Ice Fishing Through the Corona Crisis

The day we left for Maine, the corona virus was a bizarre event happening far away in China.  We arrived at the cabin on Sunday and found the renters had rearranged the place again. This time our TV bass speaker had been un-plugged  from the TV and moved to the desk.  We had gained 2 towels, a T shirt and some socks, bur our little electric heater was not in its usual spot.  We wandered down to the pond around sunset and walked out onto the ice. We noticed the almost full moon had risen in the northeast and then J noticed that if we turned 180 degrees we could see the sun just going below the horizon at the same time.  It was an amazing phenomenon that neither of us had seen before. The weather on Monday was gorgeous. We took up residence at Barker Lodge and skied the blues and blacks off Spruce Peak and Barker Mountain.  The snow conditions were even good enough for a couple of double blacks in the morning.  Conditions remained good until mid afternoon when, with temperatures reaching 61 degrees, it got a little slushy.  Went back to the cabin for happy hour in the yard and I serenaded J with the new Klos travel guitar.  Corona virus was a distant event, way in the back of our minds. We had no idea what was coming.

Monday was the full worm moon aka super worm moon. I knew if I went out on the pond I could get a good shot as it came over the mountains to the east. Moon rise was scheduled for 6:42 P.M.  I went down to the pond and waited, knowing it would be a while before it cleared the mountain, but not wanting to miss it.  Finally, about 7:00 P.M. I began to see a glow above the mountains and then noticed the clouds racing down from the north.  As the moon rose the clouds began to obscure it and when it was fully risen, it was completely obscured.  Dejectedly I headed back up the path to the cabin. I was halfway back when it suddenly got brighter and as I looked over at the moon, the clouds had parted. I turned and ran back down the frozen icy boardwalk to get an amazing shot of it, moonbeams reflecting off the snow.

Wednesday was another great ski day at Sunday River.  I skied until lunch and then went to Jordan spa for a CBD massage, while Janet got in another 4 runs.  Thursday morning I  practiced guitar  and wrote, while J worked on the basement shelves.  In the afternoon we hiked up to Harvard Quarry, so named because it was once owned by Harvard University and many of the gems in its collection were found here. 

The World Health Organization declared a pandemic, but otherwise life seemed to going on as usual  in Maine.  Friday it rained all day,  so we worked on the basement shelves. The news began rolling in:  the NCAA had canceled both men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and the NBA shut down.  Our daughter, Ellen, her wife, Anna and their friend Glen arrived late on Saturday afternoon from the Boston area.  They talked of social distancing and self-isolation, so we decided to get take out Mexican for dinner. We found out that Trump had declared a National Emergency.

Ellen, Anna and Glen had plans to ski at Sunday River on Sunday.  J and I avoid downhill areas on weekends so we headed over to Great Glen for some Nordic action. Except for a few minutes in the lodge, what could be more socially distancing than skiing through the woods, we thought. We skied for about 2 hours under gorgeous blue skies. Arriving back at the Great Glen Lodge we discovered that we had skied the last day of the season – they were closing due to corona.

Things were changing so rapidly we could not even plan for the next day much less the next week. Originally we were going to spend the week in New Hampshire. Then Attitash and Wildcat closed. We decided to go to Sunday River on Monday and a few hours later they closed. That left Bretton Woods as the only open ski area. Farther than we would have liked to drive but there was no choice. We knew we could limit the risk to ourselves and discussed whether we were being socially irresponsible by unknowingly having the virus and passing it on. But we decided that anyone who was there was willing to take that risk.  Approaching Gorham, Anna slowed down, but not enough and got pulled over for speeding, but ended up with a warning and not a ticket.  The resort was taking things seriously, eliminating singles lines, posting “ride only with your party,” signs at all lifts and had placed hand sanitizer everywhere. There were plenty of people there for a Monday and with only two lifts open, some decent lines. We stopped at the grocery store in Bethel  on the way home and everything seemed normal, except for a few signs announcing “senior only” shopping hours. The hoarding and panic buying we had heard about was not happening. Business as usual in Maine. 

Tuesday started out snowing so we played scrabble and then decided to try ice fishing. I had an old spoon auger, a tip up and a jigging rod, but no other equipment. We hadn’t planned on ice fishing and had to improvise, making hooks out of nails, and a sounder from an old freeze plug.  We also had no bait except for some leftover ham.  The auger was dull, and we weren’t making much progress. Anna, a master brewer at Night Shift Beer, is a genius at all things mechanical, and quickly deduced that more downward force was required. She had J stand on the augur for additional weight and then spun them around together.  The technique worked so well that we were through in minutes and the technique was immediately dubbed  “Lithuanian ice auguring” in honor of Anna’s heritage.  Anna baited the home-made hook with the ham and had a bite in minutes but no catch.  Then several more but she couldn’t land any. I gave it a try with similar results. It seemed our hook making skills were deficient. 

Lithuanian ice auguring

The next day we got some cardio at Carter Cross Country ski area and then decided to see if we could augment our meager fishing equipment.  The grocery store in Bethel was open as usual but across the street at Brooks Brothers Hardware there was a sign on the door: “curbside only.” We called them from in front of the store and ordered some real hooks.  The woman said, “we still have toilet paper, we are the only ones in Town, do you want any?”  We were low so we said, “sure.”  She said,  “OK drive around back, we’ll send someone out with your order.” It made us feel like drug dealers.

The four of us trudged down to the pond carrying chairs and assorted refreshments.  Anna put a real hook on the jigging rod, baited it with ham, and dropped it into the hole.  I found another old hole about 80 feet away and augured through that. Anna came over and started jigging there, while I went back to the old hole and set up the tip up. The three of us sat around watching the tip up when a commotion erupted from behind us. We ran over and found Anna holding a 12” chain pickerel with a smile on her face as wide as the pickerel was long. The next day we all had to return to reality and face the dreaded Corona, but we knew the memories of that epic ice fishing trip would pull us through.

Categories: adventure travel, MaineTags: , , ,

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