Central Maine is rich in lakes and rivers. Lucky me, I live across the road from a lake that has been the object of my attention since I moved here in 1987. I didn’t note down when the ice started to form that first winter, but after waiting and waiting and waiting, I did record the date when it was finally gone: April 12, 1988, my first spring on this property.
I called it “ice-off,” though I soon learned that people around here call it “ice-out.” Some folks drive the fifteen miles around the lake, which takes about half an hour, again and again until they’re sure all the ice is gone. Sometimes the Augusta paper reports their findings. I’m lazier, and my definition is simpler: when I can’t see any more ice from my house, it’s officially “ice-off.”
Except that even then it’s not really simple. Some years the wind blows a big plate of ice south out of sight, only to blow it back the next day. Some years the ice really does just seem to melt; other years it breaks up into big chunks that float around for days. Sometimes it seems to be gone, only to re-form along the shore overnight, as if November has come again. Sometimes it’s all gone except for a thin strip on the far shore in a spot that never gets any sun. So does that count as ice-off, or not? Only I can say!
For my first twenty-two years here, the ice always disappeared during the month of April, with April 1 the earliest date (2006) and April 28 the latest (2001). Then we had March 23 in 2010 and March 25 in 2012. Since then it’s been back in April. I have never seen any ice on the lake in May.
Bodies of water represented in this gallery:
*In local lingo, there doesn’t seem to be much distinction between lakes and ponds, but the generic phrase “great pond” has a legal meaning. More information here.