No one but Aki and I can hear the bass gurgle of settling lake ice. The sun is only a sliver of irritating light; it’s main body held beneath the Thunder Mountain Ridge by a deep blue sky. The sun quickly replace dusk with day on Mendenhall Lake as I slip into the skiing rhythm. Wondering whether Aki is disappointed by the absence of other dogs and their people, I ask, “Are you bored with me, little dog?” She ignores the question.
We ski several kilometers toward the glacier. As is true of movie stars, the river of ice looks best when viewed from a distance when the early morning light can not reveal its pitted, dirty surface. It slowly creeps behind a low peninsula of rock on our approach. Aki breaks from the trail when we are within 50 meters of the peninsula. She did the same when at this place on our last circumnavigation of the lake. This time I follow her even though my movement sends deep linear cracks radiating through the ice. While the little dog samples the smell that drew her, I look at a willow, reaching into a blue sky with branches covered in snow white catkins. Should this blooming pussy willow raise my spirits with its promise of spring or serve as a warning of deteriorating ice conditions? The Juneau temperature will climb into the high 30’s today as it did yesterday. Only the nightly drop into the teens keeps the lake skiable. If a Pacific low pushes our high pressure back to the Yukon, rain bearing clouds will turn it into a soupy mess. Then, the willow will leaf out in privacy, while Aki and I look for other signs of spring in the old growth.