February's wonderful winter weather carried over into early March, with the added blessing of fresh powder snow every few days.
On one of these blue-sky days, Parks and Recreation hikers set off to the place we call Naked Man Lake. I don't know if that moniker has made it onto official maps, but it is an increasingly popular destination, as indicated by a well-worn but muddy trail in summer, a well-packed snowshoe path in winter and numerous ski and snowboard tracks.
The lake is perched on a ridge of Mount Troy. Visitors are rewarded by a nice view of Juneau from one side of the lake and a vista of the Eaglecrest peaks from the other side.
Our name for the place derives from a swimmer once surprised by a group of hikers. However, on other occasions, members of the other gender have also been found there, equally devoid of clothing. Depending on one's point of view, the scenery in the lake may have challenged the views into the distance. The opinion of the swimmers was not recorded.
On this day, we saw tracks of snowshoe hare, mouse or vole, squirrel and deer. A venerable hemlock bore evidence of much past sapsucker activity: The trunk had row upon row of neatly drilled holes in the bark, all well-healed now. A tall snag held several old nest-holes made by woodpeckers, but now potentially available to chickadees or nuthatches.
As we sat in the brilliant sun for lunch, passing the chocolates around, the big visual treat of the day was watching a pair of telemark skiers making their elegant descent down Mount Troy.
I think they may have detected the presence of chocolates, because they soon joined us and shared the goodies.
Seeing the deer tracks reminded me of another recent hike. Coming down from Gastineau meadows, I saw a cluster of tiny deer prints in shallow snow under a tree. They were so small, I had to think fawn, perhaps a late-born one from last summer.
I wonder if such small deer have extra difficulty in snowy winters, when browse is buried under snow and travel is not easy even for larger individuals.
Mary F. Willson is a retired professor of ecology.
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