Fade to White (Gerry Balchuinas)
Published on Monday, September 14, 2009 in Guest Columns, News & Updates
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Fade to White: A story about snowmobiling and family

Sitting here at the lake watching the kids fish on the dock. All of them are in search of the big lunker that is lurking just under the dock. “Can you put a worm on my hook, Uncle Gerry?” asks my little nephew Cody. “I am gonna catch that big bass that is hiding under that paddleboat.” “Sure,” I say and worm up the hook and he casts. Of course at four years old he throws the worm right at the paddleboat and then some. Right up into a tree and catches the biggest “stickerel” I have ever seen. I just smile and give it a yank and the line snaps and the hook falls to the ground on the shore. I fix it all up and get ready for round two.

My girls are all out in the sun trying to turn themselves into that summer tan brown that I could never achieve. The “Old Coot” sits tied to the dock swaying back and forth in the water waiting for someone to fire it up and take the old 10-horse for a ride across the lake. My son is out paddling in the kayak and having a ball. This is the first time in his life he has been able to experience the joy of “Paid Vacation.” Yup, these are the lazy days of summer that we wait for all year long. That is, unless you are like me. While I do enjoy these times immensely, it is not my favorite time of year to be at the camp.

I am sitting, typing, and overlooking all of this commotion from the screen porch. It is extremely hot for a change, about 88 degrees on this second week of August. Being a red head, into the shade I go: I love lobster but I don’t want to be one. There is a nice breeze coming through, and it is a beautiful sight as my wife, daughter and my poodle “Tabby” come paddling in on the paddleboat. But just a few short months ago the look from the screen porch was a whole lot different. Oh, the people were all the same and a lot more of them, too. My girls were still out in the sun. My nephew was looking for the lunker as he always does, but this time the dock was gone, and had been replaced by 18 inches of ice.

The breeze on the porch was a bit more brisk, but the sights and sounds were still there. I heard my nephew yell flag and off he went to see what was under there. Were we just shiner drowning or was there a fish on the end of the line? A nice 19-inch pickerel was his prize. He held it up at my son Kevin, who was driving by on his sled. Kevin gave him the big thumbs up and drove off.

The sleds were everywhere on the lake that day, somehow taking the place of the motorboats that are here today. Up and down, all around, the sleds go. Some were opening it right up, for it was a safe environment to do it. The lake was flat and the visibility was perfect. What a day; snowmobiling, ice fishing and a big campfire. Oh yeah, did I mention that the only way to get to the camp is by snowmobile in the winter? We load all of our stuff in the ski-boose and up ITS 71 we go for a day at the camp on Queen Lake. If it wasn’t for the snowmobile trail it would be a mile walk across the lake to get to the camp. That would mean that my Mom would not be able to make the trip out there in the winter. THAT AINT HAPPENING!!!!

I wonder if the other sleds that were enjoying the lake on that perfect winter day realized that it was the hard work of a SAM snowmobile club that had gained them access to the lake? Yes, there is a public area at the front, but there is no parking in the winter, so the trail is the best way to access the lake.

As with many summer recreation areas, when winter comes, the scenery fades from green, to brown, to white. The wind blows the frozen tree branches together making cracking sounds; winter is here. The winter users come out for their turn on these areas. Areas that have been active all summer are now active all winter. Active because many dedicated volunteers took the time to make sure that all was set for the first snow.

You know the first snow has arrived when you see my little 3-year-old nephew Isaac run to the door, swing it open, and press his little nose up against the storm door window to look outside. He will run back to my little brother, with a smile from ear to ear, and grab him and hug him and yell, “Daddy, it snowed, it snowed, let’s go get the snowmobile and go to camp and go fishing.” Yeah, summer is fun, but winter is something that I will never forget. I think we all should look at the snow like Isaac does. Like it is the first one of our lives that we remember. Press your nose up against the window and just smile. Close your eyes and give your daddy a hug in your mind. Look for the 3–year-old in your heart and have great winter.

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