Wednesday, December 05, 2007

This frozen world

Date: Dec. 4
Mileage: 32.6
Hours: 2:45
December mileage: 78.2
Temperature upon departure: 7

"It hurts, it literally hurts me, to go outside," one of my co-workers announced. Journalists are known for hyperbole, but I couldn't help voicing my skepticism. "It's not really that cold," I said. "I mean, when it's 5 degrees in Fairbanks, little kids go out to recess in their T-shirts" (As I said, journalists are known for their hyperbole.)

"Well, it's cold here in Juneau," he said. "Sure," I relpied. " I guess." And with that, I nestled further into my down vest and knit gloves that I was wearing to type at my computer, because, contrary to the "winter junkie" image I try to project, I am one of those employees who is always too cold at the office.

But the reason why I feel I can't go to work wearing less than two layers is probably the same reason why my co-worker can't go outside right now without feeling pain. It's all a matter of perception vs. reality. I perceive the state of being chained to a desk as involuntary down time, and tend to slip into a sort of sleep mode in which I feel compelled to cozy up. And outside, snowless and sunny as it is, there's a perception of warmth and summer when in reality, everything is deeply frozen.

I'm deeply fascinated by all the new ice formations. Anxious as I am for some kind of snowfall, it's fun to see the creases and colors of elaborate ice sculptures in their unmasked state. It's like seeing Juneau locked in suspended animation - a world without winter, frozen. Today I rode out to the Mendenhall Lake area. The wind was mostly gone, which made the air feel leaps and bounds warmer than yesterday, even though it never climbed out of single digits. I can understand how those Fairbanks kids become conditioned to go outside in T-shirts.

Anyone who has ever visited Juneau on a cruise ship will probably get a kick out of this photo: Nugget Falls, frozen solid. With its suspended streams of white ice, the waterfall looks very much like it does in the summer. Only now, it's much more quiet.

My co-worker Brain took this photo of me as I was riding along the Mendenhall Lake shoreline. He often catches me out riding while he trolls the streets and trails for his latest masterpiece of photojournalism, but they never make it to print, so I hope he doesn't mind if I post this picture on my blog. I heard him screaming at me, but I didn't know it was him and couldn't tell what he was saying. I thought he was some jerk telling me to stay off the lake; meanwhile, the shifting icebergs and calving glacier moaned and roared like a deafening pod of humpback whales. "Does that guy think I'm some kind of idiot?" I thought. Instead, he took a picture. I usually don't manage to snap a photo that captures the thrill of riding the lake shoreline, but I think this one comes pretty close.


  1. What would happen if you did go out on the lake, Ive always heard that 2 inches will hold most people. Its probably at least double that with a bike since less surface area is in contact with the ice.....maybe double.
    If that waterfall froze then its got to be over 4 inches thick?
    LOL If I was there Id just have to know, probably chuck a big rock through it just to see how thick it was.

  2. I love your photos. The Nugget Falls one is incredible.

  3. Sweet. Now that's Alaskan MBing.

    I recall a year when I was in Anchorage, when the temps were real cold but there wasn't any snow to speak of, except high in the mountains. 1998 maybe? Anyway, that year Ten Mile river on the Kenai was frozen tight, and being snow free you could ride it (with studs) for miles to the "head water." Something that was pretty much impossible to do in an average winter.

  4. I would give anything to bike up to that waterfall right now. Ahhh so awesome! I guess I will be forced to do my easy 70 degree biking through the desert instead.


  5. looks like fantastic ice climbing in Juneau now, Keep soaking up the cold snap.

  6. Hey Jill,
    Saw you pedaling across Valley Blvd. yesterday coming down from the glacier and thought for sure you were up there taking a pic of the ice art someone constructed last weekend.

    When are you going to ditch that desk job and get one as a roving reporter?


  7. My display picture is me at Nugget Falls - in the summer. You're right; it's a bit of a shocker to see it frozen!

  8. Still loving your blog and all your photos, Jill, and thinking good thoughts for you and the upcoming Idit event - you rock! ;)

  9. The lake ice was probably safe, but it sure was making a lot of noise. I could have venture out on it, but I think I would have had a small heart attack every time I heard the ice shift and groan. Also, I don't really have my bike set up for glare ice. I use a set of low-end Kenda studded tires that are two years old and so well-used that they're worn down to little nubbins. Great for roads and trails, but the glare ice may have to wait until I can afford some Nokians. What I should do now is track down some thrift-store ice skates. Now that looks fun.

    Cynthia, thanks :)
    I actually wasn't aware of that artwork and somehow missed it while I was riding on the beach. My co-worker Brian showed me pictures of it later. It is indeed a cool piece of guerilla art. Any idea who made it?

  10. No idea...saw it Sun. afternoon. I think of it like Tibetan art...seems to be alot of that around Juneau. Anonymous authors of temporary beauty seem to defy the ego of the creator thus transcending self. Don't think I could do it...I'd have to at least scribble my initials in some inconspicuous spot nearby... ;-)

  11. How about a picture of this thing called art? I would like to see what all the talk is about.

  12. Those are all radically cool pictures, literally and figuratively...


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