I have to say – I love my “early retirement” – at least while it lasts. I get up whenever I want – usually around 5 or 6 am and do what I want – which is, weather-dependent, usually shooting in the mornings and evenings and working on my photos at home or looking for opportunities to market them in between. No cubicle from 8 to 5, no bosses.
I’ve been snow-shoeing with a friend around the Eaglecrest Mountain – Mount Ben Steward ridge area, over on Douglas in Juneau, Alaska. It’s interesting being on a mountain in the winter without skis, not being able to whoosh down fast at will. But this mode of transportation has its advantages – I can go up slowly and stop often to enjoy the scenery and the night and early-morning sky. Without the skis, I don’t feel hurried to get to the top quickly and ski down while there is still plenty of virgin powder.
It’s intriguing how easy it is to strike up conversations with skiers on the slope while snow-shoeing. Some wonder why we are going in the opposite direction of the general traffic, why we are not on the chair-lift, where our skis are. Ski patrol stops to see if we are alright. And so on. When I ski, I usually end up talking only during the chair-lift ride, or in the line to it. Otherwise, I prefer it to be a rather solitary experience, to get down to earth, so to speak, at least as far as the snow depth allows.
But I digress. After snow-showing up to the top, with kind assistance of poles or an ice axe, there is nothing better than a hot cup of tea or cocoa, courtesy of the Whisper-Lite stove we take with us. But before we can get a pot of snow going, first things first. We dig in, until a circular trench in the snow is made, tall enough to hide us from wind and wide enough for us and the stove. Now, while the snow is undergoing all three physical form-changes to accommodate us with a hot drink, we pull out bars of dark chocolate and munch on them for lunch. It’s quite and tranquil around. No people, no sounds, just the breeze singing in the trees as it travels from Canada or the ocean, navigating through channels and mountain-tops. That’s ecstasy, 6th heaven.
As the sun slowly rolls over the peaks of the Admiralty Island, threatening to disappear in between one of them, we pack up and begin our journey down. A slow descent, as our legs are tired, but still so much faster than the climb up. With the last rays of sun igniting mountain-tops for the last time and long grotesque shadows bridging trees, we reach the car.