I arrived on the Kenai in the middle of winter but despite the snow and the cold, I kept up my normal routine of taking regular walks. During the week, it would be quite dark outside so I tended to reserve my walks for the weekend when I could go out mid-day and take in the sights. There was a lake at the end of the street where I lived in Sterling, Alaska. It was my favorite place to go. The walk to the lake was refreshing and the view of the lake was utterly beautiful. While my first trip to the lake was a brief walk to the edge of the lake, the snow covered lake surrounded by a curtain of trees and set against the back drop of Mt. Redoubt in the far distance kept bringing me back.
At first, I tried to walk around the lake. The snow covering the frozen lake made it difficult to figure out where the edge of the lake was and without a path around the lake, I often found myself wondering if I was walking on land or the frozen water. I began walking and the more I walked, the more I realized that there was more to the lake than I could see. The tree line folded into the lake and obscured a good portion of the lake. Once I made it around the tree line, I realized that the lake was quite huge. Still, I was determined to hike through the snow and make my way around the expansive body of frozen water.
That was until my Alaska noob mind started running full force in noob mode.
Even though I had stayed as close to the tree line as possible, I knew I had to be walking on the ice and as I walked, images of the ice cracking under my feet and then giving way to send me plunging below into the frigid water kept popping up. Now, I knew that the weeks of below freezing temperatures froze the lake up pretty good, and I was only walking along the edge so at most, if the ice did crack or break, nothing more than my feet would get wet. Still, it was a good hike back to the house, and I was pretty sure that walking back with cold wet feet in freezing temperatures would probably mean I wouldn’t get to keep my feet so after a few more steps forward, I decided the best course of action was to head back.
I made several more trips back to the lake and each time, I would start out to walk around the lake. After a short time, those noob thoughts would send me back home. I watched the season change on those weekly walks. I watched the snow drifts get smaller and the ice on the road turn to pools of water. I saw the buds on the trees grow into leaves and the white blanket give way to brown grass crushed by the weight of the winter snow. I then watched as the grass turned green and began to stand tall again to give everything an Alaskan summer appearance.
I could now see where the water met the land or more like the trees met the water. The tree line extend right up to the water and in some places into the water. The only path around the lake was to walk through the trees so after pausing for a few moments to watch the herrings that scuttled nearby, I began my walk. I ducked under branches and stepped over fallen trees. I slid down muddy slops and stepped over sitting puddles of water. I found a lot of moose tracks and bird tracks as well as big piles of moose poop. I also discovered an impassable stretch of mud.
The first few steps into the mud were slippery but after a few more, I found my steps were sinking into the mud. They sunk more and more with each step I took until it became very difficult to free my foot from the mud to take the next step. This once again triggered the noob safety alarm in my head that turned me around and sent me home.
As the summer moved on, the mud dried. One day after work, I was restless and with the sun still shining, decided to try again to walk around the lake. I made my way to the lake and again ducked the tree branches and stepped over logs to get to the mud hole. The perpetual sun had dried the mud allowing me to continue on my way. At least until I rounded the point along the lake where the trees folded into the lake. I took a moment to view the lake from a perspective I had not been able to before. It was quite beautiful but I was in search of wildlife to shoot with my camera on this trip. I searched the treeline for wildlife and after finding none glanced at my watch before continuing on. Much to my surprise, it was almost 1130 pm. It was 1130 pm and I still had over an hour walk to get home. I also had to be up at 6 am for work the next morning so once again, I was turned back before making it around the lake.