A Squam Lake tradition: Harvesting ice for the camps

Sunday News Correspondent
January 12. 2018 7:31PM
The blocks are moved along a wooden sluice toward a truck. (JOHN KOZIOL/SUNDAY NEWS CORRESPONDENT)

HOLDERNESS - Founded in 1897, Rockywold-Deephaven Camps on Squam Lake combines modernity and tradition, offering guests both Wi-Fi and, in a nod to the past, iceboxes.

Last week, as they have done for almost a century, RDC staff and friends spent three days harvesting ice off the Deep End section of the lake, some 200 tons worth that will be used to fill the camps' 60 ice boxes during the summer season.

Back in 1967, the camp's then director proposed buying mini refrigerators to replace the ice boxes, but instead of gratitude he faced a "mini-revolt" among the guests and decided to stick with the iceboxes, said John Jurczynski, who has been the camp's general manger since 1990.

The iceboxes are used to keep beverages and small snacks cool. Guests enjoy three meals a day in a communal dining hall and, if they want to ice their drinks, have access to ice machines. But the iceboxes, Jurczynski said, are an integral part of the RDC experience.

Although you won't find Squam Lake ice at your local grocery store, the RDC ice harvest is considered a commercial enterprise and as such is unique in New Hampshire. "We're the only ones who do it," said Jurczynski.
A truckload of ice blocks ready for transportation to the Rockywold and Deephaven ice houses. (JOHN KOZIOL/SUNDAY NEWS CORRESPONDENT)

"It's quite a selling point," he said. "It's a bit of our brand and it feels like you're taking a step back in time."

The ice harvest is usually conducted in mid- to late January, conditions permitting. This year's harvest was held earlier, Jan. 8-10, because the extreme cold snap allowed the ice in Deep End to reach the desired thickness of 12 to 15 inches.

A large chop saw is first used to score the ice. Chainsaws are then used to cut the ice into strips and then into blocks that measure 16 by 19 inches. The blocks are wrangled with hooked poles into a line and, using a hooked tow rope, are fed into a sluice that carries them up into a wooden crib where the blocks are then transferred into a pick-up truck that carries them to the Rockywold and Deephaven ice houses.

Loading the blocks into the heavily insulated Rockywold ice house, which will preserve them well into the fall. (JOHN KOZIOL/SUNDAY NEWS CORRESPONDENT)

The blocks are solidly stacked inside the icehouses, whose walls are insulated with sawdust. The icehouses can easily preserve ice through the end of the camps' season in September and well beyond, but they are emptied and refilled annually with fresh ice.

The blocks are covered with a top coat of sawdust to await distribution. Just before the start of the RDC season in June, workers load the camps' ice boxes.

"We've never run out of ice," said Jurczynski, noting that during the summer of 2017, which was cooler than normal, the camps used more firewood than ice.

Ice harvests on Squam Lake predate Rockywold Deephaven, said Jurczynski, and wil continue there well into the future.

The camps don't have television or phones in the cottages, but guests can bring their own, said Jurczynski.

They do have Wi-Fi, a nod to the demands of life in the 21st century. But, he said, "We encourage them not to use it and to connect with each other instead."
Using ice tongs and pikes, from left to right, Dave White, Carl Hansen, Jon Spence and Ron Reynolds harvest ice Jan. 8 at Deep End on Squam Lake in Holderness. (JOHN KOZIOL/SUNDAY NEWS CORRESPONDENT)

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