Friday, October 23, 2015

Snow With Everything

I don't know if it's an El Niño effect, but we have been blessed by snow on this putative spring cruise around the Beagle Channel. Long afternoons of impressive curtains of the stuff, big flat flakes that in the aggregate are enough to blot out the view of the far end of our shorelines, a hundred meters away.

There has even been enough to shovel the deck, which means that the snow has met our Alaskans' definition for what counts: it isn't snow unless there's enough to shovel.

All this has been scenic and enjoyable. Coming around the corner of Isla Gordon, making the turn from Brazo Noroeste to Brazo Sudoeste, the Northwest Arm of Beagle Channel to the Southwest Arm, savoring the tiny naughty delight of taking a shortcut through Canal Barros Merino, a route unauthorized by the Armada in this region of rigid rules on the places where yachts may or may not go, the little blast of weather coming in off Bahia Cook and beyond that the open Southern Ocean, real Cape Horn country, was greatly dignified by the eye-stinging snowflakes that fled before the wind.

Or the impenetrable grey blanket lying over Brazo Noroeste a few days before that which proved, when our path intersected its, to be the thickest, fattest snow available, instantly blotting out everything around us, and making the ski goggles that we have been carrying just the thing for keeping watching eyes unbothered by driving snow.

We've enjoyed it.

But there was a downside on our first day here in Estero Coloane, when we set out as a family to climb to the vantage point behind the anchorage. The snow-slicked slopes were too much for Eric, and the walk fizzled out at the first reasonably flat spot that we came to. It was one of those what is my five-year-old doing here? moments.

This place - Estero Coloane - might be the most beautiful place we have ever anchored, if only the weather would do it the favor of putting on a bluebird day. Instead of seeing glaciers at the end of a long fjord we're in a deep mountain bowl with glaciers ringing 180 degrees around us. The recumbent glacier across the bowl derives a great sense of scale from the way its flat section hulks across the Estero from us, needing to be looked up at.

The family walking in this place was redeemed yesterday when we made our way through the (introduced) beavers' zone of chewed and toppled trees on the other side of the Estero and thence to the glacial creek and long lateral (medial?) moraine below the snout. This was open country well suited to kids encumbered by raingear and insulated boots, and besides the delight of reaching the glacier face we all had the pleasure of a good look at a Magellanic horned owl, our first owl in Chile.

And yesterday it began to rain. The snow is gone for now. The buds have become young leaves, and I suppose this means spring is no longer putative. It's all very nice in a grey, damp way that doesn't make me happy to see the snow gone.

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