Winter and its Gifts

Winter and its Gifts
snow and ice
yes... it is snow and ice that make winter a wonderland
if it is going to be winter... give me a winter wonderland

last week we got a taste of both
snow... we got a little more than a dusting
no snow biking for me
but I did enjoy hiking with the dog and the boys in the woods of Rock Creek Park with the snow on the ground

then as the temperatures stayed cold
as the weekend approached I was curious about the skating potential on the canal

sure enough... the ice was solid
which offered up the opportunity to go skating
unfortunately.... the boys and their growing feet have them currently without skates
but I have skates and the boys are content just "playing" on the ice
so... on Saturday we loaded up the car and took the short cross town drive to the canal by Chain Bridge 

no photos and no Strava from Saturday's canal adventure
but that does not mean that it did not happen

on the drive to the canal I coached the boys on the dangers of the ice
telling them to avoid any danger spots
and that
we could explore more together after I got to do a little skating

so... onto the ice with Dean, Grant, and Didg
I did some up and back with the skates on
exploring the frozen canal
pleased to see that the canal was MORE frozen than I had ever witnessed

this gave me some comfort in giving the boys some space
after the dog did some up and back with me I sent the boys into the woods with the dog so I could skate without having to dog sit
only to have the boys return with pretty decent timing

I pulled off the skates and the boys and I all snacked on some green apples, granola bars, and cold water before we started to explore the woods in between the towpath and the Potomac

on the edge of the Potomac there was plenty of ice to be broken
much fun to have without drifting off into danger
enough ice to break without the boys having risk of breaking through
we did some "trailblazing"

it was quite the winter adventure
the snacks were good... vital in fact
but lunch
it was time to start thinking lunch

so... we cut the canal adventure short so that we could get lunch, have Dean start some homework, and then catch the Hobbit movie in the evening

the Hobbit film was good... maybe better than the first Hobbit movie

ah... then Sunday came
on this day the boys left off for Ski Liberty with their mother
this freed me up to handle some stuff around the house and do whatever I wanted to do

a visit Friday evening from Cargo Mike brought me the pleasure of catching up with a friend while also brought my Surly Karate Monkey back to life
Mike was good enough to assist with adjusting my hub and rear disc break

Mike was able to get things working... best possible
it was recommended that I upgrade my Surly hubs with the
Surly ULTRA New Hubs

Sunday allowed me to wake up slowly...
hugged the pillow for a little longer than I would have been able to do if the boys were still in the house
slow out of the gate I walked the dog a few minutes later than usual
although I planned to take the dog with me on my afternoon adventure
I could not ignore Didg's pull to get off the standard loop and hit the Melvin Hazen trail

Melvin Hazen on the Gwadzilla Page

as the day unfolded I wrestled through some tasks of adult life
after I felt I had knocked out a few of my adult tasks I took a measure of the day
it was warm and getting warmer

when walking the dog it was hovering at freezing
by the afternoon it it was a few degrees warmer

I questioned ice skating as a rational option
this had me turn to the iPhone and Facebook for guidance

Weather and Dark Sky gave me a measure of the current temps
the word on Facebook came in real time

the ice was good... but getting soft

I weighed my options
bike ride or ice skate?

reached out with a few text messages
no one was interested\available for either except for the dog

not having ice skating as an option every weekend I opted for skates over bike
there was a second consideration to just hit a small patch of ice on Piney Branch Parkway
but that seemed more like a kiddie option than an adult option
so... the canal was the plan
I loaded the dog and skates in the Honda Element and pointed across town
without traffic the canal is really no more than 20 minutes from home

at a stop light I checked Dark Sky again on the iPhone
it gave me an accurate account of the weather as I got closer to the canal
sure enough... it was above freezing
colder closer to the Potomac than it was near home
but still far from freezing

when I got to the parking by the canal I was pleased to see the packed lot and the ice full of activity
lots of hockey going on
a good number of people enjoying the ice safely

there was still hesitancy
not hesitant to get on the ice
but hesitant to where I could go on the ice
I tried to get an idea of where people skating
and more importantly 
where people were not skating

I have skated this spot each year for many years when this opportunity presents itself
the danger spots are the same each year
the day prior I barked at my boys as they played on the ice under Chain Bridge
instructing them to listen for cracking
telling them that the spot under the bridge tends to be more thin than the surrounding area

sure enough...
what was solid on Saturday was thin on Sunday
a Park Police helicopter overhead gave a reminder of the dangers

stiff from the day prior I warmed up slowly
not being an expert skater I took a measure of the dangers
to my pleasure... there were some soft spots
but not much cracking and not too many danger spots

except for this large hole under Chain Bridge
a hole under chain bridge with a hockey stick and some hockey gloves at the edge of the hole

people were traversing the frozen canal up and back
just as people were playing hockey

I had not seen if anyone had skated under the bridge
but their were skaters on both sides
when I got to this spot I approached with caution
took measure of my options and tried to figure out if these gloves and stick were a staged setting or a sign that someone had fallen through the ice

knowing that the water is less than 4 feet deep I figured that this was not the aftermath of someone falling through the ice
but either a staged setting
or something similar to that 

but how would I get passed?
I waited for some skaters with a dog to come forward
they waited for me and I waited for them
it seemed like the ice in the center was thick enough to skate across

maybe not so shrewdly
I decided to skate under the bridge to the inside of the large gapping hole
slow and smooth I started under the bridge
things were fine... then there was a cracking sound... then it happened

the ice broke under my skate as I pushed forward
I flopped forward onto  the ice
my heart raced
on all fours I tried to maintain a sense of calm

ice cracking I tried to disperse my weight
like a water bug I tried to stay safe on the surface

slow and steady I calmly crawled my way to thicker ice

the two skaters on the other side looking on and coaching me back to safety

whoa... that was close
could have been worse
much worse
tragically worse
or at least uncomfortably worse

my left skate was pretty wet and the toe on the other foot was also wet
but it was not so uncomfortable that I did not just continue to skate

I continued to skate
only with a little more concern for danger
keeping my distance from any spot that could be sketchy
the spot under Chain Bridge being the only really sketchy spot

after a little more time on the ice the feet were fine and I was at peace with my near catastrophe
lesson learned
better me than my kids
also lesson reinforced so that I can be more strict with my kids on the dangers on the ice

today it is rainy and warm
I was right to take advantage of the skate option when it presented itself

lots of people taking advantage of the day
what? kayakers?
saw these kayakers portaging their boats on the tow path
pulling their boats just by rope just like the old asses pulling the barge on the canal just like things happened 100 years ago

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