I’ve never really been particularly phobic so to speak, considering a phobia is defined as an “irrational fear of a specific object, activity or situation which leads to a compelling desire to avoid it.” And while I certainly have a profound dislike for some things – spiders, snakes, Justin Bieber fans and vegetables spring immediately to mind – I’d hardly call my distaste for any of those irrational.
About the closest I come to an actual phobia would be cryophobia – the fear of ice or frost – yet even that isn’t quite detailed enough. No, my big fear has always been falling through the ice, and I’ve declined many an invitation to go ice-fishing with family or friends because of it. And again, I don’t think there’s anything irrational about that.
My distaste for our area’s frozen ponds, streams and lakes goes back over two decades ago to my time as a Boy Scout, enjoying (not really) my time at Camp Tuscarora. I remember that particular winter as a relatively mild one, and our scout leaders were seriously questioning the safety of the not-so-frozen lake. Eventually, however, that evening found hundreds of us traipsing out across the snowy surface of the ice-covered water for the annual sled races, despite my nervousness. An hour or so later, we were quickly herded right back to shore, thanks to the disturbing number of large cracks which had, in moments, appeared beneath our booted feet, cracks which immediately began to gush several hundred gallons of water onto the surface of the ice.
Since then, I’ve steadfastly refused to step foot onto any frozen body of water. Until, that is, last weekend.
When my fellow guitarist and good friend Chuck mentioned Saturday afternoon as the perfect time for a little pre-performance hike, I’ll admit I was all for it. And once we’d decked ourselves out in full winter paraphernalia, we were off. When I asked just exactly where we were going, however, Chuck simply pointed out to the lake, which lies approximately 100 yards from his back porch. Needless to say, I froze (pun intended) in my tracks.
Our trek out onto Oneida Lake turned out to be quite safe in the end, and my fears were quieted by the surreal beauty of the snow-covered waters. I especially enjoyed the strangeness of the snowmobile “super highway,” which ran from west to east along the shore of the lake, a beaten track between 30 and 50 feet wide.
The hike didn’t last long though, as a fairly severe blast of lake-effect snow blew in from the northwest. After five minutes, we could no longer see the opposite shore. After ten, we began to hightail it back to the house, as the trees of the nearby shore disappeared in a sheet of pure white. We made it, however, just in time for some pizza, wings and a disappointing end to the Syracuse game.
Does that mean you’ll find me gleefully ice-fishing somewhere out on Chenango Lake this weekend? Probably not. But hey, you never know.