Wanting to spend the most time possible on the ice this weekend, we drove to Cutright, and about 1:30 pm headed east onto the lake. We explored Saddle Creek, riding up the frozen creek bed, an easy highway in the woods, until we got to a spot where the creek was running free. came back out and headed out and around the point and south and then east again towards Axsom Branch. We stopped and had a snack while looking at the ice covered trees shining in the sun just over the ridge to the south. We followed the ice all the way back into where Salt Creek heads off to Story, rode a ways into the woods, and then started the long ride back. We rode against the wind and into the sunset with an increasing number of large patches of ice, but no falls occurred (at this time). Here is my Picasa album of the trip Distance: 15 mi Time: 4.5 hours on the iceTemp: 20 degreesWildlife: one frozen birdCaves explored: 1
Looking east from Cutright, here is Jojo leading. You can see how the ice is patchy, with crunchy ice/snow (good for traction) on much of the lake, but with with many patches of clear ice in numerous shapes and all sizes. Different parts of the lake had different surfaces due to variations in wind, rain, and snow. Did I mention the sound of ice cracking as it is forming? It is like not the sound of breaking through ice that we all fear, but a very resonant pinging, as if the ice were a drum skin, and you can both feel and hear the sound.
We crossed the white expanses, awed by the scenic views, then cut south into one of the side valleys to do some exploring. We found where the stream came into the lake, and we followed it upstream, a wide flat roadway into the forest. We came to where the stream split, and we found running water at the surface; there were numerous bird and mammal tracks as well as ice that had stayed high as the water level dropped.
As we rode back out to the main body of the lake, I noticed a “feature” on the nearby ridge, there was a bluff and at it’s head a cave! We climbed up and across the icey path to the cave’s mouth, which had a frozen floor and ice stalagtites.
We followed the frozen stream bed into the cave, we could hear running water. About 100 feet into the cave, there was a 90 degree turn to the right. There was an area of clay in the corner where you could stay high and dry while the stream flowed just a few feet away. Though we could stand at the corner, around the turn the cave got much smaller, about 3 feet high, and was very dark.
Our trusty steeds waited below, and we walked back down and hit the open road once again. We passed our only wildlife sighting of the day, a bird with a hawk like beak, frozen in the ice.
We passed rootcicles and found a spot to take a brief rest to eat some lunch. We sat on the cushions we had carried with us, pulled out our thermoses, ate lunch and gazed at the ridge to the south, with ice covered trees shining in the sun.
Unfortunately, my camera batteries died and I did not get any more pictures as we drove to the end of the ice where Salt Creek heads off to Story. We rode straight back, I rode wide to the other side and got caught on a larger patch of clear ice and went down. I pedaled back to Jojo, we visited a major crack where the Pine Grove branch of the lake comes into the main body and listened to the ice growling. We were riding against the wind, and the ice seemed to on forever, with wide swatches of slick dark ice to navigate. We rode on into the sunset over the ridge, found the the truck, and rode home.