Learning Something New

January 17, 2011

Ice cutting weekend

Cutting the sucker hole

When was the last time you were put into a situation that was unfamiliar to you? An experience that encouraged you to learn something totally different, kept you on your toes?

Participate in an opportunity to meet people that were different than you? If you’ve done that recently or can think back to the last time you did then you know how students are when they learn new skills in your classroom.

This weekend I had one of those chances. My husband and I traveled to northern Maine to help with “ice cutting” at Libby Camps. It is a place that he is very familiar with since he guides bird hunters there in October each year with his guide service Maine Outdoors. We traveled through Patten on the paper company roads as far as the road was plowed and hopped on snowmobiles for the 6 mile ride through the woods, onto Millinocket Lake and to the other side where the camps are located. All morning and afternoon folks arrived, some on skis, some on snowmobiles. During late Spring, Summer and Fall the road is good enough to drive all the way to camp but none of the nearby roads are plowed this winter let alone the two mile long driveway.

Marking the chain saw to the correct size for the depth of the ice

On Saturday we started the day with a hearty breakfast and 23 of us headed down to the lake where the ice cutting got underway. Two places about 20’ x 30’ on the ice were cleared of the 6” of snow. First a “sucker hole” is cut so the blocks of ice can come out easily and to measure how deep the ice is. Two chain saws are used, one to score the ice and one with a 36” blade to cut through the 13” of ice. When the first block came out the folks in the know exclaimed about how perfect the ice was. Snowmobiles with empty tote sleds attached were in place. Large ice tongs were used to lift the huge blocks (maybe 60 lbs.) out of the water, into and out of the sleds. The sleds take the ice up to the icehouse where a crew unloaded and somewhat carefully stacked the blocks for next summer and fall. Loose snow covers the blocks so the layers don’t stick together and along the edges and on top saw dust is used to insulate the blocks. Almost 300 blocks were cut and packed away.

Scoring the ice

Some of the crew had participated for several years and for others, like me, it was a first. A fun group of folks who all chipped in and did their part, some doing the same job during the three and one half hour task and others rotating jobs to experience it all. I looked forward to the trip for several months and I was not disappointed.

The Libby’s, including Matt and Ellen and their son and daughter in law, Matt and Jesse, were grateful to all who participated and the record ice cutting time left an afternoon of exploring, creating and hanging out by the fire. The creativity exploded with some chain saw sculpting with ice as the medium. Eight foot high numbers making 2011 were cut and stood up and a goblet placed on top.

Cutting the blocks

As some of the group snowmobiled across the ice at dusk the goblet looked like the Olympic torch burning up high. Needless to say it was a great way to end an interesting day! We headed to supper with smiles on our faces and to celebrate Matt and Jess’ sons one year birthday. I really enjoyed learning something new and learning something first hand I had only heard about. I hope you will take the opportunity to enjoy the Maine outdoors this winter! Of course, I invite you to take a few minutes to post comments below.

I saw the article in the Bangor Daily News today that they were ice cutting on Little Black Lake 12 miles from downtown Fort Kent where they are constructing the Chateaux Festival, an 80′ x 28′ ice structure for activities associated with the World Cup Biathlon races to begin Feb. 10th. They cut 800 blocks. Did any of you participate?


Ice blocks waiting to be taken to the ice house

Loading the tote sled

Ice house

And into the ice house it goes

Inside the ice house stacking the ice

An appropriate birthday cake to end the day


The end to a glorious day


The next morning w/ ice cutting crew



  1. Thanks for sharing your ice harvesting photos. The 2011 is beautiful. In Chennai, India there is a building that used to house ice shipped from New England.

  2. Thanks for your comment Anne! Hmmmm… wonder where the ice came from. One of the ice cutting participants is a real history buff and was mentioning the past ice cutting happenings.

  3. Ice is a big part of Maines history – geological and economical.

    My great grandfather was a part of the “Ice Train” starting in Oquossic.
    Oh, the beautiful images he must have experienced – the colors, the sky, the smells.

    Thanks for the glimpse.

  4. Oh, you are so lucky, Argy, to have had an experience like that! Reading about your fascinating adventure was wonderful! Thanks for that–

  5. YOU would have loved the ice cutting Suzanne! Do you have pictures or stories from your grandfather when he went on the “Ice Train”? That is so cool!

  6. Yes, I was fortunate to participate! Thanks for posting a comment Gay!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: