On Frozen Pond

Posted: January 31, 2014 in McTrip posts
Tags: , , ,

(Part 1 of 2)
photo-2I used an outhouse for the first time. In fact, I used it three times on a recent four-day ice fishing trip with college friends in northern Minnesota. The temperature was right around zero the entire time. On my final trip to the outhouse (and if there’s a god in heaven, my final trip to ANY outhouse) the temperature was 11-below zero.

Survived a toilet seat at 11-blow zero felt like surviving Chernobyl. Or Auschwitz. Okay, that’s overstated. But trust me, it was simply horrific.

Said outhouse and adjoining property is owned by the father of a college friend of mine. He finally succeeded in coercing me to leave the 80-degree weather of my hometown and spend a weekend watching a bobber in a 6-inch hole cut in a frozen lake.

Remote only begins to describe this place. If you’ve ever seen “The Shining,” it’s like that, without the opulent hotel or Jack Nicholson with an ax.

In case you want to visit, here are the directions: Work your way to the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota, exit the highway, and head back into the tall pines. Stay on an icy two-lane road for about 12 miles. Then, make a right-hand turn onto a very narrow, snow-packed road for another five miles and pray another vehicle doesn’t come the opposite direction (which it won’t because no one in their right mind is back here). Finally, park your four-wheel-drive vehicle at a clearing, mount a snowmobile with all your belongings and supplies, and skirt through the woods another quarter mile to the cabin.

Let’s just say it’s not a place to have a heart attack.

The cabin itself is quaint if not lavishly appointed. An oil-burning furnace offers some heat and is supplemented with a wood-burning fire, which burns day and night. There’s no electricity, no running water, no shower and, it bears repeating, no civilized toilet.

While the cabin itself lacks modern-day luxuries, the icehouse, on the frozen pond, is oddly swanky. My somewhat eccentric host (pictured at right, drilling for water) spares no expense in outfitting his fishing shelter, which is really nothing more than a tent big enough to seat five people.

photo-4There were two veteran ice fishermen on this trip, allowing me the privilege to plead ignorance while the others painstakingly transformed a tent into a dude den.

Once the snow is cleared by shovels down to the frozen surface, a padded floor is laid and then covered with Turkish rugs (I told you he was eccentric). Those rugs, by the way, must  be hauled back to Minneapolis for dry cleaning after the trip, to rid them of fish remnants and pilsner. The tent is then outfitted with space heaters, pots and pans for cooking lunch, fancy collapsible chairs with built-in coolers, a battery- powered satellite radio tuned to the hits of the ‘80s (appropriately), and of course, a selection of cigars and alcohol sufficient to host a fraternity party.

From the moment I agreed to this trip my one and only fear was that somehow the ice would give way and I would end up chin deep in water one degree away from freezing, my body going from shock to rigor mortis all in the span of seconds.

I was assured this would not happen–under any circumstances–by the two seasoned ice fishermen, both attorneys. I’ve never heard of an attorney guarantee anything, so I was somewhat relieved.

All of this, ALL of this nonsense, to catch fish, I thought.

Then, eventually, I got the joke. It’s not about the fishing at all.

It’s about fighting Mother Nature and ultimately ending up the victor. I mean, the amount of time and physical exertion required to put this together is staggering! For God’s sake I’m listening to “Rock Lobster” in a relatively balmmy heated tent, with a fishing line down a hole drilled with by a 6” auger, in the middle of who knows where, ON A FUCKING FROZEN LAKE!

I’m witnessing a miracle!! Who gives a crap if I catch fish (which I did, by the way, one).

For me, though, it was more than just conquering the elements. It was about reuniting with college friends, something that always takes me back to a wonderful time when life was so simple and carefree. I feel instantly younger, and stress-free, when I’m around those guys.

And if it means I must literally freeze my ass off to be transported back to those bygone days, it’s a price worth paying.

(To be continued…)

  1. Diae says:

    Yeah baby…rock…rock…rock lobster!

  2. morgan says:

    That’s living!

  3. Kurt says:

    No matter how you break it down, college friends are THE best friends. I’ll bet you are glad you can take ice fishing off your bucket list . . . not sure it was ever on there, but you get the idea!

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