Friday, November 04, 2005

November recreation

I'm just thawing my face after a brisk (to say the least) 25-mile bike ride. Every time I go riding I think "this is the last one of the season." On Tuesday I skidded out on a patch of black ice and hit the pavement for crying out loud. Today I rode down the ridge, into town and out to the end of the spit through a fierce west wind. I was getting sprayed by surf from the other side of the road. When I got home my toes were numb and my outdoor thermometer read 12.8 degrees. I think this may be my last ride of the season.

Everyone in town says it's unseasonably cold. The pictures I posted today are from our trip to Crescent Lake last weekend. Driving there was downright brutal. We stopped at a gas station shortly after sunrise (about 9:30 a.m., as this was still one day before the clocks set back) to get some coffee. The thermometer on the door registered vaguely in the single digits and every branch,
every blade of grass along the highway was coated in thick frost. I was anticipating a painful death by frostbite, but once we got out of the car and hoisted our backpacks, the whitewashed landscape seemed beautiful and benign.

We hiked in about seven miles to a little cabin on the lake. We spent the first couple of hours there gathering wood in an area picked pretty clean – a lot of hauling and cutting with a small saw, but at least the effort kept us warm for a while. We stoked our small stove and set out in a rowboat on the lake – still not frozen over, but just barely. In the space of 40 minutes we caught a couple of big grayling. But because we couldn’t bear the thought of cleaning them in the ice water, we threw them back and had burritos for dinner.

When we returned the next day there was a fresh half-inch of snow that had been wiped nearly clean from Geoff’s car. On closer inspection we saw distinct paw prints in the mud caked to the side and the roof was dented in. Footprints in the parking lot indicated that a fairly large black bear – probably in the 200 to 400-pound range – plopped itself right on top of Geoff’s little Civic while we were gone. It’s a wonder nothing caved in. I remember that this kind of bear behavior is pretty common at the Mt. Whitney trailhead in California. There, the black bears will smash in your rear windshield if they see so much as a plastic bag in the back seat. Then, when you get back from your hike, you have no food, a broken window, and a $100 fine from the forest service for tempting the bears. I think, in Alaska, the bears are still the ones who get in trouble.

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