Dear Dutch friends and family,
I don’t know if you knew this, but turns out Montana is THE new skating destination! We’ve had a weekend of pretty much complete skating bliss. I hope you won’t get mad at me if I brag about it a little bit (I hear it’s miserable over there at the moment)!
Friday night we went over to friends for dinner and had just enough light left to get our skates on and enjoy 45 minutes or so of dusk and starry darkness on their little pond.
Saturday we met my sister and her kids out at Smith Lake again, and this time we went all the way around the lake. At the north end, where it meanders through reed islands, the ice gets a bit less stable and we had one iceskate go through. We doubled back a ways and then crossed over. The kids were thrilled to skate all the way around. We dawdled and stopped a lot, taking about 1 1/2 hours. When we got back we ate lunch at the fishing access and the kids messed around while Maarten took a turn going around the lake by himself. He did it in 5 minutes. I am not joking. He can actually make his speed skates go really fast. My sister and I took a spin on our own as well, and we all went home happy. That afternoon Maarten and Sam and a friend skated on the slough just down the bike path from us, and had the best ice of the year yet. My sister and I are planning to skate there tomorrow morning together.
And then today. Oh today. It was truly a dream come true. We dumped ALL the kids at my parent’s house (thank you Mom and Dad!), and my sister, Maarten and I drove down to the Stillwater River to see if it was skate-able. We parked at the bridge on Church Drive and went down to check it out. There was a very small hole in the middle of the river right under the bridge but the rest of the river there was rock solid at about 5 inches so we decided to brave it. We were prepared with ice picks, a rope, and each of us had hiking poles as well. We headed upstream and very soon saw another much larger patch of open water. Still, the edges were always trustworthy and so we very carefully made our way. Each new stretch of river around each bend presented different ice and often open areas in the middle, and Maarten bravely scouted ahead for us. We had quite a few stretches of amazing, smooth, thick ice and we were able to do some beautiful skating, then suddenly we’d have to pick our way over broken up, rough, sketchy patches. None of us have ever skated on moving water before, and so we were extra cautious. About the time we turned around at the next bridge (Spring Prairie Road) we began to understand the river and we could pick out the areas we needed to be careful of more easily. It was a relief to turn around and follow our skate marks back down the river; not having to scout out a path as we went. We left the car around 1:30 and were back by around 4:30, to our best estimate we skated 9-10 miles round trip… one of the best afternoons of my life!
When we sat down under the bridge to take off our skates I felt how tensed up my feet (and entire body) had been; the constant changing of speed and direction and watching out for dangerous spots… But we were filled with the elation that comes from overcoming fears to do something we’ve always dreamed of and we came away with new confidence and appreciation for river ice!
Maarten and I put together this little slideshow to highlight the past two days, enjoy!