Full Moon Rides

by kfrego

My first trip across Chateaugay Lake on the ice was with Ernie Grew’s grandson Roddy. While skating ponds were common, we had never lived in a place where you could walk for miles on a frozen lake. We wore snowshoes and backpacks. Our destination was what Roddy referred to as Shatraw’s Camp. It was a hunting camp on the backside of the lake towards W mountain. There was no road access to the camp during the winter. You could snowshoe across the lake to the area we called seven chimney’s. We caught the road on the backside of the lake and followed it to camp. From the time we left the Merrill boathouse, until we returned two days later, we never saw a sign of any person. The snow was a couple feet deep and everything was pristine and quiet. It was also very cold and clear.

I never put a vehicle of my own or my families on the lake in the winter. That didn’t stop me from riding with others. There were several people who loved to get a vehicle on the lake ice at night when there was a full moon. The conditions had to be right. Obviously, the ice had to be thick enough to take the weight of a carload of people. The snow pack on the ice had to be fairly low so large expanses of ice would be bare of snow. If the ice had any more than a foot of snow over the whole lake, the drifts from the winds could be several feet deep. If a vehicle out on the lake got stuck, you were had. We usually drove onto the lake with all the lights off at the Merrill boathouse. From the boat house we would head towards the Island, but never go near it. We would go about half way between the Island and South Inlet, never getting close to shore. The full moon was better light than the headlights because there were no shadows.

It took a while to get up to a decent speed. If you let off the gas and cranked the steering wheel hard, the vehicle would do slow motion revolutions across the lake. When the vehicle stopped spinning we would orient our position before moving. If  clouds obscured the moon or the wind blew the snow, the only reference point from the lake was the lighting at the new shaft on Standish Road. Drifting and sliding around on the lake was a real joyride. You never moved unless you were sure of your bearings. You stayed in the center portions of the lake.

We didn’t dwell on air pockets in the ice…………….we were too busy enjoying the full moon and the ride.