was always afraid of falling in, so never went into the huts, just peeked in and said hello and admired the catch of the day wondering at their bravery so close to the freezing water. Drowning was terrifying to me. You going through the ice brought back that same heart-racing feeling.

    Dad showed us where the ice was thin (his father was a tremendous angler, so I assume he also went ice fishing), where anglers had cut their holes – always marked by bits of branches sticking up clearly. No snowmobiles in those days, we all walked, and the anglers sometimes drove their trucks out to their huts…but that was many years ago.

    More recently when I lived in the city I used to walk my dogs and my sons dogs along Lake Ontario’s shores. One winter in a snow storm with wind howling, one of my dogs, a big lab ran out onto the ice after something. It was spring and I could hear the ice heaving, groaning and cracking and I thought I was watching my dog run to his death believing the ice would crack open under him. Fortunately he finally heard my whistle – the wind must have been blowing in that direction though he was just a small black spot on the ice – and came running back. The ice split open after he jumped onto shore… my heart started beating again about an hour later it seemed.

    So those are my stories of winter ice on lakes

    Nothing like yours – which are high adventure! Well told!

    And yes loving life, and all its rewards including adventure, risk and the satisfaction of “making it” is what it’s all about, in my opinion anyway. Thank you for describing your fishing expeditions… I’ll bet that supper of the first fish caught through the ice this season is especially sweet and brings with it the recollection of a tiny tinge of cold bristling at your moustache. You are an amazing outdoorsman.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    It was nice to hear of your adventures on ice.  I love it when readers share interesting incidents that have shaped their lives.  Dogs on ice are particularly scary.  They have no fear or understanding of the danger.

    My ramblings and adventures are mild to moderate as compared to many.  Most are within the capabilities of the person.  We all need to test our limits just a little so that we can understand the excitement of life.  A little adrenaline feels pretty darned good!

    And yes eating the fish is a wonderful reward.  Delicious and nutritious.  Excluding the mercury we have added to their diet of course.

  • http://crazymountainman.blogspoot.com/ Out on the prairie

    That fishing sounds real good, even with all the perils. now I have the fever, but ice isn’t that thick here yet.We are suppose to have a group with a county outing on the 28th.It was 50 here yesterday.My freezer has a lot of trout I need to eat, I caught them in open water still in December.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Sounds like you had a late and fruitful trout season.  The whole country seems to be abnormally warm.  Who ever heard on no ice in Minnesota in January?  I’ve heard from some readers that it is warm there as well.  We are lucky to have enough ice to fish on.  Next week its supposed to get nice and COLD!  Thank you weather Gods!

  • http://fourwindsphotojournal.wordpress.com/ sandy

    I have never been ice fishing, but do love to hear about it.  The ice is much thicker than I thought it would be with all our 40º days. We have bare ground again, but may get new snow on Thursday. That last photo is so lovely.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com/ Wild_Bill

    Hi Sandy

    I was reminded by an acquaintance today that in 2006 we had our first serious snow, and then it snowed every week and sometimes twice a week until the 2nd week in April.  So there is still hope for a decent winter.  Ice fishing is much easier when you don’t have to shovel snow to get to the ice.  So I’ll focus on the positive until real winter returns.  As long as there is good ice there will be fun.  I’ll be going again soon. 

    The photo you like is the upper Deerfield River in Vermont. 

  • http://montucky.wordpress.com/ Montucky

    Interesting how similar your weather has been to ours this year. I would not have expected that. 

    As I look at the river here I see practically no ice along the edges, unusual for this time of year, but I know there is ice on the lakes. Next week perhaps I will do a little fishing through the ice with my son. We have a lake that’s close for trout, 15 miles further another one for pike and one ten more miles for salmon. I am a reluctant ice fisherman at best, greatly preferring using flies on streams, but still, those lakes are waiting. 

  • http://www.wildramblings.com/ Wild_Bill

    I love fishing so much that I’ll try it anytime, anywhere!  The variety of lakes you have that hold different fish is pretty lucky.  We have quite a few lakes that have homogeneous fish populations.  Some of the bigger lakes that hold larger fish in southern Vermont open January 15th (if there is enough ice).

    The weather across the entire northern tier has been similar.  We are expecting a major snow, sleet, ice storm tomorrow.  We’ll see what happens.

  • http://primarilypets.blogspot.com/ Barbara

    Forgot to add Bill – that last photo is one of your best – such peace but also it beckons one to wonder what’s down or up stream…beautiful for so many reasons! Thanks as always, for sharing your life and your exuberance over fishing – just fabulous!

  • http://www.wildramblings.com/ Wild_Bill

    Thanks Barbara, upstream is Somerset Reservoir situated in the Green Mountain National Forest, and downstream (about 14 miles) is Harriman Reservoir another reservoir that was built for steady flow to downstream hydrolelectic facilities.

    Somerset is absolutely gorgeous, not one house or camp, a six mile long lake that is completely wild and host to loons, eagles, moose, abundant wildlife, and a decent smallmouth bass population.

  • Wendysarno

    I’ve never been ice fishing, Bill, but your story had me gripped every word. The ice, the wind, the blowing snow, the gun-shot sound of the ice cracking, the cold, cold slush and the flapping fish. Once I lived near a lake that almost never froze over completely. Not in our Missouri winters, which only seem to be getter milder. Once my golden retriever, Hunter, fell thru chasing geese. He struggled for twenty long, agonizing minutes to pull himself out as I yelled and prayed loudly to every god I could think of from the bank. Suddenly he popped out with his feet on the ice as tho some angel had reached in and lifted him out, just like that. Hunter lived nine more years. I’ve never walked out on ice again.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com/ Wild_Bill

    Dogs on ice in early and late season are potentially in peril.  I won’t let my dogs anywhere near ice unless I know its safe for me.  I had a scare similar to yours with a floppy eared bloodhound/black and tan hound cross.  It was a miracle he lived.  Like in your situation he was struggling in the cold water and the next thing I knew he was laying on the ice.  After a minute he stood up and walked to shore.  He never wandered out onto thin ice again.

  • http://alsphotographyblog.blogspot.com/ Al

    That’s a terrifying story, very much a life-and-death situation. I’m used to cold (it’s often below 10 degrees in the morning when I take my dog out in the morning this time of year, and it’s been as cold as -20). But I’ve never been ice-fishing.

    You asked how I get my lightning photos. Basically it’s three things – be safe (that’s most important as lightning kills people in my area every year), live in an area with lots of thunderstorms (we get from 40 to more than 60 days of thunderstorms in a typical year), and take long exposures. I get the question so frequently I’ve answered it in detail in a blog post here at http://alsphotographyblog.blogspot.com/2011/10/rainy-lightning.html

  • http://www.anniespickns.wordpress.com/ Annie

    Loved this story especially the “Where the hell did you come from” line although I have to stay that the thought of walking out on ice scares the hell out of me. I think if I ever did get up enough courage to walk out on some and it started making noises I would probably have a heart attack. Think I’m more of a terra firma type, love the feel of that dirt in contact with my feet.

  • Teresaevangeline

    This brought back some memories. My second husband and I did a lot of ice fishing. Many evenings the fish would be biting and I never had time to get my gloves on between them. Hands and fingers almost frozen, but too much fun to think about until it was time to call it a night or they stopped biting.  I could so relate.  Nothing tastes better than crappies caught through the ice. They have more substance, I swear, in the winter.

    But, what a terrible fear, going through the ice, and to live to tell about it! Good Lord. I hear that if you use a spear house with a rectangular hole, instead of looking for the light, you look for the dark and that’s where you’ll find the hole. It’s happened to people I know. One guy came up in another person’s fish house.  Freaky deaky to the max. I can well imagine how your fellow fisherman felt when you flopped out onto the ice. My god, man.

    But, there’s not much finer than being out there with the quiet all around and that stark landscape, cold and still. Those cracks and booms on the ice…. yes, unnerving, but beautiful, too. You’ve described all of this so well.  Thank you.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com/ Wild_Bill

    Isn’t it nice to live where winter is winter?  Although this year much of the US has had a very slow start with regards to our coldest season.  Thank you for you response to my photo/lightning question.  I’ll be checking out your reference asap!

  • http://www.wildramblings.com/ Wild_Bill

    I’ve been on the ice since I was a young kid.  The first time I fell through the ice I was about 7, alone in a swamp, but the icy water was only thigh deep.  I learned a lot of respect for the ice on the long and cold trip home.  Had to keep moving fast to keep from freezing! 

    For those who don’t like to travel on icy lakes you can always look at them; they are sooooo beautiful!

  • http://www.wildramblings.com/ Wild_Bill

    Isn’t it amazing how fish caught in icy waters seem to taste better.  My theory is that they stay cold and therefore stay fresh. 

    I would never want to fall through the ice again.  I look upon this experience as a lesson learned and not to be repeated.  I am much more cautious about potentially dangerous areas now.

    Alone on the ice, windy and blowing snow, biting cold on your face, there is nothing quite like it.  A wonderful and soulful experience, no doubt!

  • http://nature-drunk.com/ Nature Drunk

    Wow! What adventures you have, Bill. 

    Like you, we are having above average temps and below average precipitation. I have been enjoying pruning and tidying the garden and visiting with the cheerful birds, but I can’t help but be concerned about our reservoir levels. It will be interesting to see what Mother Nature brings this winter.

    Take care of yourself and enjoy those tasty fish!

  • http://www.wildramblings.com/ Wild_Bill

    I’m thinking our weather concerns are really climate concerns.  This may be more serious than any of us can imagine.  Climate, evidently, can change relatively quickly, ecosystems cannot.  Another warning we must heed.

  • Patricia Lichen

    Great post, and what a story! I’m meeting with a group of friends tomorrow and will have to share it! 

  • Marvin

    Having spent my entire life in the south, it’s impossible for me to even imagine ice routinely thick enough for walking and ice fishing.  However, a few years back we had several days of sub-freezing temperature and I got the idea of having a once-in-a-lifetime experience by walking across the ice on one of our tiny stock ponds.  Had I fallen through, the walk home would have been miserable and my wife would have laughed at me, but I would not have been in any real danger since the water depth was not over my head.  The ice popped and cracked, but I made it across without getting wet.  Once is enough.  I’ve scratched “walking on ice” off my Bucket List.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com/ Wild_Bill

    Thanks Patricia and I’m [;eased that you are sharing this! 

  • http://www.wildramblings.com/ Wild_Bill

    “Scratched walking on ice off my bucket list”  that’s pretty funny.  Yep, had you fallen through it would have been cold alright, take it from me; bone chilling cold!  Thanks for reading Marvin!

  • http://swamericana.wordpress.com/ Jack Matthews

    For goodness sakes, Bill, you are tough!  As I read I felt like something ominous was going to happen.  You were so controlled when you fell into the water.  What a story.  Hard to imagine anything worse than your experience.  And, yet, you get back on the ice.  Tough.  The weather sounds bad, but good to be in, if that makes any sense.  I don’t mind the wind, to a point, or the rain, if properly attired.  The challenge is it?  Partly that, but I think it is the whole affect of weather and the outdoors that makes me walk in the grove and pasture.  Perhaps the same for you and others like us.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com/ Wild_Bill

    The one thing that I inherited from my father is my love for bad weather.  I have no idea why I revel in extreme cold, horrific wind, and mind numbing storms.  I’m guessing it has something to do with adrenaline and an innate survival instinct.  Yep, you and I share this love of the outdoors in all situations.

  • http://swamericana.wordpress.com/ Jack Matthews

    When I was in high school I remember dragging two of my friends to a winter camp near Richland Springs, Texas.  The snow and ice on the ground at the camp I felt was a challenge to keeping warm, sleeping warm.  After one night, my two friends begged me to take them back to town which I did.  Our winters down here are nowhere near as severe as yours, but I remember keeping a campfire going for three or four days during the Thanksgiving holidays while visiting my grandmother along the Colorado River.  And, when I was stranded in my pickup on top of the Jemez Mountain pass near Santa Fe, I did not think it fatal since I had winter gear on and in back of the camper.  In two of these stories, I was alone and frankly pushed myself to face the elements.  I have a love for bad weather — preparing for it and living through it.  Our thunderstorms are fierce, the winds high.  I like the high elevations in the mountains where the clouds are literally below you and it is stunning in cold.  I hope to hike the high trails again in New Mexico.

  • http://swamericana.wordpress.com/ Jack Matthews

    One more thing, Bill.  I really like your photographs in this post, particularly the last one.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com/ Wild_Bill

    Because I actually lived in a tipi for two years all year round I’m very familiar with living in the elements.   It’s really a matter of attitude and adjustment.  My main source of warmth on long January nights was two large hounds, who appreciated me inviting them into my blankets!  You and I are a lot alike Jack.  We both like to test ourselves!

  • http://www.wildramblings.com/ Wild_Bill

    Thanks Jack, I really appreciate your compliment.

Nature Blog Network