A Winter’s Crossing

Friday, I took a turn at driving Aly to and from town for work so Michelle could stay home. In the process, I got a taste of what the two of them face every work day.

Let me tell you . . . .

Our weather has transitioned from torrential rains to snow, to cold temperatures and high winds. The results of these on our land and seascape have been stunningly beautiful, and treacherous.

Somehow, as sometimes happens, water levels in the creek on Mud Bay don’t match the tides (see A Mud Bay Mystery and Observations in “Mud Bay Lab” Offer Few Clues to Mystery). The evening tide has been most problematic lately. Ironically, the morning tide seemed somewhat lower than it should have been.

Even so, the tidal creek had started to freeze over by the time we reached it.

We both wore hip boots. Earlier in the week, the wind blew the lid off our boot tote at the trailhead, and rain had filled it. Aly and I found that when I took her to work last Saturday; we’d dumped it out right away, and during the week, she and Michelle carried their boots to Michelle’s office to dry. Mine had stayed wet into the freeze, which required me to thaw the smashed and frozen feet of the boots as I put them on. Chilly and a bit painful!

We hiked farther upcreek than the gaps in the ice, seeking a shallower crossing. Then we ran out of gapโ€”the creek froze out from our bank, with a narrow channel of water against the far bank.

I went first, and soon found that the ice would hold my weight. I had a fair estimate of creek depth, so I took the risk and walked across, creeping a bit, sliding my weight along, trying to distribute it as much as possible. Aly followed at a distance, stopping when I did.

Eventually, I reached the point of no return. I held still, and called out to Aly that I was about to break through. Sure enough, the ice broke under me, and I plunged into the creek.

The water came to my knees. Even with a healthy splash, I didn’t get wet, to my great relief. Instead, I started breaking a path through the ice. Where large sheets broke, I shepherded them under the downstream ice to clear our path, helped by the light current.

Both of us carried our regular boots on our hands, which not only cut the icy wind on our fingers, but gave us each a second set of “feet” to steady ourselves on the ice.

In a surprisingly short time, I reached the gap and scrambled up onto the far bank. Aly soon joined me.

We hiked across flats of frozen sea foam. Dazzling white but flecked and highlighted by bright yellow, it looked like a whipped Christmas candle gone rogue. The high winds sculpted drifted snow into sharp designs. It reminded me of photos I’ve seen of the Antelope Desert.

Above us, the sun began to light the tops of the Chilkat Range to the east, where snow covered even the sheerest cliffs. To the south, the sunrise glowed red. Breath taking!

We both lamented not bringing our cameras, but recognized that in those temperatures our batteries would not have lasted long enough to take proper photos.

Before we headed home that evening, a new friend exclaimed at Aly’s daily commute. Aly smiled and told her that on the days she doesn’t make the trip, she doesn’t feel truly awake.

I can see her point!

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2 Responses to A Winter’s Crossing

  1. Angela says:

    I read your blog this morning while waiting for the car to warm up. I couldn’t help but smile at your description of the journey. My commute on the asphalt hamster wheel is not nearly as pleasant or picturesque. Perhaps the fall through the ice wasn’t all that pleasant, but adventurous to say the least ๐Ÿ™‚ My husband who is 53 was fortunate enough to retire 2 years ago and our goal is a simple cabin in the mountains. Until that time, we will live vicariously through your blog! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Angela, I wish you luck in achieving your goal! It’s worth the inconveniences of commuting. Love your term, “asphalt hamster wheel.” I may have to use that sometime….

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