Saturday, February 17, 2024

Recent storm spurs memory of Chibougamau Lake fishing trip

Blue Jays sitting in a tree

We hit all kinds of weather and temperature changes going to Utica two times this week. Starting out in the dark on Friday, [Feb. 9] the temperature was near freezing with a misty rain that tried to freeze on the windshield, but as we went further south the skies nearly cleared and we even saw a sunrise in Utica. The clouds moved in during the day, but only a few short showers passed through and it was mostly clear on the way home.

Then for the ride down on Saturday [Feb. 10] morning it got extremely exciting in Old Forge. The temperature was forty-five[degrees] and it started to rain as I went down Main Street, which came down very heavy switching to big, fat snowflakes as I went across the bridge into Thendara. There was thunder and lightning and the snow switched to hail stones, which grew from a quarte- inch to a half-inch in a few hundred feet. I pulled over just past the railroad bridge, as [I] could hardly see to drive it was coming down so hard…and I didn’t want to lose my windshield. There were cars going by going north, but the road was covered with little ice balls.

The temperature dipped to thirty-two [degrees] in less than a couple minutes. I sat there until the storm blew through and drove on ice balls until I got to Okara Lakes. It wasn’t too much further down the road and the skies cleared and the sun popped out for the rest of the trip. I heard on Moose Radio that they had thunderstorms in the Boonville area that morning, which must have been the same system that hit me in Old Forge. I didn’t find any damage to the paint on the car, but it must have been pretty close to chipping paint and making dents.

It reminded me of a fishing trip we made to Chibougamau Lake in Quebec, Canada [in] 1955 when I was only eleven years old. My Dad, Brother Bob, me, and a friend, Art Lansing, were camping in a six-man canvas tent in June on the shoreline where my dad had camped a couple years earlier. A black storm cloud came extremely fast out of the west with lots of thunder and lightning. We pulled the boat up as far as we could out of the water and tied it off and got into the tent. The wind was very violent, but the old tent held together as hail beat down on the roof.

Blooming Christmas cactus

Christmas cactus. Photo by Gary Lee.

When it was all over, there was a couple inches of hail all over the moss on the ground and over six inches deep where it came off the tent. We shoveled that up and put it in our coolers. The boat was so full of water, it was running over the transom by the motor back into the lake. There was a big temperature change that day, but as soon as the sun came out the blackflies had hidden somewhere, and they were out in force.

There is going to be a snowstorm coming up the east coast tomorrow [Feb. 13] bringing 8 to 12 inches of snow to some of the major cities, but it doesn’t look like any of it will reach here as this storm is pushed out to sea. We may get some snow out of a storm that is coming in from the west on Wednesday or Thursday [Feb. 14 or 15]. Maybe some of that snow will still be around for Inlet’s 22nd annual Frozen Fire and Lights Winter Festival on Saturday, Feb. 24. [There will be] cardboard sled races, outhouse races, kite flying on Fourth Lake, fireworks, and much more. [For details visit:]

The annual Chili Bowl at View Arts [Center took place on Feb. 17] in Old Forge from 12 to 3 p.m. Beautiful ceramic bowls [were for] sale and several varieties of chili and mac and cheese [were made] by local restaurants and individuals.

Bird species keep changing day-by-day at the feeders, as the birds don’t know whether to go north or south. So, they stop in for a bite to eat along with the Blue Jays, Black-Capped Chickadees, and Turkeys which numbered over thirty yesterday. I put up the mist net for a couple hours and caught eight new Black-Capped Chickadees, a Red-Breasted Nuthatch, a Hairy Woodpecker, and a Pine Siskin.

I had a couple returns, [including] a Hairy Woodpecker from two years ago, a Downy Woodpecker from a year ago, and a couple Black-Capped Chickadees from last year and three years ago. This morning, Feb. 12, I had twenty-five Pine Siskins, six Purple Finch, and only six Blue Jays. I didn’t see my Carolina Wren today, but it may return if it snows…it knows where the food cart is.

A local bird story that Debbie Haynes told me was that her husband, Russ, found some Blue Jays trapped in a local boat house. They had flown under the boat door as the water was down, leaving a space and when inside they went to the windows trying to get out. He saw them banging on the windows and opened the side door, letting them out. There were four dead ones that hit the windows too hard or died from lack of food. I’m sure this happens more than people know, but critters looking for food along the shoreline may find these dead birds and eat them.

Karen is going to have to look at the Christmas cactus for Valentine’s Day, as it is still putting out blooms (twenty new ones at last count.) So, it bloomed for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, since then and now more blooms for a Happy Valentine’s Day.

Me, I like my chili on the mild side, but that’s another story. See ya.

Photo at top: Blue Jays keeping their feet warm. Photo by Gary Lee.

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Gary lives with his wife, Karen, at Eight Acre Wood in Inlet where he was the Forest Ranger for 35 years, working in the Moose River Wild Forest Recreation Area and West Canada Lakes Wilderness Area. Now retired, Gary works summers for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, observing, catching and banding loons. The author of a column Daybreak to Twilight in local papers from 1986 to 2019, he now writes his Outdoor Adventures a weekly blog. In 2008, Gary coauthored a book with John M.C. “Mike” Peterson, "Adirondack Birding- 60 Great Places to Find Birds."

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