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Squam Lake ice harvest ‘a wonderful thing and a horrible thing’

  • Bill Bagwill,63, of Newport, R.I., guides blocks of ice into a canal during the annual ice harvest on Squam Lake at Rockywold Deephaven Camps in Holderness on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. Bagwill is a regular summer guest at the camps but took time off work this week to participate in his first ice harvest. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • John Jurczynski hooks up a row of ice blocks to be dragged up a ramp by a winch during the annual ice harvest on Squam Lake at Rockywold Deephaven Camps in Holderness on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. During the summer months, the blocks of ice will be used in antique oak ice boxes for refrigeration. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Crews harvest ice on Squam Lake at Rockywold Deephaven Camps in Holderness on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. During the summer months, the blocks of ice will be used in antique oak ice boxes for refrigeration. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Bruce Whitmore waits for the next empty truck to arrive during the annual ice harvest on Squam Lake at Rockywold Deephaven Camps in Holderness on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. During the summer months, the blocks of ice will be used in antique oak ice boxes for refrigeration. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Chainsaws are used to cut free large slabs of ice during the annual ice harvest on Squam Lake at Rockywold Deephaven Camps in Holderness on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. During the summer months, the blocks of ice will be used in antique oak ice boxes for refrigeration. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • An antique ice box is seen at Rockywold Deephaven Camps in Holderness on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Crews harvest ice on Squam Lake at Rockywold Deephaven Camps in Holderness on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. During the summer months, the blocks of ice will be used in antique oak ice boxes for refrigeration. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Ben Tweedy (left) and Alex Chelstowski arrange blocks into neat rows inside an ice house during the annual ice harvest on Squam Lake at Rockywold Deephaven Camps in Holderness on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. During the summer months, the blocks of ice will be used in antique oak ice boxes for refrigeration. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Keegan Rasmussen (left) and Ryan Hambrook push blocks of ice weighing about 125 pounds up a ramp and into an ice house during the annual ice harvest on Squam Lake at Rockywold Deephaven Camps in Holderness on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. During the summer months, the blocks of ice will be used in antique oak ice boxes for refrigeration. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Carl Hansen (right) scores a grid pattern into the ice with a motorized saw during the annual ice harvest on Squam Lake at Rockywold Deephaven Camps in Holderness on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. During the summer months, the blocks of ice will be used in antique oak ice boxes for refrigeration. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Crews harvest ice on Squam Lake at Rockywold Deephaven Camps in Holderness on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. During the summer months, the blocks of ice will be used in antique oak ice boxes for refrigeration. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Bill Bagwill (left),63, of Newport, R.I., and Dick Hage of Plymouth are seen reflected in the lake during the annual ice harvest on Squam Lake at Rockywold Deephaven Camps in Holderness on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Neil Cederberg, 20, of Sandwich unloads blocks of ice from a truck bed during the annual ice harvest on Squam Lake at Rockywold Deephaven Camps in Holderness on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. During the summer months, the blocks of ice will be used in antique oak ice boxes for refrigeration. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Chainsaws are used to cut free large slabs of ice during the annual ice harvest on Squam Lake at Rockywold Deephaven Camps in Holderness on Wednesday. During the summer, the blocks will be used in antique oak ice boxes for refrigeration. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • Crews guide blocks of ice into a canal during the annual ice harvest on Squam Lake at Rockywold Deephaven Camps in Holderness on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Friday, January 12, 2018

Bill Bagwill knows how refreshing a cold drink feels during a hot July vacation at the Rockywold Deephaven Camps on Squam Lake.

Now he knows firsthand the massive organized effort that makes that cool beverage possible at a cottage without electric refrigeration.

Bagwill drove up from Newport, R.I., this week to be one of the ice wranglers who helped cut, haul and store massive blocks of ice that will serve as the summer refrigeration at the camps, an annual tradition that dates back more than 100 years.

“Guests who come up here a lot, they feel they have a connection with the lake,” he said. “But now that I’ve actually been involved as an ice wrangler, it’s going to have a new dimension to the whole thing in the summertime.”

Bagwill, like many of the volunteers, has a special connection to the rustic Holderness campground. He’s been going there for decades, all of his grown children met their spouses there, and his daughter was married there last year.

“It’s a throwback to the past,” Bagwill said. “How many places do this sort of thing? Whereas a century ago, this is how you got ice; you didn’t have refrigeration equipment. It’s pretty neat.”

Over a three-day ice harvest, volunteers cut about 3,600 blocks of ice, each weighing about 125 pounds. All told that’s more than 200 tons of ice.

After the lake ice is cut into blocks with a giant circular saw and chain saws, it’s hauled out of the water with pikes and pulleys, slid onto the back of a truck and then packed into one of two icehouses and covered in sawdust. Come summer, campground employees will deliver the blocks in a wheelbarrow. All of the camp’s 60 cottages have antique oak ice boxes, where the ice is stored to keep food and drinks refrigerated.

The harvest has floated around a little over the years. In order to ensure solid ice, it was moved from the camp’s shores in Holderness to Squaw Cove in Sandwich, where it’s more sheltered and the ice gets thicker faster. This year, with nearly two weeks of arctic cold, the ice at Deephaven got thick enough in near-record time. The crews got out there this week before a warm spell spoiled it all.

“It’s a wonderful thing and it’s a horrible thing,” said John Jurczynski, who manages the campground and helps organize the ice harvest. “Under my watch, I don’t want it to be the year we don’t harvest ice, and it’s such a narrow window.”

The ice needs to be at least 12 inches thick to drive the truck onto the lake, but if it’s more than 15 inches, the volunteers have a hard time moving the blocks around.

“When it’s all over, I have a little sigh of relief that we got another one in,” Jurczynski said. “Because some years it’s really tight. Like this year we had the really cold, and now it’s going to be really warm and so we just squeezed it in in the three-and-a-half day period.”

In the history of the camp – 122 seasons according to Jurczynski – they’ve always harvested ice, although in the early years contractors would come out and cut the ice and deliver it to all the camps on the lake.

Then for decades, Norman Lyford and his father kept it going. According to stories Lyford tells, one year in the 1960s the camp installed refrigerators, which led to a near revolt and return of the annual ice harvest.

Now in his 90s, Lyford wasn’t able to make it out onto the ice this year, which would have been his 73rd harvest.

But he’s still there in spirit. They built a warming hut in his honor called “Norm’s Place.”

“It’s a great tradition,” Jurczynski said. “I love that we’re able to keep it going and in the almost 30 years I’ve been here the operation’s gotten smoother every year. Everybody kinda chips in and thinks of ways that might be a little more efficient a little safer to handle things.”