Greetings from Basin Harbor –
The January thaw has ended and cold weather has returned to Vermont. As we look forward to a week of temperatures predominately in the single digits or less, it’s interesting to note that the Lake froze over (in the narrows where we are) during this week in 2000, 2005 and 2011 (and undoubtedly other years but we weren’t keeping track back then). There was no permanent ice in 2006, 2010 and 2012, a sure sign of global warming. Bob Beach, Sr., now 93, said that he can’t recall a single year when ice failed to form prior to 2006.
We used to “harvest” ice for use in the summer, back before the 50s. The old ice house was located adjacent to the Harbor Store, built into the hill so the bottom half was below ground. Large blocks of ice – 2 to 3 feet square – were cut from the Harbor, hauled up and put into the building with thick layers of sawdust to insulate them so they would last well into the summer months. When technology made it possible to make ice with machines, a long time guest said that was all well and good but she’d miss that wild ice.
A thick layer of ice on the Lake long ago meant easier transportation for goods . It is said that as many as 20 teams of oxen and their people would stop for a respite from the cold on a winter’s night, back when the Homestead was a tavern. That is probably one of the reasons why there were a series of barns on what is now the Homestead lawn, visible in the old photographs in the computer room of the Champlain Lounge.
In more recent memory, ice fishing was a really big deal for many local residents who weren’t necessarily skiers or snowmobilers (and long before anyone was enjoying those winter activites). It was a fine way for folks to supplement their larders and provide some companionship as well. There might be 50 or more ice shanties on the ice just off the shore at Basin Harbor (and many other locations where there was easy access to the Lake). The shanties were little cabins with two, four or even six holes in the floor, where the ice would be cut to allow access, and you could fish in the comfort of an enclosed space. Most had kerosene heaters to take the chill off. Cars would fill the Homestead parking lot and then begin to line Basin Harbor Road. Some years many people would park on the surface of the Harbor itself, depending on how much snow was on the ice, mostly after we had stopped harvesting it. One of Bob’s dogs, Tonic, the Irish setter, became very adept at stealing the lunches of the hapless fishermen and women!
Fewer people seem to be going out to fish on the ice – when it’s there, but a lot of them are interested in whether or not the ice has formed. We’ll have lots of traffic this week, people checking the status of the ice. So stay tuned and we’ll let you know how the fishing is. Smelt and perch are the fish of choice.
Aside from waiting for the ice to form, we’re busy with all sorts of projects! Executive Chef Chris Kruse is busy putting the finishing touches on the 2013 season’s menus. The work continues in the Ranger Room, and the maintenance staff is combing through cottages to make needed repairs and painting. The Sales and Reservations people are waiting for your calls and emails, so please make sure to keep them busy!
Best wishes from your Basin Harbor Family – stay warm! Pennie