Seward Snapshot: Walking on a frozen lake

Bear Lake, Alaska

Bear Lake, frozen over

Another first for us former Texans: a walk across a frozen lake.

Bear Lake, at Mile 6 on the Seward Highway, typically freezes over in the winter and is a popular place for cross country skiing, snowmobiling, and even para-skiing (a variation of parasailing, but with skis and ice).  We kept it simple, strapping on our Katoolas and going for a walk.

It’s a strange thing to step onto a frozen lake.  In the summer, people kayak and canoe on this body of water; in the winter, they walk on it.  Below our feet was ice.  Below that?  Water, fish, plants, microscopic organisms, all waiting until Spring to emerge again.  And the ice–it felt like solid ground, as solid as the earth, but, like the earth itself, it’s changeable and unpredictable, so how can you be certain that you should even take that first step?

You just have to trust that, when a 500-pound four-wheeler barrels across the surface the lake, the ice is thick enough to hold you as well.

So, yes, we both had our doubts.  We stayed near the shoreline at first and watched the paraskier glide in arcs and circles.  He moved with such grace and abandon that it was a lovely thing to see.

We made it to the far shoreline and decided that for our return walk we would be brave.  We cut across the ice to the middle of the lake and then walked dead center until we reached the shore.

Of course, seeing cracks such as this did give us pause…

But what could we do?  We were already out there, the wide expanse of frozen lake surrounding us.  There was nothing to do but take the next step forward (and keep our ears pealed for cracking sounds).

Obviously we made it back to our car without incident… and now we’ve checked another Alaskan task off of our to-do list.