This is where I lived the last couple of days, La Chasse. A beautiful log cabin at Lake Puntilla. A wood stove kept me warm at night. Today we had heavy snow fall for an hour.
Now it’s clearing showing the mountains with a fresh white skirt.
Breakup may be a good descriptor for rivers shedding their winter coat. Not so for arctic lakes, such as Puntilla Lake. It’s a prolonged, circuitous process of freeze thaw. During the day the snow melts away, collecting on top of the floating ice, forming small puddles and giving the lake surface a gray, green, blue appearance depending on the depth of the overflow. During the night the water freezes, some mornings it is just a thin crust.
In addition, wind and sun create unpredictable shapes of ice crystals. Gas bubbles that were trapped in the ice during freeze up become visible. A little more heat and the bubbles burst to the surface. Not for long. More open water…
How much longer until the first float plane of the season can touch down on the lake?
It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.
Just another gorgeous day in paradise. No need to dwell on the past or fear the future. I am just taking in what the days are offering.
I am expecting a loud boom any time. An explosion. That’s how fast nature is changing. Probably it’s not that dramatic. Just appears to me that way after those winter days. First of all, there is so much light. Even before I open my eyes in the morning at 6:45 the sun is already up. No more amazing sunrise images for me, at least for a while. Too early for me… When I do my last round around midnight I don’t need a flashlight. It’s still twilight! During the day the sun stands high on the firmament, gotta wear shades, it is so bright. Glaring light barrels down from the snowy mountain sides. Too much light even for my tender greens. I have put seeds of bell pepper, squash, and avocado into small pots and they are going like gangbusters. Kept the seedlings in the house so far. Yesterday I put them in the greenhouse during the day. It must have been close to 80 inside. They love that.
The willow catkins have progressed a bit, after being stagnant for more than 2 months. The first wildflowers are out, although I still don’t know what it is. It looks like a little plant eating monster, a dark purple mouth with fuzzy white teeth. The lawn pushes a hint of green much to the delight of our horses.
In the morning I heard the first flock of geese heading North. I could not see them at first. They were somewhere in the big sky. There. 50 or so, a small group. V-formation, high above the ground taking advantage of the prevailing wind. Not as the crow flies. The general direction is North, but for their own reasons they deviate from the prescribed course, maybe looking for suitable drafts? They may not soar as effortless as an eagle, but they sure go the distance. Where do they go? To Beringea, the paradise of the North?
One seabird with long orange legs and a skinny beak has made a rest stop at Puntilla Lake. Three seagulls and a handful of ducks also took refuge in the little open water the lake has to offer. A think crust of ice covers the water in the morning, testimony to the frigid water temperature. It is interesting to watch the breakup process, very different form freeze up. Trapped gas bubbles reappear, small ice bergs float around the lake shore. The lake surface goes from white to gray, to green and blue. There are insects in the water moving swiftly. They have one specialized leg that serves as a paddle.
Since this is my first winter in Alaska, and this winter is apparently not your typical winter I don’t know what to make of the weather lately.
Picture-perfect bluebird days have given way to a crazy snow days. Two Iditarod Air Force planes made an unplanned landing today on Puntilla Lake after flying into a whiteout on their way to Anchorage. The pilots and one passenger stay in our guide shack. Smart pilots always carry a sleeping bag and some emergency gear. This will come in handy tonight.
We also think of Antonio de la Rosa, a Spanish adventurer, who stopped by at Rainy Pass Lodge, en route to Nome. He started to walk from Willow the same day the Iditarod started with a 90 kg sled in tow. He spent a sunny afternoon at the lodge, updating his friends, having a warm meal and a beer before heading out towards Rainy Pass, which was a howling gap in the mountains yesterday.
Today we woke up to steadily falling snow and low visibility. In the afternoon I hiked onto the lake and shot a panorama consisting of a faint line of trees, representing the lake shore. Nearby hills and mountains disappeared in the snow.
The Iditarod mushers are approaching their final destination, Nome. Jeff King is in the lead, just one hour ahead of Aliy Zirkle. One hour – after 1000 miles!
Hoping everybody is safe out there.
The big sled dog race to Nome started today in Anchorage. Just for show. The mushers gave rides to VIPs through town and paraded their B-team, while the race dogs got a last rest day before the real start tomorrow.
A crew of veterinarians, checkers, and other Iditarod staff came in today and set up their check point at our cook house. We were busy all day preparing the lodge for guests, staff, media, mushers, and dogs.
We are expecting the first team to arrive at Puntilla Lake some time in the early morning of Monday. Within 9 hours all teams should pass through our check point. I hope to catch some of the action happening in between.
Today, Peter Ripmaster, the last runner in the Iditarod Trail Invitational left Puntilla Lake with blisters on his feet. In obvious pain, but otherwise in good spirits.
Robert Loveman spent the night at Rainy Pass Lodge with four Siberian Huskies on his way to Nome. He is not participating in the Iditarod race allowing him to set his own pace and playing by his own rules. He is mushing a small dog team, which he supports by being on skis. This year’s icy trail conditions may support his ambitious goal.
Good luck to both of you.
The winners of the 2014 Iditarod Trail Invitational are probably already back home, while others are continuing their adventure heading towards Nome. As in other sports the leaders made it look easy. Not only because they were in great shape but also because they had outstanding conditions, hard snow, no wind and cold temperatures that kept the trail firm and gripping. Now the conditions have changed. Above freezing temperatures brought some rain, and made the trail soft and mushy. The athletes that are still on the trail are the real heroes in my book. They are tired, at their limit, exposed to the elements for a much longer time. We have seen blisters and frostbite. Fatigue, hunger, and thirst.
Still, many athletes have noticed and commented on the beautiful scenery. They also expressed respect for their competitors breaking records left and right this year.
The question remains: Why? What is the motivation for these individuals to enter such a race? For some it is about winning, for others it is about finishing, for some it is an adventure, for some it is a vacation. It was a pleasure to meet these folks, especially the ones that took the time to chat with us or have their picture taken.