Single-digit temperatures? A great day to hit the beach. Grafton Lakes State Park and the Friends of Grafton hosted the 26th annual Winter Festival and Ice Fishing Contest last Saturday. The highlight of the day rested squarely on the shoulder of the annual Polar Plunge into Long Pond. Tip of the hat to the two dozens of courageous people who jumped in the freezing waters for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. I’m pretty certain I also saw a giant, mutant trout, state troopers in wetsuits, and dogs. Lots and lots of darn cute dogs. The festival offered many recreational workshops and outings all day long, including snow sculpture and snowball-throwing contests for (or at) the kids, horse-drawn sleigh rides, dogsled rides, and ice diving.
More photos below. Click on any of the thumbnails to open a larger view, or check the full-screen Flickr slideshow if you have Flash installed.
This was a very very frigid Saturday despite some bright winter sunshine. I had a great time taking pictures of the event last year with my friend C., but we had been comically unprepared to brave the cold. Lesson learned this time around, we gave up any hope of looking fashionable and piled up layers and underpants.
How do you prepare for your first plunge? I don’t think you can, though practicing snow angels naked from the privacy of your yard strikes me as perfectly reasonable. Was it a little prayer in the photo above? I don’t blame this brave lady, she knows what she is doing, this was not her first time.
I noticed participants of all ages again this year but kudos to Ed Hamilton, above, for bringing his daughter Molly, age 9, to this very traumatic enriching experience. We watched in amazement, cheered, and I sincerely hope she comes back next year.
Looking at this photo above I’m starting to wonder if Molly will decide to enjoy yet another “Bring your daughter to a frozen pond” day in 2012, but this is for a good cause. Nearly 30,000 people in the United Staes suffer from cystic fibrosis. CF is a common recessive genetic disease which affects the entire body, causing progressive disability and often early death. For more info about the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, check www.cff.org.
Everybody has a different approach to deal with the dreaded pond. Some take their sweet time to jump, others hop right in. Some wear sandals, others jump barefoot. Some will pick ridiculously small bikinis, others stick to shirts, pants and hats. I haven’t seen anybody with an inflatable ducky so far, I’ll just keep that brilliant idea as my secret weapon when I finally decide to step in front of the camera.
The pool, above, is carved straight out of the frozen lake. It is about a few feet deep, allowing people to hop in, run for their dear lives across a 20-foot stretch and jump out at the other end. Extra points if you manage to hang on to your bikini top.
You can also play it cool, but watch out for the cold awakening. This is a fun event, and I hear a few other polar plunges are held in the Capital District around this time of the year, most notably in Lake George.
Unfazed by the cold, sir Poindexter (I’m not making that up) gave me a classic pug stare, above. Little did he know he was going to be ruffled up by a group of hyper-excited Alaskan huskies a few minutes later. Think again next time you prance around with a fancy fur coat, tough guy.
Newfies! Newfoundlands were back in force this year. Here is another photo of this guy above. It’s OK, you can pet the monitor. My GE friend C. would have spent the rest of the day hugging these big bundles of joy if I had not reminded her she had used the same hand on the President of The United States the day before. Oh, the indignity.
The ice fishing contest drew more than two hundred fishermen from 5am (!) to 3pm on all the ponds in the park. It took us a little bit to reach this gentleman above without snowshoes but rest assure the suspense and the anticipation were palpable. Or maybe it was just me fainting after walking 200 yards on precarious frozen ground.
Many fishermen will go out with 2.5 inches of good ice for walking, but the recommended is 4 inches, 5–6 inches for sleds, 7–12 for light cars and 14–16 inches for full sized trucks. Care must be taken, because sometimes ice will not form in areas with swift currents, leaving open areas which freeze with much thinner ice (source: Wikipedia). Participants were enjoying a good foot of ice that day I would say, and puppy-heated jackets (above).
This lucky fellow above on the left caught one big trout. Here is a much closer look at the beast. I had to leave Grafton Lakes by 1:30pm, I don’t know if this catch won the contest, but he seemed pretty confident. At least he didn’t fish one of the state troopers ice diving nearby, they looked a bit chewy. The event seemed to go really well though and was a good promotion of ice fishing for young people.
Sled dogs were another popular event of the day. Mush! Marla BB presented her Sled Dog Team and the cuteness factor went straight out of the window, turned around and slapped us in the face.
This box above sits on top of a car. It’s so tiny the dogs have to lay down, yet they seemed absolutely thrilled to be up there. Not that I can really read Alaskan huskies, their mood seems to range from excited to oh-my-god-I’m-so-excited-I’m-going-to-die-please-pet-me-please-please. Click on the thumbnails for more.
Pictured above, a small army of very enthusiastic sled dogs. Not picture above, a stuck sled. Also not pictured above, in my back and in the middle of the road, poor sir Poindexter, who is about to realize that size does matter.
Back this year, the Ice Diving rescue demo. The amateur scuba diver in me thoroughly enjoyed watching State Troopers gear up and disappear under the ice. Even in a very controlled situation like this one, ice diving remains a dangerous proposition. I would love to do it though and bring a camera with me.
This team is great, they answered a few questions and remained the humble heroes that they are, even in the biting wind. This is not John Stamos above, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he was wearing that kind of equipment in his leaving room, to shake things up a bit.
Unfortunately we did miss the State Police V8-powered airboat ride, once again. Troopers loaded up a few people at a time and cranked up the engine driving a huge propeller, leaving the craft spinning in place. We could see the 100-foot-long plumes of snow from the beach.
Grafton Lakes State Park, on the forested mountain ridge between the Taconic and Hudson Valleys, includes five ponds and 25 miles of park trails on its 2,357 acres. It’s about 40 minutes north-east of Albany. For more information, visit the Grafton Lakes State Park – NYS Parks page.
The park looked gorgeous after the last snow storm. I had to leave early to attend a Soup Swap, but this was a great way to start the weekend. See you next year.
Quick photo tips. Camera batteries don’t hold their charge very long in the cold. Make sure your battery is fully loaded and bring a backup if you can. Don’t put the spare in your bag but carry it close to your body so that it stays warm. Be careful not to bring your camera straight back to the comfort of your warm living room. A very sudden change from cold to warm could produce condensation inside the camera and damage it. Eject the memory card and give your favorite gear a few hours to slowly transition in your garage, for example.
I was at Grafton Lakes Winterfest 2010 last year too, the whole is available on Flickr.