Saturday, April 6, 2013

The view on the Seward Highway, unique everyday

Everyday the drive on the Seward Highway is a different experience. This is a brief view traveling from Anchorage back to Girdwood, Alaska. 

A constant object of interest for me is the ice on the water in the Turnagain Arm. The sea ice can be thin or up to feet thick. It builds up in layers much like the sediment is layered down on the sea bed. Chunks of ice can be as big as a car. Even so, the ice still moves and breaks, and floats like cream puffs on the incoming and outgoing tide. When the tide goes out, the ice is left resting on the mud flats, heavy and solid. 

Vast swaths of mud and ice looks like a foreign planet. Some day I will brave stepping over the guardrail timing the tide just right in order to get down with the ice a photograph the bizarre landscape. 

Meanwhile, back in Girdwood, The deep end of Penguin ridge rises over the park.

Friday, April 5, 2013

What is it like in the morning, before the crowds of skiers?

Everyone who lives in Girdwood knows it exists for a reason–skiing (present day). Those who work at the Resort are here to serve that purpose. Sometimes there are wonderful days when all the guests are nice, happy to be here, and loving the outdoors. Sometimes, unfortunately many times, the guests are whiney, ask for more than their share, rude, dangerous, and demanding. Because of those guests, I  myself enjoy this moment, the quiet before the storm. This morning the sun bursts between Mount Alyeska and Max’s Mountain as if it was shot forth by a giant slingshot between the two mountains. The billions of groomed crystals on the ground sparkle under the bright sun, fresh, un-carved terrain. All that riotous color belies the quiet in the air. The calm snow, the trees still, the sun warm, I could just lie down and take a nap. 

That is not to be, as its a great day for everyone to drive into Glacier Valley to hit the slopes. The afternoon will be filled with bull wheels being turned by closet-sized motors, skis and snowboards slipping over the firm snow pack, kids laughing and having a good time, and lots of requests for lift tickets accompanied by beeping computers and printers grinding out the tickets. Throw in three, four, or five dogs romping around the base, parents pulling little ones in plastic sleighs, boots and binding clamping down and clicking off, and the random mix of music in the daylodge and you have a wild mix of audible waves. The evening will be closed out with hundreds of cars crunching in the gravel on the way down Alyeska Highway back to the Seward Highway. By 9 pm, the town settles back down to one or two cars humming up or down the road, being a Friday, maybe they just returned from a night out in the big city. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Spring Break up no fools for April 1!

No kidding, it is spring, again! I have lost track of how many springs there have been in Girdwood this winter. However, considering it is April now, this could be the real spring. Where do you think the above photo was taken? The Yukon? Tanana? Nenana? Campbell Creek? No, none of the above, its a road!

Though the day began cool and overcast. break-up was happening on all the roads. This side street in Girdwood could have been mistaken for a small river when viewed up close. As I was walking home, I could see the gravel on top of the ice thinking “wow, thats the road surface already.” Not so fast, once I turned the corner and saw this vast crevasse, I was stunned at how thick the ice had built up over the months. 

There is plowing all winter, not on a regular schedule, but enough. And as referenced many times, spring has come upon Glacier Valley enough to melt the ice on the creeks, but this ice road would not let us forget our valley is the snowiest in the state. 

Some other ice and snow features I find fascinating are the waves that roll off roofs in this community. Just looking at it, my monkey brain processes that as snow on the roof, and my simple brain thinks I could just go up there are knock that wave off. Fat chance, that snow is packed to a mini-glacier state. And it flows of the roof at a glacial pace. Very cool looking, and, very dangerous, never stand under one of these. 

Here is another cool snow phenomenon, the ripple snow blanket sliding down the roof. This snow blanket has a large pile of snow already built up below the roof line so the snow does not have space to form a wave. The snow at the base of the roof stops moving and the rest of the snow ripples up against the pile. I find it fascinating how it looks like fabric.