I didn’t expect much to come of this cross country ski trip. The temperature had dropped to below freezing yesterday to end the thaw and solidified the mushy snow. My skis shouldn’t be able to gain a purchase on the resulting concrete. But I hadn’t figured on the frost that built during the calm, cold night. It changed the ice-slick snow to ski-friendly stuff.
Aki, her other human and I are traveling along the shore of Mendenhall Lake on frost covered snow. It provides perfect skiing. The skis of those who tried the same thing before yesterday’s freeze sank deep into soft, wet muck. So did the paws of a wild animal that left a compact line of parallel tracks from the woods, through overflow, and onto the lake. I am still trying to identify the critter that made them.
The glacier and surrounding mountains rise above the refreezing surface of the lake. Low angle sun throws deep shadows on fractured sections of ice. But clouds obscure most of Mt. McGinnis and Thunder Mountain. In a short time we reach the still-ice-free Mendenhall River and ski along its shore. Thin fog vapors rise from the water to be turned almost painfully white by backlighting sun. The mist separates long enough to reveal a lone merganser paddling across the river.
I stop often to photograph the shiny beauty. A gap opens up between Aki’s other human and myself. The little dog dashes back and forth between us, taking advantage of the hard trail. She is still running when we reach the car and find two ravens policing the parking lot for dropped snacks. Aki is displeased.