Monday, December 22, 2008


Date: Dec. 21
Mileage: 38.1
December mileage: 618.8
Temperature upon departure: 23

Dec. 21 is a big day in Alaska. And not because it's the first day of winter, which no one gives much thought to, because most Alaskans have been thinking about winter since October. And not because it's a solstice, a designation that no one gives much thought to on June 21 when they're kicking back in lawn chairs, sipping cold drinks and watching the sun set at 11 p.m. No, Dec. 21 is a big day because it's the winter solstice. The day that brings the light.

I rode out to the glacier today, and the area was packed with people. Ice skaters weaved around each other in erratic lines like water skeeters on the surface of a blindingly blue pond. The low sunlight sparkled on the frozen lake. I ventured out onto the glare ice for the first time. I'm terrified of riding glare ice. I've washed out enough with my studded tires to know they're not slip-proof, and I don't have any traction on my shoes to back me up. But I saw enough people out walking on the lake that I let my guard down, picked my bee-line so I wouldn't have to turn or use my brakes, and pedaled toward the blindingly blue towers at the end of the lake - the age-old glacier ice.

Normally I shy away from crowds, but I was happy to see all the people on the lake. It warms my heart when people go outside simply to enjoy the winter air and the noon sun hovering at its lowest point of the year. It's four days before Christmas and everyone I passed said, "Happy Solstice." They know the real reason why nearly every major culture in the Northern Hemisphere saves its biggest celebration for this time of year. The coming of the light.

Yeah solstice.


  1. How many hours of daylight do you have on your shortest day of the year?

  2. Groover,

    I should have included that. It's six hours, 23 minutes here in Juneau. They get about five and a half hours of daylight in Anchorage, about 3:45 in Fairbanks, and about six weeks of total darkness in Barrow, so where you are in Alaska makes a big difference.

    One aspect of Alaska living that's never hit me too hard is winter darkness. My work schedule allows me to get out for hours in the daylight every day, which helps a lot in warding off seasonal affective disorder. Lack of sun caused by days on end of rain, however, is another story.

  3. Wow, the blue in the glaciers is just amazing. Definitely something that I'd like to see.

  4. "The coming of the light." Think about it. Great post. Happy Holidays from St. Paul, MN.

  5. Hi Jill, do you ever surprise the heck out of non-locals when you ride up to them on a bike when they think they are out in the middle of nowhere? Their expression must be priceless!
    Anyway, I love you blog, you are an inspiration and a great story teller.
    Good luck on your upcoming training and Iditabike.

    Mike from Texas (where occassionally we still have to cut the grass on winter solstice day) :-)

  6. Amen! And Happy Solstice to you, too!

    Funny, as I grow older (mid-40s now), I find the 21st of December to be a joyous day. This is in marked contrast to the now morose feeling I get on the 21st of June every year.

    (Biased, northern hemisphere take on things.)

    VA Biker

  7. Sun all day. Quite an event. Lots of time to ride your bike.

  8. when i lived there the glacier ice came down further to mendenhall lake, like all the way to the water. global warming. i climbed up through the broken ice fall and just as we got to the top a huge house sized block cut out beneath us. the glacier is like a sea with 40 foot waves that froze suddenly. we also saw a mermaid frozen in one of the seracs, if you give me 400$ i'll tell you where it is. if you know the magic word the ice will melt around her and she will come back to life.

  9. Happy Solstice! The pictures are quite stunning ! Thanks for sharing.

  10. "They know the real reason why nearly every major culture in the Northern Hemisphere saves its biggest celebration for this time of year. The coming of the light."

    Great post!


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