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Adam Chesney, a senior at UMD, shows off his first Kamloop rainbow trout ever at the McQuade Harbor just north of Duluth on Lake Superior.
If April doesn’t seem unbearably wintry enough, imagine being stuck out in the icy waters of Lake Superior. Imagine being a fish.
With the north shore rivers still frozen, the lake’s hardy rainbow trout — steelhead and Kamloops — are still waiting to migrate upstream to where they were born and keep the cycle going by laying their own eggs.
Only once the rivers thaw and water temperatures reach 42 degrees will the rivers be flipping and flopping with their speckled silver bodies. But, for now, they’re huddling in harbors and sticking close to shore where the water is warmer.
One of Duluth’s most popular steelhead rainbow trout fishing “hotspots” on the mouth of the Lester River is both frozen and blocked off from the lake by a barricade-like delta of small rocks making it impossible for the fish to enter and spawn.
Local fishermen are equally as eager for the rivers to thaw.
Adam Chesney, a UMD senior in the Environmental Health and Safety Masters program, was one among a handful of fishermen at the McQuade Harbor just north of Duluth on Lake Superior, April 14.
The small harbor had a thin layer of ice and a few left over snow-bergs from earlier in the winter.
“I was here last night and there were probably about 30 people,” he said. “The ice wasn’t here either, so more people could fit in here and get their lines out.”
To find open water for fishing, Chesney and two of his friends climbed down the boulders that make up the harbor pier and set up their fishing gear near the outlet of the harbor.
The few fishermen that stayed on the inside of the harbor had to break holes in the ice with their fishing nets in order to get their bobbers in the water.
Matt, a senior at Denfeld High School, casts his bobber into the water at the outlet of McQuade Harbor.
Despite the cold weather and inconvenient fishing location, Chesney, a first-time rainbow trout fishermen, said he was having a blast.
By ten o’clock in the morning he had already reeled in two large Kamloops. Fishermen call them “loopers.”
“I couldn’t feel them hit because of the wind,” he said. “But I just waited to set the hook and then the battle began.”
He used a bobber to float a Looper Bug and Wax Worm off the bottom of the harbor for bait.
Moon Shine Country
It takes a certain breed of college students to pass up beaches, bikinis and beer on spring break and UMD’s got them.
RSOP sent 20 adventure-seeking students to the southeast over spring break, but 300 miles inland and 5,000 feet above any ocean beach.
Students Zach Gill, Erin Denny, Charlie Milton, Katie Houg and Nick Rorem led two different groups on a chilly 50-mile hiking trip up-and-down the Appalachian Trail along the North Carolina-Tennessee border.
The two groups of hikers came from different levels of experience, varied from freshmen to senior and, for the first time in a while, had a balanced number of men and women.
“Two years ago on the same trip, it was like all boys and one girl,” Houg said. “Now, I think both trips had pretty even male-female ratios.”
Denny, also the Outdoor Trips Coordinator for RSOP, added, “I’ve been noticing a huge increase in women participation in all of our (RSOP) events, which is crazy cool.”
The trip not only saw an increase in women, but in general participation.
“We didn’t know we were going to have two groups,” Gill said. “It was overbooked, so we decided to do two trips.”
Along with the surprising attendance numbers, the crew also didn’t expect cold weather.
“Weather is always a wild card,” Gill said. “But I didn’t expect 9 degree mornings.”
“I woke up one morning and there were a couple inches (of snow) on the ground and I was like, ‘What is this? Minnesota?” Matt Worms, a freshman in Gill’s group, said.
Unexpected conditions call for makeshift solutions.
“The water filters froze,” Houg said. “So, Nick stuck them in his armpits during a windy snow storm. It worked after trying everything else.”
Some hikers didn’t pack gloves, so they wore wool socks on their hands.
“Everybody was willing to adapt to the conditions and find beauty and joy amidst the unexpected cold,” Houg said.
About the same time you start slipping into your footie pajamas and settling down for the night, volunteer outdoor ice rink flooders are lacing up their boots and heading to the rinks.
Duluth’s outdoor ice skating rinks are maintained by dedicated volunteer hockey parents and UMD’s Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity.
Without these volunteers, maintaining the over 17 outdoor rinks wouldn’t be possible for Duluth.
“It keeps the cost down,” Pat Hall said, a volunteer flooder at the Lower Chester ice rinks. Hall was one among three hockey dads flooding the rinks the Friday night, Feb. 15. His son plays hockey for Lower Chester.
The parents rotate flooding nights in accordance to a schedule they sign up for.
THE FLOODING PROCESS
The flooders arrive at the rinks around closing time.
Before they can do anything, the snow and ice shreddings left over from day skaters have to come off the ice. They grab shovels and brooms and go to work, clearing one rink at a time.
If there’s a lot of snow, they use a Bobcat tractor to haul the main load. The clearing process takes at least an hour, sometimes more.
Once the ice is clean, it’s polished with a Zamboni – a machine that can shave bumps off the ice.
Then, finally, it’s time for the flooding. A thick hose, long enough to reach the far corners of the rinks, is used to spray water evenly onto the ice.
When the water freezes, they go back and spray on more.
The goal of flooding is to fill in the cracks and add layers of ice onto the rinks so they are fresh and ready for skating by the next morning.
“There’s a lot of pressure coming out of that hose,” Jeremy Carlson said, one of the Lower Chester flooders on Friday night.
He has two children in the Lower Chester hockey program.
“I wear these cleats on my feet,” Carlson explained, pointing at his boots. “Otherwise, the hose will spin ya right around.
The hose is so long and heavy it takes three people to work it. The headman sprays the water, another helps hold it and a third person helps carry the hose to the next spot that needs to be sprayed.
The first week in October means one thing to Northland apple-enthusiasts—the Apple Festival in downtown Bayfield, Wis.
This past weekend, Oct. 5-7, marked the festival’s 51st year in running. Visitors flocked to the big hill on Lake Superior to buy locally grown apples, listen to Big Top Chautauqua’s Blue Canvas Orchestra and watch the Grand Parade.
Over the weekend, the town’s population temporarily swelled from its residency of 487 to about 55,000.
For many orchards, the Apple Festival is a family and friend affair. Allen Rabideaux has been hauling apples from his orchard three miles down the hill to the festival for all but two years since 1963.
At first, he, his wife Mary Jo and five kids ran the apple and cider booths. His crew has now swelled to 22 helpers with the addition of children-in-law and grandchildren.
“Last year we had 22 bodies laying on the floor when we got up in the morning,” Rabideaux said. “(Mealtime) reminds my wife of working in the school cafeteria, slapping food onto plates.”
Rabideaux estimates he sells 65 percent of his crop at the festival and says he couldn’t do it without his family.
Don Wicklund, of Prior Lake, Minn., is another dedicated volunteer who has been helping his friend Bill Ferraro, owner of Apple Hill Orchard in Bayfield, for the past 18 years. They arrived early Thursday to dip 6,000 to 7,000 caramel apples, he estimated.
“This is the big weekend, the big push,” Wicklund said. “If it weren’t for (the festival), the orchards would have a very difficult time because apples come in from all over the United States, New Zealand, Japan and Chile. It’s hard to compete.”
According to Wicklund, Bayfield orchards used to send trainloads of apples to stores in Minnesota before outside competition came along.
Wicklund’s booth sold a variety of flavored caramel apples, homemade apple fudge turtle sundaes, and bags of Cortland apples. Saturday, his job was to assemble 5- and 10-pound bags to sell.
“This year the apples are larger than they’ve been for many years,” Wicklund said. “So, there’s not as many in a bag, but you’re still getting the same mass.”
This spring and summer’s weather had different effects on Bayfield’s orchards. Rabideaux lost 35 percent of his crop because his trees were woken up by warm weather in early April and began to bloom, but were then hit by frost at the end of the month. Most of the apples survived, however, and were nursed back to health by the rain in June.
“We had really good rains when we needed them,” Rabideaux said.
Elyda Amrein, a family member of and volunteer for the Hauser’s Superior View Orchard in Bayfield, said 85 percent of their apple crop came through, which she deems successful considering the lack of rain at the end of the summer and the two-week early harvest.
“The Cortland (apples) did fabulous!” she said.
Besides apples, there was a definite variety of apple desserts around the festival that were quite popular. Husband and wife, Allen and Pat Duncan, stopped to buy apple crisp with cinnamon ice cream and warm apple dumplings with rum sauce. The couple said they were just “cruising and eating.”
A group of students from Northland College in Ashland, Wis., were also enjoying the apple treats.
“Every year we eat something different,” junior Erika Zocher said. This is her third year at the festival.
The group spent their Saturday walking around, eating food, checking out the crafts, and looking at the fall colors over Lake Superior. They did not, however, venture over to the carnival rides. “We’re broke college kids,” they laughed together. “We can justify food, but not rides.”
Two surfers from Duluth and Rod (center) from Minneapolis take on the tall Lake Superior waves near the mouth of the Lester River, April 2. Rod left his work in Minneapolis early in order to make it in time to hit the waves before the sun went down. Despite the cold water temperature of 42 degrees, the surfers could not resist the almost perfect conditions, with waves as high as 10 feet.