Aki and I are not getting along. Maybe she overheard me speaking about today’s hike with her other human. At the time the driving roads were bare of snow. I told the other human I would drive Aki and I to a little used trail out the road. Then the snow started.
By the time we were ready to leave, four inches of fresh snow covered the car and the road we would have to use to get the car out of town. The continuing storm brought beauty by dumping even more snow on the roads. I knew that the little dog and I would be better off walking on the Juneau streets rather than challenging the snowy roads in the car. After we left the house, the little dog pouted and poodled her way down the snowy hill to town.
According to the government, the season of Spring replaced Winter last week. Ads that accompany the national news on TV push purchases of gardening supplies or Easter candy. Last night the temperature dropped to below freezing, like it has done every night for what seems like months. This morning snow is falling through warming skies. Soon it will turn to rain. Clouds block our views of local mountains. But there might still skiable snow near the Mendenhall Glacier.
Aki, our other human and I drive out to the glacier in hopes that the snow covering the lake’s beaches hasn’t softened to mush. We find it perfect for skiing. Recognizing that we have finally gotten a break, we use our cross country skis to work along the beach and bays. No people, birds, or bears share the lake ice with us. In no time we make it to the Mendenhall River and ski down it to where it almost touches the campground ski trail. We will use that trail to return to the car. I am once again disappointed not to see the swans that normally feed in the river this time of year. Perhaps, they are waiting for Spring to finally appear.
We were promised more rain and snow today. But sunshine was sparkling on Gastineau Channel as I brewed my second cup of coffee. We headed out to the trail earlier than usual in case the sun is soon blocked by clouds.
There were no cars in the parking lot for the Gastineau Meadow trail. We soon learned why. Yesterday, rain had flooded the trail, covering it with an inch or so of water. Last night, a one inch layer of ice formed over the rain water. In an hour or so, after the temperature rises well above freezing, hikers will return to their cars with water-soaked boots.
It’s been a couple of months since we last hiked on this trail. It was icy then, and there was little snow on the meadow. Today, it is covered by a couple feet of snow. It’s not hard to move up from tidewater and onto the meadow as long as we stayed on the pounded trail. Any time I move off of it to take a photograph, my boots sink a foot or two into the still soft snow.
Yesterday a storm dumped over a foot of snow on Chicken Ridge. We joined our neighbors in shoveling out driveways for our cars and pathways to reach them. In these Covid times, people in Juneau town keep to themselves most of the time. That changes when the snow falls. The morning following an overnight storm, the people living in our house and others grab their shovels and join the neighborhood to push away a deep layer of snow.
This morning, after looking out the windows, I expected it would be a day dominated by snow. Low snow clouds hung over the house. Our weatherman promised that the temperature will rise well above freezing so the snow should melt as it hits our driveway. Winter seemed to be slipping away without giving the dog and I a chance to ski across Mendenhall Glacier Lake.
I was more surprised than Aki when sunshine started flooding the neighborhood with light. We needed an open, skiable place to enjoy the light. By checking the ski club website, I learned that Mendenhall Lake was finally thick enough to set up a cross country ski trail on its ice. Aki’s other human and I ate a quick breakfast and drove with the little dog out to the trail head. We slipped onto the lake ice under blue, sunny skies. There was beauty to digest any way we looked. I took a few photos and followed Aki and her other human across the lake. The sun disappeared when were almost to the other side of the lake.
A mixture of hail and snow soon cut off our views of mountains and glaciers. This didn’t disappoint Aki. She ran up to every dog she saw to say “hi” or sniff. Sometimes she would just stop to roll in the new snow.
t snowed most of last night. It’s scheduled to snow more this afternoon. But right now, in late morning, no rain or snow falls. The sun is even breaking through the clouds for minutes at a time. Aki is more than ready to walk along Sandy Beach.
Four inches of new snow cover the trail to the beach. But it gives, rather than makng up slip and slide, when we walk on it. It takes us little time to work through the woods and onto the beach. The tide is reducing Sandy to a narrow trail. In a few minutes tidal water will close it to traffic.
By slipping under alders hanging over the beach, we are able to make it to the end of the beach where an immature bald eagle seems to sulking in a beachside cottonwood tree. I wonder, for the tenth time this winter, whether eagles will nest again in the Treadwell Woods that border Sandy Beach. We climb a snow-covered trail off the beach to where we can see an eagle nest built into the framework of a cottonwood. For the time since last summer an adult eagle is stationed above the nest.
It seems strange walking without Aki this morning. The weather isn’t keeping her home. There isn’t a cloud in the sky, no wind to discourage the little poodle mix. In a few minutes the temperature will climb above freezing. No, weather isn’t the problem, it’s the little poodle mix puppy in the car that’s picking me up. Our 14 year old Aki won’t put up with much from any pup. Almost all dogs tree yield to our10 pounder’s wishes. I just wasn’t sure about my friend’s new puppy.
Aki won’t lose out on a walk this morning. A few minutes after I leave, she and her other human will head out to glacier for a ski with family friends. Yesterday, the CDC lets us all know that people who had received the Corvid vaccinations could meet without masks. All of Aki’s ski partners qualify.
There are a lot of places to visit on a sunny March day. We could be out the road, climbing between snow-covered meadows to reach an almost perfect beach. I might be leading Aki around one of the tidal islands accessible at low tide. But we are back at shore of Mendenhall Lake, getting ready to ski around the campground.
The little dog is fine with the idea. It gives her the chance to catch up on the peep mail messages left by other Juneau friends. But I have my doubts. It froze hard last night and we were just told that the snow machine needed for resetting the trail is broken. Aki couldn’t care less even though it might mean me having to struggle on an ice slick trail.
As always happens, Aki wins. But when we start down the trail I realize that I am also a winner. The trail is just soft enough for me to ski without slipping. I can fly down the trail. In record time we reach a little path that we can use to ski along the Mendenhall River and back to the car along the edge of the lake. Even though strong spring sunshine had been hammering the snow trail, it is still rock hard. This doesn’t bother the little poodle-mix, but toughens my skiing. That’s until I drop onto the lake, which is covered with a thin layer of snow. It lets me glide back to car by simply pulling myself forward with my ski poles.
Aki’s other human brought her skate skis to the glacier campground. They would have been ideal for moving around the set track. But that was being heavily used this morning by legislative aides and their guests. So, we switched plans and used our skis to trace the edge of the lake. It turned out great.
Last night well, well-below freezing weather hardened the border ice around the lake. In an hour or so, it will soften in the sun, making it difficult to travel on using the light weight skate skies. But now, the snow still supports us and offers the perfect surface for slashing with skate skis. We make it to the mouth of Mendenhall River in record time.
Aki is taking this cross country ski trip seriously. That’s probably because was are being joined by her other human. The little dog watches the road carefully as we drive out to Skater’s Cabin. That’s where we will start skiing around the shore of Mendenhall Lake. It’s suppose to be snowing but none falls on us as we walk to the lake shore. Instead we have to squint because no clouds block the sun.
It’s 38 degrees and the temperature will rise before we finish. The snow, hardened by last night’s cold weather, is firm enough to keep us above the snow’s surface. Aki follows us onto the lake, across a small bay, and around a snow-covered point. When I stopped on the lake ice to take a picture, my ski poles slide easily into the ice. In a half hour my skis would be sinking into icy water. But we have just enough time to fly over the top of it, high and dry.