All summer long, you can find rowers, kayakers and more on Bear Lake just outside of Seward. Somewhere hidden on the west side, there’s a rope swing that Sewardites will spend the day trying to figure out how to get to.
“Do you think we can paddle our eight-person raft that far?”
If it’s too windy to be on the lake, runners and mountain bikers are traversing the rolling trail along the lake’s shores.
The 2-mile long lake is a peaceful escape, with children jumping off the small docks on hot, hazy days.
The lake is a different scene these winter days, a frozen field has replaced the still, placid waters or, to my chagrin, the windswept snow has replaced blustery white caps.
This Sunday afternoon, I packed up my car and drove to Bear Lake. My friend and I walked down from the shore onto the lake, stepped into a pair of skate skis and took off.
I always go clockwise on the lake, toward the west side. Always.
Last winter, I took a couple of dozens of trips around. I remember one day, it felt like the wind was at my back the whole time and I flew around. Another time, what was a planned single lap with Collin turned into two, then three, then four and by the time we were back at our cars he had decided to sign up for the Tour of Anchorage. A week or two after the race, we skied around while I lamented my loss to him, by 36 seconds.
This winter, warmer temperatures set me off to a belated start but I’m on the same trajectory, joined by friends as I circle around or going solo, working to close a 36-second gap.
This Sunday was a windy one, and as Patrick and I pushed into the headwinds I thought about the pocket of reprieve that I always find about half a mile from the start. The trees and the lake meet in such a way that there is a short stretch of pure bliss, no matter how many knots are blowing you back.
A little farther along the lake’s edge, you can see two sets of tracks leaving the groom and venturing out onto the lake from when Hallie and I took advantage of some golden hour light and had a bit of a photo shoot.
At the halfway mark, I hit my stride. A luxuriously long stretch of skiing is often coupled with that coveted wind at my back and I’m flying, flying down past the bridge that Maya and I trod over on summer days and through to a small island that marks the end of the stretch where the groomed trail gets rustic while trying to squeeze skiers over the small bit of ice between the shore and the island. It’s a scenic end to a fun stretch of skiing.
The last bit of the lake, which brings you back to where you started, is constantly changing. I ski past homes and Christmas trees. This year, I’ve been seeing more and more people getting onto the ice. On a Sunday afternoon, the parking lot was full and from the tail end of my loop, I could see a half dozen other groups starting trips around of their own.
The best sight, though, is when I see the groomer starting up and I know that another lap is in order.
By Kat Sorensen
For the Clarion