Sunday, November 22, 2015

Backcountry Skating

The dogs tested the ice for us.
 When I lived in Alaska, we often loaded up our day packs with skates and hiked up to backcountry lakes. Because it rarely snowed in the lower elevations, we could trudge easily to our target, which was usually snow-free and frozen in a perfect sheet. Wind is the enemy of smooth ice, and there were times when an entire lake had frozen just perfectly, smoother than if a Zamboni had passed over it.

The lakes where I live now are mostly a day-long slog through avalanche terrain, and the snow falls quickly, forming deep, unskateable blankets. Our only option often is the city ice rink, which takes about thirty seconds to cross and is dominated by kids with hockey pucks. It was closed most of last winter due to the thawing of the sun. It's a good option, but I am more about the woods than the town.

Yesterday as we were snowshoeing past a small pond called Papoose Lake, we noticed it was frozen, with only a skim of snow on its surface. Around here you must seize the day, so today we brought our skates, a thermos of cocoa, and the hope that it would all work out.

Our own private lake.
Skating on a frozen lake that makes you feel like you've gotten away with something. Sometimes you can look far down through the layers of clear ice and see strands of aquatic vegetation, rocks, the bottom. There are times when the expansion and contraction of frozen water sounds like thunder, rolling across the lake. The lake is alive in the way a city rink never can be.

The air temperature was in the teens, but it's the kind of winter day when you can find a patch of sun and feel completely, blissfully warm. Reluctantly we left the lake to its own devices. Pretty soon it will be covered in deeper snow.

The snow had diamonds in it.
Not a bad view.

12 comments:

  1. Awesome Mary,
    Sounds like so much fun!
    When I was a kid growing up on our farm in Pa. We had a good sized pond that would freeze over most winters. My sisters and I would smack frozen horse poop around with sticks and play hockey, we were such tomboys. I remember one winter when the ice was so clear we could see a great big snapping turtle in the pond below the ice, we thought that was so cool. By the way my birthday is tomorrow and my wonderful husband just handed me your book, I can't wait to start reading it tonight. Thanks Mary!!

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    1. Horse poop! That's funny. My husband learned to skate the same way. I never got that good at it, but I like it. Hope you like the book! And happy birthday!

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  2. Such pretty winter wonderland pics! Do you have two huskies?? I have two huskies too! Best dogs ever!!

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    1. We have three husky/malamute/something mixes. They are really sweet.

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  3. This looks like an AWESOME day! I haven't skated in years. In Colorado there was a lake we would trek to up in Black Hawk called Pactolus Lake. There was a sign in the warming house that reported the current ice depth. Sometimes when the wind blew skaters would hold a sheet between them and use it as a sail to skate to the opposite end of the lake. Looking in to the ice was so interesting, the colors, the trapped bubbles, imagining ice 3' thick or more, listening to the sounds the ice makes, the creaks and pops. I didn't know the history then, but looking it up now (the lake is no longer a skating venue) it used to be the source of ice blocks for meat lockers in Denver, before refrigeration changed the market.
    Skating there were the best skating experiences of my life, thanks for reminding me!

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    1. Do people still hike up there to skate? Sounds really nice! The sail thing, though, I am not that fearless.

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  4. Never that good at skating but when the wind blew the snow away and you could see all the way down, it was beautiful (and a bit scary out on Lake Superior). L. skated all the way down Deer Lake one time, with clear ice all the way, and we walked more than skated over clear ice out to the island off Middle Island Point. You have such beautiful country to explore...glad you found Papoose Lake skatable.

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  5. I guess I should have defined 'trek' - it was an hour drive from Boulder. It's private now, or I should say owned by someone else and it's no longer a skating venue, based on what I read online about it.

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  6. My ma's family used to make an ice rink in their pasture. I love skating, but hate falling. Glad you got to enjoy your beautiful winter wonderland.

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    1. Now it's covered in snow. We are having quite the winter so far.

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