Remembering the Little Avalanche



Today is one for chores and therefore compromises. We manage to squeeze in a quick circuit around the nordic ski track through the Mendenhall Lake Campground. I find it a soulless place and today a little frustrating due to ski conditions. If not for the output of this one in a series of last snow storms of winter we wouldn’t be able to gain a purchase with skis on the icy base.

P1120743Aki dashes back and forth between the faster skier and I, making me wonder whether poodles were once used for herding. She is never happier when all her people are within easy reach. The frankly monotonous scenery at the campground—a young spruce forest that only once offers a snow softened view of the glacier—-sets my mind wandering from present to the recent past. We are in the family Subaru dropping out of a blizzard threatening to close the Canadian side of the Klondike highway.

Easing into Alaska, knowing the ferry terminal at Skagway is less than 15 miles away, I start to relax until a small wall of white snow begins to cross the road in front of us. It’s a beautiful thing, this undulating mass that will win the race we are suddenly in; we would win by passing before it blocks our way, maybe sweeps our little green car into that steep ravine to our right.  We don’t win but tie as the car ploughs into the avalanche. I feel the car hit the wall and slow, go blind as snow blankets the windows, remember to steer straight, forget to pray. In seconds we are through then negotiating the switch backing road as it drops to sea level.

P1120722Cruising the campground these two weeks and some change later I can now ask whether our interaction with the avalanche was a matter of good or bad luck, how many small things coalesced to bring that wall of snow and our car together at that moment of time, that we survived.


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