Winter

Winter’s icy clutch has come

 

(Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

The arrival of the winter solstice yesterday made me think about winter, in its most raw, powerful form.

I used to live in a wintry place, Anchorage, Alaska. I spent six years there, meaning six winters. One measures a true year in winters in Alaska. I first feared the cold, and then embraced it after I took up skate skiing. Soon, I found myself skiing almost every day of the winter season on Anchorage’s miles of multi-use trails and its world-class ski trails in Kincaid Park and on the Anchorage Hillside.

In 2008, the winter was particularly nasty. We had a stretch of days below -10 F for almost two weeks. I was sidelined with a bad running injury, and I was unable to exercise like I normally did. The hoarfrost was both beautiful and terrifying, because it signified how dangerous the elements were. To this day I don’t know how the ravens, moose, lynx, stellar jays, owls, foxes, wolves, and other local critters survived such conditions, with no respite from mother nature.

I did love my walks, and I used my period of convalescence to document the icy beauty of the Anchorage area, including some festivals where ice sculptures were installed in a downtown park that was turned into an ice skating rink. It was so cold that year, qualifying heats for the U.S. National Cross Country Ski Team were cancelled at Anchorage’s Kincaid Park because of the potential harm the cold could have to the athletes.

So, on our first day of winter, in the northern hemisphere, I say, all hail winter. May your icy clutch be gentle and memorable.

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Snowstorm in the Sellwood neighborhood

(Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Portland, Oregon just experienced yet another winter snowstorm. This one was the most severe of the season. Anywhere from eight to 12 inches fell in the metro area on Jan. 10 and 11, 2017. I knew it would be severe when I went for a walk the night the heavy, wet snowflakes began to fall. Wind swirled in all directions. My eyes were stinging from being hit by the wet white stuff. In Alaska, I skate skied in this stuff all the time, but here it is something different. It was definitely going to be a heavy, wet snowfall that would bring the region to a crawl.

I woke up at 4 a.m. on Jan. 11 to try and get to work about nine miles away. All around me I saw fallen branches, broken by the weight of snow accumulation. There was going to be a lot of damage from this storm, and roads would soon turn to ice. I spent four hours trying to get to work that day, all before 8:30 a.m., but I failed. A train and bus connection never arrived. My consolation prize was a few photos I took on my first outing and my second, when I finally got my buses. All told, I spent six hours commuting that day from Portland’s southeast Sellwood neighborhood, to Tigard, and back again. It did make for great scenery.

What you see are the shots of businesses along 13th Avenue Southeast and one looking to the city’s west hills, above the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. It is pretty, but if you live in a place that can’t handle snow, it can be a pain. Me, I had plenty of food in the fridge, some pea soup already made, cold beer, lots of tea, a cozy apartment, and no time to worry given my commutes. You just roll with it. I’m exhausted. I need some sleep. This was my consolation prize this week.

Having fun in the Methow Valley

It is not a great ski year for the Pacific Northwest. Snowpack is seriously below seasonal averages. Skate skiing this season is mostly a bust in western Oregon. So I thought about past trips, including one I took to the Methow Valley in December 2010, and that turned out to be a great trip because I reconnected with someone who I had not seen in years who showed me the trails. This weekend, the Methow Valley is predicting warmish weather for their annual Tour of the Methow, a great race with many distances, including 80 km.! This is a lovely place, and I always tell my good friends who have not been there, try and go once during ski season.