Of ice and men

Of all of the various states of water, from snow to sleet, steam to rain, the solid variety is by far the most popular.

In the North Country, ice has provided unrivaled entertainment. It has proven much more valuable than snow. There has long been a fascination with ice. We slide on it, ride upon it, climb up it and drill holes through it to fish. We use it for work and play.

Ice has aided the transportation of logs from the woods and to haul construction materials to camps. In some instances, entire buildings have been moved over its firm surface. In Saranac Lake, they actually cut it into blocks to construct incredible ice castles, an annual project which locals have enjoyed for over a century. On other lakes, ice blocks are still cut for refrigeration or to provide cubes for a cocktail.

While enthusiasts of ice sports anxiously await for the day that the region's lakes and ponds safely 'set up,' many others patiently await the day it finally breaks up. It is this same sense of anticipation that keeps hardwater anglers watching for a tip-up flag to fly.

The power and force of ice is considerable. Ask a ferry captain on Lake Champlain, a contractor on the Saranacs or a homeowner along the AuSable. Ice can move a ferryboat or a house, with equal force.

As it rumbles and moans, heaves and cracks or flows with the spring runoff, ice presents a fierceness that defies it's often smooth, gentle texture.

The attraction of ice is equally moving. Witness the shanty villages of Port Henry, the ice boats off Grand Isle, the athletes assembled at Mt. Van Hovenberg or the climbers high upon the soaring cliffs of Chapel Pond.

Equal fascination is given to the intricacy of delicate frost flowers on the smooth black ice of the Cascades or the violence of massive ice flows along the Hudson or the ornate, blue ice walls of Pitchoff Mountain.

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