An icy LEAP over Lake Champlain

The clouds hovered low, just above the horizon of Isle La Motte, Vt. Fresh powder sat, untouched, blanketing the ice of Lake Champlain. A handful of anxious St. Michael’s College students trampled onto the ice, leaving the safety of land, and everything but their footprints behind.

I found myself at St. Anne’s Shrine with about 20 of my fellow peers last Saturday. We are all team members of LEAP, a Christian retreat that focuses on spirituality.

I took my first leap in fall and loved it. This semester, on an I’m-never-going-to-have-this-chance-again whim, I applied to help organize this powerful experience. Luckily, I was given a spot; in April, I will be giving a talk on community.

Most of the day was spent bonding and listening to presentations while enjoying the breathless views of the lake, snow-covered trees and the newly built cabins at the shrine. At lunchtime we were given some free time, and a small group decided to explore the ice.

This is the first year Lake Champlain has completely frozen over since 2007. As we walked down to the waterfront, I didn’t believe we would actually step onto the ice. I had never walked on ice before. Was it safe? There were no footprints; no one had tested the surface before us.

I was hesitant to venture too far away from land at first, but as I saw my friends move further and further out, I began to believe I would be safe. We didn’t go too far out — only about 50 or 60 feet — but it was enough to make me feel as if I was standing in the middle of the ocean.

It was eerily quiet out on the ice. There was a shack of ice fishers roughly 100 feet to our left, but no other beings in sight. I could see what appeared to be miles and miles of shoreline in either direction, and I could see clearly across the ice into New York.

We cleared the snow away in a little section and peered down into the frozen water beneath us. It was crystal clear and I searched for any sign of sea life below. We laughed and giggled, the wind blowing against us, until our fingers froze and our noses began to run uncontrollably, just careless college students looking for an adventure.

I had the idea to spell out LEAP in footprints in the snow, which my friend Greg decided to implement. As we walked back up the hill to the cabin, we admired his masterpiece as the sun’s rays peaked out from beneath the clouds.

Image

Photo courtesy of Emma!

On the bus ride back to campus that afternoon, I saw children and families in the next town over ice-skating and playing hockey. Even though the temperatures are frigid, something as banal as ice can bring a community closer together. 

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