Winter Trail Overview
Each winter season, it's more likely then not that Mother Nature provides the Juneau area with a cold spell to remember. She gives us Alaskans the chance to recall stories of bitter cold temperatures and changes in the landscape which creates positive memories that last a lifetime. Bar none, the most fascinating place to be in Juneau on a bone chilling is at Mendenhall Lake, situated at the toe of the glacier bearing the its name. Popular for walkers, cross country skiers, ice skaters, hockey players, bikers, sledders, photography hounds, and just about everyone else with a liking to the outdoors, no other place in the region thrills and amazes people like Mendenhall Lake.
Folks of all ages and abilities take to the ice with anticipatory wonder to find scenes never seen with the eye and colors that boggle comprehension. "Is it really like that," people ask, and the answer is always the same! Yes is really is! It's great... it really is.
Lunar Mountain Biking Trail DescriptionWith almost nine miles of shoreline to explore, visitors choose to begin their outing from one of two trailheads. On the western side of the lake is the more secluded access of Skaters Cabin, also known as the East Glacier Trail parking area and home to Juneau's most popular campground. To the east is the more popular visitor center parking area. From either one of the two locations, visitors need only to get out of their car and walk merely a half minute to begin venturing out on the icy world of Mendenhall Lake.
Freedom ensues and people spiral about on skates or begin shuffling around on the ice attempting to adapt to the foreign media. Many are tentative about the lake's surface and check that conditions are safe, which when people are out on the lake usually means they are.
When the conditions are not safe, people don't get to far. It is pretty good comedy to watch someone venture off the sandy shore and onto thin ice testing its strength. Some puncture the ice and posthole up to their knees, while others may slip down, even belly flopping in the shallows next to the beach.
Though warning signs abound to be on the ice at one's own risk, the danger is minimal when the ice reaches four inches in depth. Snow mobiles are advised that the ice is safe for their machines at five inches and cars get the go ahead at 12. Still, inconsistencies in ice strength exist, but several times per year the ice freezes to depths as deep as two feet providing a clear visual security to any skeptic.
An always present danger lurks at the end of the lake where seracs crumble from the glacier's face. A glacier calves ice bergs not only in the summer, but year round, which of course, includes winter. This can be a very scary thought, especially when one observes folks crawling around the canyons and gullies of four story tall shark fins jetting out of a 50 meter deep lake. The beauty is such a draw though. It really is hard to resist the beauty that lies up against the sprawling white curtain of ice with eternal blue hues resonating out from the glassy smooth walls.
For many, it's like space and the final frontier. People focus on a piece of ice and are mesmerized... their brains trying to make sense of such concepts like time, power, and their own frailty. Powerlessness, grandeur, confusion, clarity, introspection... all feelings felt within seconds of an iceberg. Yet, at the end of the day, people find themselves in their abodes trying to recall and put into words the things they saw and felt. Memories... memories of a glacier and a first hand, up close experience encountering Mother Nature at her rawest. It's like the magnitude of an earthquake, the ferocity of a tornado, the tempest of a hurricane... It's all that without the destruction. It's something you can touch, slide your fingers on. It's something you can lick for crying out loud!
The trail is as vast as it is diverse and everyone who experiences it takes home a different path. Still, the lake is definitely a trail or even a hundred trails! It's diverging and intersecting with every step, glide, tire tread, or foot print. Here, the trail is definitely one's own and that is what makes this place so unique.