OK, the ice is finally out on the big lakes.  Therefore, the serious fishermen (and women) from the south of Maine and beyond are risking the welfare of their handsome new Lund fishing boats and trailers by traversing that last segment of Route 4 that hasnt been re-surfaced in the past 30+ years (you know where it is.just south of Madrid north to Smalls Falls).  And the commercial districts (not real districts,but you know what I mean) in Rangeley and Oquossoc are ready for the fishermen and women, and almost ready for the Memorial Day starting point for the summer people and short-term visitors.  

The above are the larger-scale post ice outphenomena that are the life-blood of the Rangeley Lakes Region that many people are familiar with.  There is another level, however,that appeals significantly to a large segment of those same year-rounders, summer people, and short term visitors. plus many, many more.  

Allen Wicken

It is the living constellation of species that depend on these lakes and environs for living, breathing life itself, and the one species (homo sapiens, a.k.a. US!) that fully appreciates that constellation of terrestrial and aquatic species for their own physical and mental health whether they see their affinity for this corner of Maine that way or not.   Ice outheralds the returning or emerging species to  much more visible and audible levelslevels that a substantial coating of ice and/or snow  rendered quiet, absent, or hidden for a few months since late November.

I like to fish, but it isnt my reason for being.  Having checked boats and trailers for harmful invasive aquatic species at the Rangeley Town Park boat launch for many summers, I know there are many who fall into the I fish, therefore I amgroup.  God love emtheir mental, if not physical, well-being ramps up considerably as soon as the last dock line is cast offand that first fishing line is rigged and set forth carefully in search of that trophy trout or salmon.  

However, for me, and the many others like me, there are other primary reasons why these beautiful lakes and ponds call us again with increased intensity as soon as the winters ice gives up its annual grip.

A case in point:

It occurred on our Gull Pond shorefront on Thursday morning, May 9th.  On a clear, but windy, Wednesday, May 8th, the rapidly darkening ice surface finally broke up.  With the help of the wind which undoubtedly accelerated the break-up, I noticed smaller and smaller flows of ice move past our shorefront heading toward the ponds outlet to the southeast where the disappearing ice segments collected before disappearing altogether.

Being the early riser in our home, I was up early on that gloriously clear morning of the 9th.  I walked down toward our big rockupon which a 6 ft. wooden and weathered bench rests, along with my inukshuk(to be discussed in a few paragraphs) about 5 feet to the right.  

It is truly a very huge, and handsome, rock.  Covered in part with thick mossy patches, and plenty of aged lichens throughout its surface, it is the favorite go-to feature on our shoreline.especially before the dock is in with its two very comfortable George Allison SignatureAdirondack chairs in place.

The sunrise was just beginning to happen with its yellow/orange orb beginning to peek through the treetops across the cove to the east.  I decided that I needed to hustle back to the cabin and make a hot cup of coffee and return to the bench to enjoy the calm pond and all the rich early morning colors on our shoreline. (see photo).  However, I did take the time to capture that first post-ice out early sunrise using the inukshuk to block the bright sunlight resulting in an interesting human-like silhouette (see the other photo).

The coffee in hand, I planted myself on the bench and began what surely will be another May-November series of beautiful early mornings soaking up what natures life-giving waters has to offer.  The first offering was the calls of three loons that seem to always show up the minute an adequate landing zone opens up at the beginning of ice out.  They were on the other side of the pond, almost a mile away, but the quiet calm of the water allowed the signature sounds to carry quickly to our shoreline.

A couple of minutes later, I noticed movement in the water to the right.  I quickly identified the source of the approaching wake.a beaver was checking out the now swimmable surface.  He dove briefly and frequently as he crossed the cove diagonally, but there were no tail-slapping to be heard or seen.  No reason for alarm. He/she was also joining me in reveling in the freshly transformed seasonal environment.

A few sips of coffee later, accompanied by a passing gull (it is Gull Pond after all), and a pair of noisy geese on the fly and I heard a splash 20 ft. away to my right.  I my startled glance was greeted by the striking plumage of a male common merganser. He had surfaced with the aft portion of a small 6yellow perch still visible and secured in his beak.  He worked the rest of the fish down his gullet and dove quickly to resume his fishing.  A couple of minutes later, both members of the male and female merganser pair surfaced in almost exactly the same point.  Although I remained motionless, something apparently startled them and they took off flying low across the pond.

The coffee was soon consumed to the last drop, but natures show continued.  I lingered another twenty minutes or so, listening to the familiar sounds, too long absent during our lengthy and challenging winter, of loons calling and migrating warblers in the nearby trees doing what they do best; warbling, of course.  I then thought, if not said out loud, Take it easy and enjoy, old friendto the inukshuk and ambled back to the cabin to make that second, and final, cup of coffee that first morning after another annual ice-out.

Before I conclude, an explanatory few sentences are in order regarding my inukshuk.  Three or four years ago, Judy and I spent a very enjoyable long weekend in the historic portion of Quebec City.  If you havent done the same in this UNESCO World Heritage site, you are truly missing a fine experience.and it is only a four-hour drive away.   We stayed in a very comfortable boutiquehotel below the high riverfront bluff and and the impressive Le Chateau Frontenac hotel.  We hadnt spent time in that very french city since camping in a provincial park outside of the city when our sons were little.  It is a very kid-friendly city as well. Lots to do during the day before returning to the tent site in a very clean and impressive park.

Anyway, among the items that caught my interest were the Canadian shops featuring carvings and crafts by the indigenous peoples of the countrys far norththe Inuit.  I was fascinated by the human forms the Inuit constructed from stones found on the barren and flat lands above the Arctic Circle.  They were used to guide the natives as they found their way in the essentially featureless land, much like rock pile cairnsare used in New England above tree line to help show the way on hiking trails, (especially helpful, I have found, whenever a dense fog rolls in).

I soon decided that our big rockwould be a great place upon which to construct my own inukshuk in honor of the impressive peoples of northern North America.  It would be the least I could do to show my reverence for all the indigenous tribes of our continent. The Canadians certainly have honored this fine symbol of the northland.  Its likeness is on the provincial flag of Nunavut, the northernmost province in Canadaand an inukshuk, you may remember, was the official symbol of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC.  

My personal inukshuk has kept watch over the pond from its big rockvantage point for four years now.  I expect he/she will remain on duty for many harsh winters and beautiful summers to come.   

I shall conclude with my personal variation of that aforementioned saying I fish, therefore I amfound on some t-shirts in Rangeley and other fishing meccas of northern New England.  It is thus:

I love the wilds of the Rangeley Lakes Region and the entire earth itself, therefore I am.

We need to write, otherwise nobody will know who we are.

                                                                        Garrison Keillor

Per usual, your thoughts and comments are more than welcome.  Jot them down on a 3x5card and slip it inside the log door on our mudroom on the rockbound (especially the big rock) west shore of Gull Pond.or simply fire off an email to [email protected]

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