When my aunt and uncle moved to Alaska 40 years ago they started a tradition of having an ice skating party every year that the ice froze smoothly enough to skate. This year conditions were perfect when the ice froze, creating deep, smooth ice, and today was the day of the skating party.
It was snowing heavily when we left home, and the wind was blowing the snow horizontally. I was sure skating would be canceled in such weather, but to my surprise Delores said the weather was fine in Ninilchik--no rain, no snow--so we decided to make the 1 1/2 hour drive to join the skating party tradition. We went from snow at home to rain in Homer and back to snow as we headed up the hill out of Homer, then back to rain again until we hit Anchor Point when all precipitation stopped and the roads were dry (whew!).
The lake is 6 miles out of Ninilchik down Oil Well Road and then some bumpy dirt roads (unmaintained, so luckily not too much snow yet!). Delores & John used a piece of plywood held in front of the 4-wheeler and made 8 swipes around the lake on Wednesday to clear the track you see in the picture. It is a .4 mile loop around the lake, and the kids and I skated for 3 hours today, so I wonder how many miles we went!! Actually we could (and did!) skate anywhere on the lake because the snow wasn't very deep, and it was fun to "make tracks" in the fresh snow.
We had a fire going and a spread of food, including the Alaska standbys of moose dogs (as in "hot dogs") and salmon dips and salads. It was a breezy day, but not so cold that we were uncomfortable. I wasn't sure how we'd hold up being on an exposed lake all day, but what with the exercise of skating and occasional hot drinks, we were toasty all afternoon.
The kids were in skating heaven for 3 hours, playing tag, shoveling paths in the snow, eating desserts and basically hanging out on skates. I've skated ponds before, but never a whole lake, so this was a real treat. I will admit, I am sore, though I'm just itching to get back on skates and go some more!
As a side note, my kids were out with friends on Beluga Lake in Homer this past week and they tried an experiment (the dad--not the kids!). There were large air bubbles near the surface in the ice and Don poked a hole in the ice to the air bubble and quickly put a lighter to the hole. Each time a flame shot up, sometimes as high as 3 feet! Apparently the rotting vegetation in Beluga Lake gives off methane, which gets trapped in air bubbles when the water freezes. Thus the spectacular side-show! I want to get down there and try it one of these days. If I do I will treat you to a picture of this on my blog!