While ice fishing on Lake Superior near Bayfield Tuesday, our group encountered the usual ice and snow conditions that occur on big bodies of water. The snow was wind-drifted and hard-packed in places. The snow was soft and blowing in some places. The ice was bare in other places. That always makes travel interesting.
Our group traveled on snowmobiles and one four-wheeler about five miles out to where we fished. We left Bayfield about 7:30 a.m. The morning was overcast, and the light was flat. It was impossible to make out the drifts. Our snow machines and the four-wheeler climbed imperceptible drifts, then dropped without warning, giving riders a split-second of air time. We traveled at low speeds — about 20 miles per hour — so the going was good. But ripping across that lake surface at high speeds would have been dangerous.
The big lake usually has pressure ridges where two huge plates of ice have pushed together, buckling ice above the lake surface 2 or 3 feet high, sometimes much higher. We crossed one pressure ridge on Tuesday, carefully selecting a passage where the ice hadn’t piled up too high.
Once we set up to fish, walking from one shelter to another was equally challenging. We slipped where powdery snow hid bare ice. Even at walking speed, it was nearly impossible to discern hard-packed drifts. I tripped over one, falling into soft snow on the other side. I felt like a drunk tripping over a city curb. It was no big deal. But if you had to travel any distance over that inconsistent surface on foot, it would have been quite a trip.