In a Downeast Lakes Land Trust event, skaters, hikers and a ubiquitous complement of Grand Lake Stream dogs set off across the lake ice under an azure sky with Registered Maine Guide Dale Tobey to see the annual ice harvest at Munson Island. Attendees came from as far as Presque Isle, Machias, and Eastport to be part of a winter tradition that extends back to the early 1800s.
“We’ve been doing this for forty years now,” said Debbie Tobey, Munson Island’s camp cook, as she directed her grandsons in stowing the ice coming off the lake into a dug-in and heavily insulated log building.
Once a thriving business in the region, Maine ice was shipped to East coast cities and as far as the Caribbean. The Tobeys are now the only people who cut ice on West Grand. However, with a younger generation stepping in to help, ice cutting is a tradition on West Grand Lake that could continue for many years.
“Some years,” said Dave Tobey, Munson Island’s caretaker, and head ice cutter, “We start the day shoveling snow, sometimes, I have to tuck in around the lee of the island to get out of the wind.”
There was no hiding from the elements, however, on Saturday. With the sun regaining a touch of spring warmth, and the ice running smooth and open it was a delight to be on the lake. On a day that also marked the opening of ice-fishing season on West Grand Lake, people were busy and enjoying the day all across the lake.
Downeast Lakes Land Trust regularly leads outdoor adventures that highlight the continuing traditions of the Maine woods. These programs support the DLLT’s commitment to protecting both the environmental and economic health of the Downeast Lakes region. Visit our website to discover what is happening next.