Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Return of Winter

After a warm and damp january that seemed more like dark form of April than the first month of the year, we past mid February and full into winter.  We have had close to two feet of snow in the last week and the skating days are long past.  Now we have a trail around the lake for skiing that is almost five miles long.   We pack and smooth the snow every time it snows so we can skate ski or classical. Madelyn and I also use the trail for skijoring.   We have two sled dogs for this sport and we just borrowed a third, Zena, a retired Iditarod champion.

Skijoring with Snape and Zena

Madelyn's comments:

Zena Iditarod Warrior Princess
   Well, now that we finally look like normal and have some snow, we decided we needed to add a dog to the team.  Without Loki, who we lost in May, and Nelson's advancing age (12-13 now) we definitely had a slow down, also made it difficult to travel when we need a sled.  So our buddy Travis Beals, Iditarod racer, loaned us Zena, a retired leader who wasn't getting out much, if at all.  She's been to nome at least 4 times, was a leader in Lance Mackey's heyday - 4 time winner.  He last trip to Nome will give you a chuckle.  Lance leased a team to the first Iditarod musher from Jamaica - sound familiar?  He stayed here and trained with Lance.  If memory serves, he didn't get clear to Nome, but had a good showing.
So if you tell anyone about our newest team member, just say she went to Nome several times on winning teams....they probably will think the rest is a joke.  She's only been here two days but she is settling in well and done everything we asked - easy keeper.  She probably hasn't run much since last summer when she put 1500 miles in on the glacier dogsled tour.  Photo taken in 2010 at Lance's kennel. 

Here's a video of Skijoring with a pulk.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Playing the Ice Drum

February 12, 2014   13 degrees F.  wind 9 mph.
Nordic Skates -- They attach to my skate ski boots
     I was out on the lake today just before dusk when the sun is behind the mountains and the warm of the day is past.  The dogs and I went out from the house down the dock that is still not covered with snow.  I put on my nordic skates and skated into the cold north wind with the dogs trotting along behind.  The snow is sparse here this winter, so I am ice skating in February, which is pretty rare.   We has a bit of snow last Friday but it came in on the wind and most of what fell on the lake blew away.  Today the lake is about 50/50 ice and snow with much of the snow so thin that I can skate through it easily on the Nordic skates.
     Nordic skates are a scandinavian invention that allows the skater to use their cross country ski boots or even hiking boots.  After suffering miserably as a child in stiff cold figure or  hockey skates, I lost interest in ice skating, an activity my wife really enjoyed.  When she got me the Nordic skates, I became a dedicated ice skater.  Not only are the skates more comfortable and easier to work with, the long straight blade cruises smoothly over rough ice, plows through snow and glides long and straight so that the skater doesn't need perfect smooth ice to have a good time.  These skates are fast! Here's a blog with some  video and narrative on the topic.   A web search for nordic skates will connect you with sites selling the skates.

This video is a good introduction to what Nordic Skating looks like. From Alexander Creek Alaska.

 I figure the trip down the lake and back is about four miles,probably more by the time we wander back and forth to take a break from facing into the wind for ice skating really gives one the a measure of the force of the wind.   Even a ten mph wind will make a skater really work going into it and coming home,  the wind will not only stop chilling your face it will scoot you along with little effort.
     During this evening's skate the dogs and I had the lake to ourselves, and one would think it would be quiet and peaceful.  The sky was clear and the mountains were silhouetted against a navy blue sky, beneath my feet however, the lake was in turmoil.   Look out over a froze lake and you will see a still bucolic scene of rigid silence, the water turned to stone.  But if you walk down to shore and listen you may hear the lake rumble and bubble, sometimes with a deep thrumming and sometime with a boom.  The ice  is contracting in some places and expanding in others.  If the snow hasn't hidden them, you will see cracks all over the lake ice, and some of these will be large fissures an inch or two wide.   Today I stopped on some ice that was window clear, and I could look down on the cracks that reaching deep into the ice.  The cracks are reassuring because the show ice to be at least a foot thick.  But, even knowing this, I am make uneasy when the ice rumbles beneath me.  Suddenly I feel less secure and my hearing tunes to the voice of the lake, which seems to bubble beneath me as if my weight is bowing the ice and it is groaning beneath me.
      Logic says this makes no sense, that one man can bow the ice of that thickness. But the fear is there and the lake is suddenly larger and louder.  I wonder if my skates are playing a great frozen drum ice as I pound across it, suddenly more eager to be on shore.  As I near home I relax and laugh at myself, but the lake rumbles as I do reminding me that caution is rarely a bad idea.
     If you get a chance to skate on frozen lake and experience the talking ice, your view of frozen lakes will change  forever.