Drunk on Sun, Space, and Beauty

The day breaks cloudless blue so the popular trails around Juneau will be crowded.  Hoping to enjoy sun in solitude, Aki and I start up the ice covered Lake Creek snowmachine trail. It leads to Auk Nu Meadow where the few scattered trees can’t block the sun.

With my ice cheaters we make good progress through some muskeg meadows, their stunted pines decorated with frost feathers. Then, the climbing begins through a thick evergreen forest. They made the trail for snow machines so its all long steep climbs and has no sharp turns to challenge a snow go’s primitive steering system. The first steep sections, offering only slick ice, rock and dirt, should force any machine to turn back. We never see one.

Aki patrols ahead. Falling into a climbing rhythm, I think about the men who made this trail just so they could drive snow machines to the meadow. While I was out fishing they firmed up the muskeg stretches with gravel and cut a path though these steep woods. Each winter they have  to wait for enough snow to open the trail and suffer through each thaw that melts it. Even on good days it takes hard work to drive their machines all the way to Auk Nu.

After climbing a series of false summits we break through to the meadow, now an undulating sea of snow broken by islands of stunted spruce trees. Frost feathers on the snow sparkle in the unrestrained sun.  The recent thaw followed by hard freeze firmed up the surface, making for easy passage. We exploit this chance to stretch out our strides, no longer worried about slipping on ice.

Snowmachine trails are everywhere and we follow one to meadows edge and look down upon the glacier flowing through the rugged Mendenhall Towers. There is no wind to complete with the bird song drifting up from the forest below. Drunk on sun, space and heartbreaking beauty I begin to understand why those guys built this trail.

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