Saturday, March 8, 2014

Across the lake

We had some arctic air in February which meant it was 0 degrees and sunny. 12 whole days without precipitation. That's the kind of thing that gets Juneau-ites a little giddy.

On two separate weekends and a weeknight we hiked or skied out to the face of the glacier. The first two times Mr. X and I were ill prepared to follow the hordes up and over the west side of the glacier - Chilkoot pass style, I swear - to the ice cave which is why we made the third attempt on a weeknight.

A tale of two parents.
On the Saturday that we skied out with our friend, Gray, there were families everywhere. Parents skiing with kids on their backs, kids trudging through the snow, kids getting towed in sleds. It's near a mile hike over a lake that is 200' deep in places. Once we reached the face of the glacier, it was a playground. Kids climbing on glacial till, kids sledding down snow covered hills. The kids were all the same, ready for adventure, looking for a thrill.

There were two kinds of parents though. First the parent who shouts, "Hey get away from that arch." But is too cautious to answer their child's question, "Why?" Then there's the other parent who says, "Ruby, hon, come here we're gonna put spikes you your feet" and is only too happy to answer the "why" with, "'cause we're gonna go in a tunnel of ice!"

 When it became clear that if we wanted to see the ice cave, we needed to go ASAP, we decided to try on a Wednesday evening. We hoped we could beat the sunset, so we could see color in the cave; we were a too late for prime time, but we had the place to ourselves. Tuesday there was a wind storm that blew the snow around on the lake, opening bare patches of ice and piling the grainy snow unevenly. Our ski across the lake took us about 30% longer because of these conditions. Once at the face of the glacier we saw people attempting to hang-ski or whatever that's called. The wind was pretty gusty.

After switching to hiking shoes and yak-trax we headed up the side of the glacier, meeting people on their way down. About halfway up Mr. X pointed out the tree stumps that have recently become visible, spending at least the last 200 years under the ice. These stumps have been the subject of some university research and a topic in the media.

Hiking up the glacier and then finally down off the ice we reached the cave. The entrance was at least 18' wide and 15' tall. This is right where we went hiking with Brad on the glacier last year. Once at the cave, we had about 5 minutes before we needed to head back out. Frankly, I was a bit concerned with getting in, getting out and back across the slick lake ice in the dark.

We enjoyed seeing the double moulin and then once out of the cave, Mr. X beat a line for the ridges up the glacier. When he returned he said he wanted to see what was on the other side. Apparently, there were more ridges.

I was pretty cold by the time we got back to the lake and told Mr. X that I was going to head out since he could easily catch me, he didn't object. We were the last people on the lake that night and the last car in the parking lot. It was a beautiful moon-light ski with me noting Orion's belt and Mr. X pointing out the big dipper behind us.


I love comments.