The Matanuska Glacier is now but a pale shadow of the once mighty river of ice that carved out the Matanuska Valley between the Chugach Mountains to the south and the Talkeetna Mountains to the north. In this image the glacier is running straight into the center of the image before making a right turn to travel behind the hill on the right.
An amazingly red sunset caught from the front porch of a magical little cabin named ‘Timbers’ which is nestled along Halibut Cove on a small piece of private land amid the magnificent scenery of Kachemak Bay State Park. This cabin and park are accessible only by water or air and are located across Kachemak Bay from the little town of Homer.
In early June of 2000 I spent four days packing and camping in Kachemak Bay SP which is across Kachemak Bay from Homer and is accessible only by water or air. Black bears were frequently seen which required me to store my supplies in a BRFC (Bear Resistant Food Container) which I chose to hang from some trees (see orange cylinder in roughly center screen). I set up my tent to give some scale to the image; once I finished I moved it about 60 yards away as under these circumstances it would not be wise to camp so close to one’s food!
Close up of the toe of the Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords NP&P. This glacier is located just north of Seward and is sadly rapidly disappearing due to warming.
…once again its raining like there’s no tomorrow in the Talkeetna area and it has been doing so for the last 9 consecutive hours. The forecast is for this to continue for at least another 9 to 12 hours. To this point we’ve received 1.50″ of rain (that’s my official posting to CoCoRaHS – the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network) which when added to the already well above normal October rainfall yields a total thus far of 7.27″ of rain which is 250% of the normal for October. Given the heavy rain is expected to continue at least through the middle afternoon its entirely possible we’ll see another 0.75″ of rainfall. Assuming this does occur we’ll be at 8.01″ of rainfall by October 29th which is 276% of normal! Given September was around 200% of normal for precipitation you can see its been a very wet, and warm, last couple of months.
We should be seeing nothing but snow for precipitation now but the extremely mild temperature pattern continues although there are finally signs it is breaking down and we just might see some solid snow by the end of this week. This current deluge is entirely explained by the remnants of the super typhoon that struck Japan and adjacent areas last week which were pulled to the north and east and hence right over the interior of Alaska. From my readings such situations are not all that common but not unheard of as well; one thing that does make this one stand out is just how late into the season it occurred. Had it been cold enough to snow we might well have seen anywhere from 12 to 18 inches of snow to this point! However, as has been the case for the past month our temps are hovering right around the middle 30’s with very little variation; across the past 24 hours our high temp was 38.7 F and the low was 36.3 F.
Life in rural south central Alaska has certainly been an adventure to this point and the weather has definitely played its part. Given its almost November the snow and cold can hardly hold off much longer; as such I should be in for round two of some serious learnings regarding living in this area. I think I’m ready so bring ’em on..!!
To the immediate left of this image is Riven which heads north to East Birch Creek Drive; continuing straight takes one on East Barge Drive to Bonanza Hill. As the sign suggests that’s a darn steep climb which changes 155 feet of elevation in less than a tenth of a mile. This section of East Barge is not plowed in winter and becomes mainly a snow machine trail
I’ll never forget this image as it was the first real look I had at Lake Mendenhall, the Mendenhall Glacier and the Mendenhall Towers from my first campsite on my first trip to Alaska. Although the visit took place in very early September which is almost always cloudy and rainy we had 3.5 days of clear, warm weather out of our 4 day stay; it was almost as if Alaska was smiling on us! Once we left the panhandle we moved on to south central Alaska and I was soon to see my future home…
With yesterday’s light snow which has remained to this point I’m beginning to believe that winter may actually have finally arrived. I was pleased that the snow began while I was out walking the dogs as I had a chance to make the return two plus mile walk in light snow. I was also very impressed with just how fast the lakes and ponds began to freeze up. It only required a couple of nights of temps in the middle twenties to really accelerate this process. In hindsight for the last three weeks we’ve seen regular high temps in the upper thirties to the lower forties and thus the water has been losing heat to those temps. Thus, when it finally does cool into the twenties the water has not far to cool to begin forming ice and this has been the case across the past few days. The small pond by my house was completely frozen over yesterday to the point the dogs could walk on it. While I though Qanuk, at 85 pounds, could do so I was impressed that 128 pound Anana was able to walk on the ice without breaking through. Yet beyond a few slips neither dog had any issues. I can already tell its going to be beautiful up here when it snows; now I await the really heavy stuff…
Anana and Qanuk on the close by frozen pond
I’ve blogged a couple of times regarding the incredible silence here in rural south central Alaska and it really remains quite amazing to me. I find that with such silence comes an urge to look within myself but also to look outward and reflect upon all that makes up this amazing rural Alaskan landscape. Indeed, it is so quiet so much of the time up here that I am immediately drawn to any unusual noise no matter how soft. As I’ve immersed myself in this wonderful silence I am discovering new sounds which I either never previously heard because they were being drowned out by the ongoing cacophony around me or because they blended in so well with other noise that they were virtually indistinguishable. Many of these noises are not all that unusual but some remain a mystery to me. With time I may learn their source of they may remain mysterious. In some cases I was not even sure I’d heard a given sound but at least twice I had the confirmation of my Alaskan Malamute (Anana) who perked up and immediately began scanning the direction from which I thought the noise originated. My GSD (Qanuk) was also with us but he’s continually in motion and always playing with his tennis ball; as such he was absorbed in play and didn’t appear to hear what Anana and I did. I found it pretty neat that both Anana and I heard some very soft and very unusual sound; it was my verification that I wasn’t just ‘hearing something that wasn’t really there’. In this case the noise was a low volume but relatively high pitch sob kind of sound that trailed away to inaudibility. My best guess was it came from some kind of wildlife but I didn’t see anything and even Anana, while intent upon the source of the noise for maybe 30 seconds, finally just went back to her slow wanderings of the eastern portion of the property.
There is a sound which I hear only when it’s completely still and it does seem to occur both during the day and at night. Its best likened to the low-frequency rumble a jet aircraft will produce when its first spooling up its engines and is heard from a great distance. Initially, there’s as much of a ‘feel’ to the sound as volume and because I’d lived around airports in the past and spent far more time than I’d have preferred sitting in their lounges or walking their concourses I always expect this sound to continue to grow in intensity and eventually become recognizable as a jet aircraft taking off. However, while it may last for ten to fifteen seconds it never grows nor changes pitch; in fact it just disappears. Because it’s as much a feeling as a vibration of the air its difficult to get a fix on in terms of direction. I have sometimes heard it while walking the dogs and I can never see anything in the sky nor any indication that a plane has lifted off. There are numerous small airports in this general area and a myriad of float planes as well but these are easily distinguished as prop or turbo prop engines which sound entirely different. There are also a raft of military bases within 150 miles so it could be something they are doing but the interesting thing is when I’ve been able to get some sense of directionality it hasn’t been the same. I may never know what this sound is; I will query the neighbors at some point but only once I get to know them a bit better as I’d hate to get a rep of being that ‘new guy from the lower 48 who hears things’!
While exploring this area on my own I enjoy getting into the boreal forest a ways and just standing still while I let my senses register what ever they may. Frequently its tough to see much as the forest is often pretty dense and the local wildlife are true masters at blending into the background. From an olfactory perspective there’s an overlying smell of moist earth mixed with the scents of some of the lichens and moss but that’s about it. With this said by far my sense of smell is the weakest of the five normal senses so it’s entirely possible there’s a lot more to register if I had the acuity. When it’s truly silent and I pause I can hear the sound of the breeze in the trees, especially the pines, and will often hear the random leaf falling through the natural growth. It’s also not unusual to hear water droplets falling from the trees and bushes especially if it’s just a gentle breeze. I’ve discovered that I can build a very good idea of what I’m hearing with sound alone; if I hear something moving in the forest its relatively easy to quickly determine if its big or not. With time I can usually get a pretty good guess as to the relative size of the creature that’s creating the sound. Normally birds and squirrels makes sounds that are low volume and higher in frequency like the scraping of claws on tree bark. Moose make a much more definite sound although given their sheer size they still move with amazing silence. I’ve never stayed put very long to really listen to the moose because I do not want to get into a confrontation with these monsters. The only time I’ve heard a bear was in Denali NP&P and that was when it was in a blueberry patch maybe 100 yards away from me and I had stopped to take a break. I must’ve been largely down wind from the grizzly because it didn’t react to me until I started slowly backing away from it. At that point it stood up on its hind legs and made ‘woof’ sound. I did as I’d been trained by the rangers; I froze, slowly waved my arms over my head and talked very softly to the bear hoping it would recognize me as a human. Apparently it did so as it dropped to all fours and started walking the other direction. I slowly backed away as well; once it disappeared into the underbrush I made better speed in continuing to back away and finally got the Hell out of that area!
As I’m still settling into my new home and it’s just so very quiet up here I’m having to learn a whole new set of sounds. This has really reinforced just how much sound pollution there is in the lower 48! It’s so very quiet in this area that I hear a lot of pops and creaks as the house responds to temperature differentials and humidity shifts. Once in a while the dogs will throw me a curve. Anana in particular will move about the house at night as she seeks the coolest location in which to sleep. At 128 pounds she is a big girl and sometimes I will hear the stairs creak without hearing anything else. This will cause me a bit of concern until I finally hear her breathing. You might wonder why I’d be concerned with Anana on the main floor given her size; for anyone whose interacted with a Malamute you know they are terrible watch dogs as they love people. In this Anana is the epitome of her breed as she would gladly help a thief carry out all my stuff if he or she would just scratch her belly a bit. This is partly why I brought Qanuk on board; as a German Shepherd Dog he is much more protective of his house and friends but with that said Anana’s influence has made him very sedate for a GSD. And, too, even though he’s just a bit over two years of age he’s a heavy sleeper; often I will awake to some noise yet he’s still snoring contentedly on my bed.
I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the depth of the silence in this area; I knew Alaska in general seemed so much more quiet from my previous visits but I never really appreciated just how much more quiet until I moved up here. There is a quality to this silence almost as though it has a ‘presence’ of its own. I find it has a tendency to lull me into an almost hypnotic state and this is the reason I can spend so much time just sitting on my front porch immersed in the serene silence. To begin to discover other sounds local to this area has been fun and peaks my curiosity. All in all I wouldn’t trade if for the world and I truly enjoy listening to the sounds from the silence…
After waiting for almost a month I finally see a bit of snow!!
Wow, after waiting for almost a month I finally experienced some very light snow while out with the dog’s on our daily walk. It was a heavy, wet snow right on the edge of being graupel but snow none the less and it actually did leave a dusting on the ground. May this be the start of much, much more to come..!