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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Avalanche Watching on a Sunday Afternoon

How many people can sit on their front deck and watch avalanches come down a chute? My neighbor and I did just that on Sunday afternoon. It has been a warm day with lots of sun - which is when the avalanches let loose every spring. When I went outside, my neighbor said she had been hearing them as she worked in her garden. So as we sat on the deck, watching the world go by, we heard one. The sound is like the surf crashing on the Oregon beach. We looked up at Mount Juneau, and sure enough, one was coming down. It looked tiny from where we sat and we figured that it was at least a mile away. I looked it up and Mount Juneau is 3576 feet high. It is the dramatic backdrop for our town as you can see in the photo above. Right now, the top is snow-covered with tracks where the snow has rolled down toward the chute. The mountain has folds and in the inner folds are the chutes.

After we had been watching for awhile and talking about how nice it would be to have binoculars, I realized I had a very good pair in the entry way a few feet from us. We started using them and could really see how the snow gave way to a combination of snow and rocks and then eventually water. The pattern seemed the same for each one. Every few minutes, another one would start in the snow field at the top and then tumble down the steep mountain.

So, as you can see from the photo above, we could watch them go halfway down the mountain, and although we could still hear them roaring, we couldn't see them get to the base of the Mount Juneau. 

The best part of watching avalanches from a deck is that they are far enough away. The excitement of watching an avalanche turns into a very different feeling indeed the closer you come to it. Sometime, when we walk on Basin Road in the spring and hear a roar, we go on hyper alert. But when you can sip Good Earth tea with your neighbor and take turns using the binoculars on a sunny Sunday, it is a very happy feeling.