Squeezed between the flanks of two steep mountains is a sliver of water and, though small by Alaskan standards, this water has a name—Jerome Lake. Its scenic value, however, more than measures up to another Alaskan standard.
|So clear you can see their feet.|
The two-lane Seward highway, the only highway that provides access to the Kenai Peninsula, is carved into the rock of the mountain on the north side. Two small pullouts give travelers a chance to stop and enjoy the scenery or drop a line in the water. One pullout is simply a wide spot in the road.
|Approaching Jerome Lake from the north in autumn. Cars are parked at each of the small pullouts.|
The other is a paved pull-through where RVs often stop overnight, permitted by Alaska’s lax (or lacking) laws on such things. It was this spot I drove into a couple days ago. Twenty feet or so below me, the ice is slowly melting, leaving a narrow band of free water along one edge.
If I had one word that best describes Jerome Lake, it would be serene. Even with traffic rushing by, I always find the lake peaceful, like an oasis of calm in a busy world. With that in mind, what happened when I stopped at the lake the other day marks an incident in nature that I’ll never forget.
A pair of mallards paddled placidly about in the shallow water at the head of the lake. To my right, behind some still-leafless brush, a pair of Barrow’s Goldeneye ducks floated in that strip of water.
Then, I saw a flurry of black and white wings as two Goldeneye drakes fought with each other. Suddenly, the mallard drake zoomed across the water, feet and wings a-blur, right into the middle of the kerfuffle and broke up the fight.
I stood there transfixed.
The mallard paddled back to his hen.
The vanquished Goldeneye scooted away, looking a bit grumpy.
The victorious Goldeneye rejoined his blue-eyed hen and drifted off to the right.
And I was left on the shore, agape at what I had just witnessed--one species interfering in the mating fights of another.
Or perhaps it all goes back to serene, that one-word description of Jerome Lake, and that was exactly how the mallard wanted it.