Claire Helgeson attempts to cross between two snow covered ponds. (Gabe Donohoe | For the Juneau Empire)

Claire Helgeson attempts to cross between two snow covered ponds. (Gabe Donohoe | For the Juneau Empire)

Photo blog: First snow of the season

A fresh new winter season feels good.

This past weekend was the first snow near sea level in the Juneau area. So last Sunday my friends Claire Helgeson, Gretchyn O’Donnell and Ian McGonegal joined me in an adventure to find some white fluffy fun. None of it was sticking at low elevation so we had to drive up the hill to find it.

With just a water bottle, a half package of chocolate-covered mangoes and some left over Island Pub pizza, I left to go meet everyone downtown. I regret not bringing my go-to Tony’s Chocolate. (Don’t get me started. It is an entire discussion filled with bitterness and chocolate-fueled angst.) The roads are starting to get slippery so it’s a good time to summon your inner grandma and drive slower than you think you should. Even my Jeep, with four-season tires and four-wheel drive, slid around every now and then.

We drove up Fish Creek Road on Douglas toward Eaglecrest. I was feeling some snowy bushwacking was in store. The goal was to see something cool, throw some snowballs and almost fall into a pond or two. I believe it was Robert Frost who wrote, “We took the road less covered in trail tape.” Ah yes, another bushwacking adventure.

At first there was some slight hesitation form the group to just march straight into the woods without a direction or trail. But I got them to join by simply continuing to walk further in. Hi Ho, Hi ho, it’s off to the woods we go. Which would you be trekking into the woods? Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Dopey, Doc, Bashful, Happy? Or maybe name a new dwarf? Pensive? Rebellious, Snarky, Soggy?

I tried to be smart on this adventure, yielding to my dad’s clunky advice in sensible gear choice, and brought my Xtratufs and parka. I really shouldn’t have. The parka was way too hot and the boots just filled up with snow and soaked me anyway. I should have just stuck with my beliefs and wore tennis shoes and a cotton hoodie. I would have sweat less and been more comfortable in a natural fabric. Tennis shoes would still have been wet but would not have weighed me down. Sorry dad, and my sincere apologies to my ODS instructors.

For those of you who might actually be worried about bushwacking in any random direction, we had the necessary equipment to find our way. A finger of your choice, some saliva and a slight breeze (plus GPS of course). I have to admit this does sound a bit irresponsible. Looking forward to the emails I’m going to get about this one.

It is crazy how a fresh dusting of snow changes everything. Overnight, our great town and surrounding areas become all new and somehow foreign. Some of the “something cool” we set out to find were two waterfalls. One from a small stream that rolled over the top of a log. (When will Urban Outfitters start selling a mini desktop version this?) The other waterfall was a full-on rock formation carved just right to force the water to a narrow point, pressurizing the flow and shooting it down to the stream below like a small fire hose.

Every once in a while we would come across an open area that was muskeg a week ago but now is a snowball fight arena. Also there, I tried to see how much pressure the surface of the semi-frozen pond would take before cracking and sucking me in. Why is that always so tempting?

It was an interesting time to be out. Good quality snow coming down but not cold enough for the water in the stream to freeze over. A fresh new winter season feels good.


• California-born and Alaska-bred, Gabe Donohoe has taken photos daily for the past five years. He is currently a student of the University of Alaska Southeast’s Outdoor Studies program. His photo archives can be seen on www.gabedonohoe.com. “Rainforest Photos” photo blog publishes every other Friday in the Empire’s Outdoors section.


Snow collects on the tops the rocks protruding out of the stream. (Gabe Donohoe | For the Juneau Empire)

Snow collects on the tops the rocks protruding out of the stream. (Gabe Donohoe | For the Juneau Empire)

Claire Helgeson inspects stream waterfall over fallen log. (Gabe Donohoe | For the Juneau Empire)

Claire Helgeson inspects stream waterfall over fallen log. (Gabe Donohoe | For the Juneau Empire)

Ian McGonegal approaches edge of pond while snow continues to fall. (Gabe Donohoe | For the Juneau Empire)

Ian McGonegal approaches edge of pond while snow continues to fall. (Gabe Donohoe | For the Juneau Empire)

Headed back after freezing our feet off in the woods on the first snowy weekend of this season. (Gabe Donohoe | For the Juneau Empire)

Headed back after freezing our feet off in the woods on the first snowy weekend of this season. (Gabe Donohoe | For the Juneau Empire)

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