Thursday, January 13, 2011

Winter In Juneau

We in Juneau are in the midst of a true deep freeze.
Since late last week when the skies cleared completely, the temperature day by day has continued to fall.
Low twenties over the weekend.
A few degrees lower each day during the week, and beginning yesterday high winds and higher gusts added to the cold.
By tomorrow we are looking at low single digit air temperatures, and wind chills around 40 degrees below zero.
Over the weekend LC and I bundled up in multiple layers to walk at the beach near the Boy Scout Trails.
But for the past few days it has been just too windy and too freezing cold to be outside for more than a few minutes at a time.
This is the coldest it has been in Juneau since I arrived here just over a year ago.
All Juneauites are hunkering down right now, holding on and waiting patiently for the temperatures to moderate again even just a little.
I have heard many times about Taku Winds, and experienced them somewhat in the fall, but now finally understand just how strong and how dominant they can be in this area.
While walking from the Sub-Port parking lot yesterday on the way to a meeting downtown, the strong winds pushed at me from all directions, making the short journey very cold, interesting and challenging.
About Taku Winds:

High winds are the most common extreme weather event in Southeast Alaska. In the downtown Juneau and Douglas areas, the mountainous terrain induces what are known locally as Taku winds. These winds occur an average of four times a year from October through April. Hurricane force wind gusts (72 mph or greater) occur roughly once every two years during these Taku wind events. Taku winds produce strong wind shear and turbulence that can affect the operation of air transportation in the area. Taku winds can also cause dangerous marine weather conditions.

Even though it is still very much winter in Alaska, it is now almost mid-January and the days one minute at a time are finally getting longer.
On the way home from a meeting in the Valley this afternoon I stopped for a few minutes at Mendenhall Glacier.
I did not have Yak Traxx on my shoes and with all the ice in the parking lot and on the sidewalks, the walking was treacherous.
It was absolutely freezing cold, and so I took only a few pictures at a time before rushing back to the truck to warm up.
It was only a short visit. 
A short visit, but a necessary and welcome and appreciated momentary reprieve from the mundane of indoors and meetings and darkness...........

In the summer the small pond in the picture above is a quiet and reflective pool. 
It leads to a small channel that eventually feeds into Mendenhall Lake and then Mendenhall River.
Visitors both local and cruise ship stand near this place searching hopefully for signs of black bears fishing for salmon.
In the winter the area around Mendenhall Glacier is a frozen and quiet place of winter beauty.............
One more quiet pond.
The Visitors Center on the hill to the right..........
Two hardy souls walking on the frozen lake towards the glacier.
On the way to my meeting this afternoon I saw three young people ice skating at Twin Lakes.
So OK.........not everyone is hunkering down inside because of the freezing cold......

The mountains in Juneau continue to look much larger and much more rugged when they are covered with snow.
The glacier at this time of year looks bluer and larger.
Juneau in the summer is smooth and pretty and filled with color.
The Juneau of winter is completely rough around the edges.
A very different kind of beauty..........
There are many different types of trails surrounding the glacier.
There are challenging back country trails extending into the mountains that take hours to complete.
There are paved and sand trails that surround the Visitors Center leading down to the lake and the waterfall.
And there are flat and very accessible gravel trails and wooden walkways that extend around the perimeter of small ponds.
These walkways contain viewing areas where visitors look for (and often see) bears fishing and feeding in the salmon streams.
The walkway is very quiet at this time of year...........
When you first turn off Egan Drive and onto Mendenhall Loop Rd you are greeted with high density residential areas and Mendenhall Mall.
As you continue further the homes gradually decrease until you reach the final portion of the road that eventually dead-ends at the glacier.
The end of the road............
A small side trail close to the glacier, filled with icy snow.
The one thing that has always surprised me about Juneau is how quickly and easily you can transition from society to solitude.
No matter where you are in this town nature, back country, quiet is always only a few minutes away..........
Tonight I stood on the back porch of the house and looked up at the sky.
When they come, the Taku Winds are strong in the Valley and even stronger still in downtown Juneau.
Somehow they do not seem to reach Auke Bay or Out the Road.
The weather has been very cold but also very still close to the house.
The sky tonight, as it has been for days now, was very clear.
Thousands of stars in the sky.  A partial and clear moon.
It is Winter in Juneau and it is very cold.
But it is very beautiful in so many ways.............
Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home ~ Edith Sitwell

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