Bullwinkle’s Revenge or ‘Watch Out Where Them Moosies Go”..?!?

Before I get started with this piece I want to assure anyone reading this that I do not believe moose are ‘Bullwinkle’!  Indeed, they are pretty much the opposite of the cartoon character in that they are smart, fast and extremely adept at traversing the thick boreal forest or open tundra.  I learned this hard way back in June of 2000 while solo backpacking in Kachemak Bay State Park across Kachemak Bay from the town of Homer.  I’d finished up a three day hiking/camping trip into the park and was heading back to the ranger station on Halibut Cove Lagoon via the China Poot Lake Trail to pick up my ride back to Homer with Bay Excursion’s water taxi service (highly recommended – Captain Karl Stoltzfus is the best!!).  I was part way back and entered an open area around a couple of acres in size that was relatively flat with tall grass.  Diagonal from me was a lone moose cow munching some willow bark.  As this was an easy to hike area compared to the wet and muddy trail I availed myself of the grass and figured I was far enough away from the moose to not be an issue.  Even so I watched her and I was puzzled by the fact the she stopped eating and was closely eying me; as I continued her ears went back against her head.  I was wondering what the heck her problem was and started angling away from her but still moving forward.  Then I realized what was happening when her spring calf stood up from the grass no more than ten feet in front of me.  Time kinda stood still as I looked at the calf, immediately thought “OH SHIT!!!” and looked back at Mom to see this brown blur the size of a freight train bearing down on me.  I jettisoned my backpack and ran to the tree line just beating her; we played ‘keep away’ with me hiding behind tree trunks for maybe a minute until she decided I wasn’t a threat, collected her calf and sauntered off.  It was this experience which caused me to re-think the wisdom of solo backpacking in remote areas (the park is accessible only via air or water) and completely altered my opinion of moose.

With this said I learned the hard way a few days back that with snow conditions like we’re experiencing now – compressed snow about a foot in depth with a strong, icy covering atop which just a bit of new snow has fallen – one absolutely must watch where one steps!  Even at my heavy bulk the icy snow cover is strong enough to allow me to walk atop it; however, moose do break through and leave a circular area that slants inward towards the actual hole where their hooves break through the icy surface.  Normally this is easy to see but after just an inch of snow atop this the indentations become very difficult to see and this makes for hazardous walking.  Not realizing this to be the case I wasn’t being careful as I was walking Anana and Qanuk a few days back and I paid for it.  As I was in the swampy area just to the west of ‘Exercise Hill’ I inadvertently stepped into a moose track which caused my foot to slide into the actual hole and twisted my ankle.  It was just enough to hurt and give me a slight limp.  I started trying to watch where I was placing my feet after that but managed to step into another such track with the same foot and once again twist the same ankle.  This time it really hurt to the point I sat down in the snow for a few minutes and cursed a blue streak while condemning my inability to recognize such dangers.  Once the initial pain resided I managed to gimp up the hill and back to my place but even today the ankle remains sore and I’m staying off it as much as possible.

I’d never have imagined one could founder in a moose’s tracks but once again Alaska has shown me I have much to learn!  Normally walking in moose tracks is no big deal; I’ve done it before to keep from having to break a fresh trail through 20 plus inches of snow but that was in more ‘typical’ snow conditions.  The icy nature of Talkeetna’s snow cover which is due entirely to the warm winter has changed how one must handle walking in the snow; until last Monday I didn’t realize this was the case.  I love learning more about ‘getting along’ in rural south central Alaska but I’d prefer my lessons be a bit less painful if possible.  Still and all I know I won’t forget this hard won piece of knowledge; one must evaluate the snow conditions when expecting to walk in it and be aware that based on these conditions what one chooses to do must be weighed against those conditions and the influence of other factors like wildlife, temperature, sunlight and similar.

Pushing The ‘Comfort Envelope’ In Pursuit Of One’s Dreams…

As I’m looking out my office window and viewing a bright, sunny Monday morning I find myself once again marveling at my current situation.  So much has happened in the past five years, some positive and some negative, but all of it sure looks – at least in retrospect – as a large-scale ‘plan’.  Yesterday late afternoon while killing a bit of time awaiting my substitution at KTNA for the evening announcements, weather and classifieds at 18:00 followed by the “We’re Not All There” music show at 19:00 I happened to watch a bit of one of my absolutely favorite movies of all time – “The Matrix”.  I watched the portion in which Neo visits the Oracle and there’s the brief discussion regarding how he doesn’t believe in all that ‘fate crap’; for whatever reason this started me thinking about my own feelings regarding the concept of ‘fate’.  I probably am closer to the beliefs exhibited by Neo as I do believe strongly in free will and also firmly believe we ‘beings of light’ can affect our own lives in an infinity of ways.  With this said such feelings would seem to run counter to the perception I mentioned earlier regarding where I currently am being the result of a ‘plan’.  And this apparent incongruity interests me for a number of reasons.

In hindsight an amazing amount of things had to work out just the way they did for me to find my way to my current exciting and pleasing life in rural south central Alaska; and they had to occur in the sequence they did as well.  Without question I had ‘control’ over many of these aspects but there’s no denying some appear to be based upon random chance.  Looking back it was very important I was available to assist my parents through their last years; this was very much so regarding Mom.  I was able to be there for them because the job market in IT collapsed in 2006 just as my contract with the state of Ohio ran out and was not renewed.  I looked for work for another 18 months without success before electing to start a SEPP and basically retire.  This allowed me the freedom to briefly move in with my folks in 2008 and be able to sell my house in West Chester (OH) and move into my folk’s house as a caretaker in late 2009 after Dad had passed and Mom had moved into an assisted living facility.  These were circumstances I felt I had no real control over; I’d always imagined I’d work until at least 62 years of age if not longer but out-sourcing and moving jobs off shore prevented this from occurring.  At first I was isolated and miserable but I came to realize I needed to take steps to change this situation; I started by adding my ‘little’ angel Anana (my 124 pound female Alaskan Malamute) to my life.

While visiting Mom multiple times a week at the Northville Sunrise I began to take an interest in volunteering and thankfully the manager of the Reminiscence Neighborhood – the portion of the facility for memory impaired residents – was more than willing to bring me on as a volunteer.  In hindsight I didn’t expect to find I loved volunteering so or enjoyed working with elderly dementia residents so much.  This was something I would have never tried had Mom not been a resident at the facility and therefore I visited multiple times a week and started watching the care-givers and their interactions with the residents.  Because of this I’ll always look at learning the joys of volunteering to be Mom’s last and probably best gift to me.  I loved the way the staff had lots of fun with the residents but never, ever at their expense.  I decided to try volunteering after much urging from my sister and especially after spending so much time talking with Jewel – her name says it all – who is the Reminiscence Coordinator.  To my shock I found I did have a ‘way’ with the residents and I really found immense satisfaction in working with them.  I went on to work more and more at the facility often putting in more than 40 hours a month but truly loving the work and for the first time in my working experience discovering true job satisfaction.  But I also came to understand I was really ‘stretching’ myself with respect to my comfort zone and what I believed I could do.  This realization became more important as I learned that keeping one’s mind challenged as one ages is a proven way to help forestall the onset of dementia; given Mom died of the wicked Alzheimer’s I am almost assuredly more at risk than others my age with no history of such issues within their families.  I feel I could not know how much I would enjoy volunteering with the elderly but once I learned of the fun I pursued it recognizing ‘stretching’ in this fashion was very good for me and was also assisting the wonderful folks at the Sunrise of Northville facility.  Talk about a ‘win-win’..!!

Without question my decision to leave my ‘second family’ at the facility and retire to Alaska was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever faced yet it was one created by me.  I could’ve remained in SE Michigan volunteering at the facility but I was also concerned that I was becoming ‘comfortably numb’ in that role.  Yes, it remained challenging and I did enjoy it but I was also restless.  And I could not ignore hearing so many of the residents talk about their regrets that they never followed a dream or took a chance when younger; this was very common and it helped galvanize me into making the choice to move to Alaska.  These were things I had control over; I felt my own impending stagnation and I knew if I didn’t move to live my dream of retiring to Alaska soon it would never happen.  And some day I could well be a very elderly male regretting my failure to take that chance and upset my existence to a huge degree by moving to rural south central Alaska.  I couldn’t imagine allowing this to happen and hence was willing to do whatever it took to live my dream even though in so doing I was abandoning a marvelous situation.

I never thought of moving to Talkeetna as stretching myself; it was a dream to retire to Alaska and I was just fulfilling said dream.  But here and now as I reflect upon this massive event – fully 15 months in the making – it was probably one of the largest stretches I’ve ever made!  I lived my entire life in urban circumstances mainly in the northern Midwest yet here I was planning to move into a rural setting and in Alaska to boot!!  Yep, I’d say that is indeed quite a stretch especially as I was doing this solo with just my two dogs.  Sure, previously I’d moved to new places where I knew no one but these were all in the lower 48 and in urban settings.  In addition they were for jobs and hence I did know folks at my place of business.  But with the move up here I was moving my entire household with the assistance of one friend 4,243 miles to a rural setting on the outskirts of an Alaskan town of just 700 people in which I knew no one.  Without question it was truly a leap of faith as well as one helluva stretch but it was also the fulfillment of a 16 year dream.  As it stands now I couldn’t be happier with my decision; I’m settling in, learning the rural Alaskan lifestyle, meeting new people, making friends and  – surprise, surprise – continuing to look for new challenges.  Given the latter it should be no surprise that volunteering has shown me a new stretch in live, on-air broadcasting for Talkeetna’s local NPR station (KTNA).  I started with newscasts and have now branched out to a music show  and doing regular substituting on other newscasts and shows.  I had no experience with anything like on-air broadcasting; the closest thing would have been doing some teaching of company classes at field sites involving Microsoft operating systems and applications.  As an aside I undertook this challenge as a bit of a stretch because I had a huge fear of speaking in front of people reinforced by being a real stutterer as a child to the point I required years of speech therapy.  To my surprise I did well at being an instructor but even this was nothing like broadcasting live to a small town over the air waves.  While I’m still learning and do make some true ‘beginner’s’ mistakes I find I really enjoy the work.  Once again, if someone had told me five years ago I’d enjoy live on-air radio broadcast work I’d have asked them to share whatever they were smoking as it would’ve seemed that far out to me!  And my hunger for more challenges seems to grow the more I undertake such stretches; I will begin volunteering at a local food pantry that serves over 130 needy families in the Upper Susitna Valley.  With fifteen years in food manufacturing and a BS in Food Science I’d like to think I can assist them and just knowing the work I do will be helping needy families is a real plus for me.

So how much of this is is of my own ‘doing’ and how much is mere chance and coincidence..?  From my current perspective I’d say 70/30.  But I must admit that at least a sizable portion appears to be out of my control.  If, in 2006, I’d found another job then I’d probably still be working and wouldn’t have discovered the joy of volunteering, my ability to work so well with the elderly, wouldn’t have even dreamed of doing live radio and would most likely be only dreaming about moving to Alaska when I retire.  Such a simple thing; almost a binary decision set – find a job or not – yet it had huge and far reaching ramifications many of which I’ve most likely not yet discovered.  And I did try hard across 2006 to locate employment; my contract ran out in early February and I took a few months off believing I could locate a suitable IT job fairly easily as it had always been that way.  I started pursuing possibilities and sent out over 125 resumes across 2006 and into early 2007 with no luck; in addition I went to numerous local job fairs and even some outside the IT realm job interviews.  But I couldn’t find work; at the time I was dejected, disappointed and largely worried about paying my mortgage.  If, in late 2006, someone had told me this was all part of a sequence of events which would culminate with me living my dream of an Alaskan retirement I’d have been completely unable to envision how this could happen.  But to my credit I did remain receptive to the idea although after the economic collapse in ’08 and ’09 I’d all but given up on this dream.

And here is the first of two key learnings I want to share with everyone: do not allow yourself to restrict your ‘stretching’ by imposing self-generated boundaries on what you believe you are capable of doing or what you might – or might not – enjoy!!  In this sense many of us are our own worst enemies; I know for certain I surely fit into this mold.  Do not be afraid to try something completely new and something you’ve never even really seriously considered.  I’d bet many folks will fail when doing so but I’d also bet the successes will far outshine any failures!  And you just might find a new career or passion.  And secondly:  never, ever give up on your dreams no matter how lofty or seemingly out of reach!!  Without question in ’09 and ’10 I was sure I would never retire to Alaska because of the financial beating I’d taken in the economic downturn; I’d even formulated a plan ‘B’ which involved moving to the western UP (that’s ‘Upper Peninsula’ for non-Midwesterners) because it was rural and at least had cold winters with lots of snow.  Yet with the assistance of my wonderful financial adviser I was able to keep my dream alive, rebuild it from the ashes of the recent recession and actually make it a reality.  If you can embrace these two concepts and truly live them the sky is indeed the limit for what you can attain; I am living proof of this reality!

Auroral Forecasts and Other Fickle Things…

Not at all pleased I missed what my neighbor described as an ‘awesome’ show of the aurora late last night; its significant that she’s lived up here for over fifty years and in that time viewed a number of truly spectacular shows.  I’m dialed into the auroral forecasts produced by the UAF (University of Alaska Fairbanks) and had heard of Tuesday’s ejection of a lot of stellar matter; because of this I checked their forecast for Wednesday and saw a rating of just ‘1’ – said scale is rated 0 through 9 with the higher numbers indicating a greater likelihood of stronger auroral activity – and in addition said if there was any activity it would only be visible in the low northern sky in Talkeetna.  Because I’m surrounded by tall boreal forest I decided it wasn’t worth arising around 23:00 to check for activity.  Don’t ask me why but it seems that so much auroral activity, at least in the northern hemisphere, takes place between 22:30 and 01:00.  To then learn today while briefly shopping at the local grocery/convenience store that last night’s display had been ‘awesome’ was very disappointing as I love the aurora and intend to try to catch them on my DSLR and my video camera.

This same website is forecasting a ‘3’ – ‘moderate’ level activity – for this evening with the chance to see the activity directly overhead in this area.  My alarm clock is already set and my cameras charged; I’ve even cleared an area on the back porch for tripod placement.  At least the weather appears to be cooperating with the forecast calling for clear skies; in addition the moon will not rise until 00:41 in this area so we should have the dark skies needed to really enjoy the aurora.  I have come to truly enjoy night sky gazing up here on cold, clear nights as with no light pollution and clear skies there are more stars than I ever imagined possible and if I stare at the sky for even just a few minutes I’ll eventually see a meteorite blazing by.  With all this said it’s still a real crap shoot as to whether I’ll see anything; often its tough to stay awake for a couple of hours largely watching the sky when it’s around midnight.  In addition I see the lows tonight will be dropping into the minus single digits.  While this definitely helps one remain awake it also decreases the amount one can spend outdoors; thankfully my place has many large windows from which I have good views of the western and northwestern skies once I clear the local tree tops.

It occurs to me this is yet another example of this amazing location ‘molding’ me to its ways; I’ve always been a sky watcher but much more in daylight as I watch clouds and other conditions for a clue as to the upcoming weather.  In addition I love to look for atmospheric anomalies like sun dogs, sun pillars and similar.  But Alaska has charmed me with her incredibly dark night skies alive with millions of hard white pin points of light.  I’m learning to recognize not just the major constellations – I’ve been able to do that since a child – but now many of the less obvious constellations along with the planets.  For the first time I’m beginning to ‘feel’ the lunar rhythms and be aware of where I am with respect to the lunar cycle.  All this engenders a true sense of being ‘one’ with this incredible natural world just as does observing the myriad of wildlife that visits my little piece of the huge boreal forest that extends for hundreds of miles.  It’s very easy to really become immersed in this ‘natural world’ and as I do so more and more I find I have less and less interest in technology and all ‘artificial’ things.  Without question I still favor technically oriented things like electricity, broadband connectivity, a septic field and a well pump but my dependence upon satellite TV and radio is slowly diminishing.  And to be honest I’m very much ‘okay’ with this trend..!

A Helpless America..???

I’m going to change the focus of this blog with this piece although it does have ties to learning to live successfully in south central Alaska.  A buddy of mine who blogs on this site recently posted some thoughts about the uncivilized behavior in large SE cities tied to the approach of another winter storm.  I completely agree with his thoughts and observations but wanted to take some of the reflections a bit further.  Like Pete I was shocked to see and read about the uncivilized behavior in some SE cities regarding ‘runs’ on grocery stores to grab food before the predicted storms arrive.  I saw similar when I lived just north of Cincinnati; when NWS would predict just four inches of snow the days leading up to the storm would see long lines in groceries, full grocery store parking lots and short stocks of many items.  Although I grew up in Michigan I can relate to the southerners not wanting to have to drive once the storms hit.  Up north we always laughed at their inability to negotiate just a few inches of snow; however, once I experienced a few of these storms I understood the issues.  Said storms almost always start with ice and then sometimes change over to snow.  I’d dare even the most savvy northern driver to safely navigate two to four inches of snow atop a glaze of ice!  And these cities are not equipped to handle such storms with respect to salting, sanding and plowing.

But my issues don’t center on this situation but rather the entire concept that people seem ‘driven’ to clear out groceries in the event of an approaching storm.  Are so many folks literally living day by day purchasing the food they need for each meal just prior to when they need it..?!?!?  My sense is ‘no’!  Virtually all of use have refrigeration and I’d wager most fridges have at least some food items in them; if not why are people paying for the electricity to operate them?  In addition I’d bet most people have at minimum a few cans of soup, some rice or pasta, some cans of fruit and vegetables along with maybe some cans of meat or fish and additional food like peanut butter, oatmeal, bread, crackers and similar.  If you have even just some of the aforementioned you have food for days if not longer!!  Sure, it may not be up to the standards you’ve become accustomed to enjoying but it’s not like you’d be eating garbage, either!  I’d wager half the world would kill to be eating that type of cuisine on a daily basis.  While mixing a can of tomato soup with some rice and adding some cheese may not be gourmet fare its solid, sustaining food.

And in the final analysis, let’s get real here; the average human can last for at least two weeks and probably three to four without food…period.  Sure, it’s not comfortable and one does run out of energy and struggles with other effects after maybe five days of starvation but it’s not completely debilitating.  So having to subsist on just Mac and Cheese or pasta and mushroom soup or peanut butter on bread is hardly the end of the world.  So just what drives people to run and strip stores bare with the approach of a winter storm..?  I suspect at least part of the mania is fed by the lame-stream media hyping the approaching conditions and ‘we the people’ being willing to let them lead us around by the nose instead of thinking clearly and critically about the event.  The worst of these winter storms ‘paralyzes’ a large SE city for no more than five days and generally for less time; as I stated any of us can easily go five days without any food.  So why the mass rush on food and supplies?  Sadly I’m sure some of it is because as a people we Americans have become wimps with little ability to actually care for our basic needs.  I see two facets to this group:  1) those who are so used to be given things they have no ability to truly understand what they require to survive, and 2) those who only know how to survive using a high degree of technology.  I know a lot of folks in the latter category; if they cannot pull a processed meal from the freezer and pop it into the microwave they are helpless regarding preparing a meal.  And, yes, I was once in this category myself long ago; sadly many males remain so even at advanced ages.  Obviously things had to change when I moved to rural south central Alaska because the closest grocery of any size is 60 plus miles to the south; however, I have been self-reliant regarding my meals and all ‘domestic’ chores since my middle twenties.  I only needed to step up my preparations by a notch or two after relocating up here.  No, I do not hunt for my food but if I was forced to do so I could and I also know how to butcher wildlife if I was forced into doing so to eat.  Sadly I’d bet I’m in the 1% of American males being able to make such a claim…

Those in the former category are largely products of the ‘nanny state’ and showcase all that’s bad about cultivating such a system.  Yes, there are folks in this group that have seen truly horrific times and are just using the system to regain their ‘footing’ such that they can move ahead; for them I gladly give up my taxes that support such functions.  But there are many who just subsist on handouts and would be completely incapable of surviving without a government supplying them with food, drink, a roof over their heads and the like.  These people are ill-equipped to survive large-scale disasters of any kind because once their handouts are gone they lack skills to allow them to fend for themselves; after all, the government has always been there to prop them up.

This is something all Americans should reflect upon as I believe it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but rather ‘when’ the country will face a truly massive disaster that quickly overwhelms all government assistance.  Iran is known to be test firing intermediate range missiles from the decks of ships; now imagine if they could put even a modest sized nuclear warhead on such a ship based missile.  It would be child’s play to sail the vessel to American coastal waters and launch the missile such that it detonated at a very high altitude over the central US.  The resultant EMP would likely fry 80% to 90% of solid state devices without shielding.  This means no cell phones, no broadband, no TV, no radio; in addition most vehicles on the road rely on some form of solid state device to operate the engine.  If this is only 70% of the total vehicles imagine 7 out of 10 cars, SUVs and trucks unable to operate.  Now understand that grocery stores stock just three days worth of perishable goods and not much longer for non-perishable foods.  If the trucks cannot run then how will groceries get their product?  The military has spent millions hardening their gear against EMP but if this event affected most of the lower 48 are there enough of them to maintain order when people begin to go hungry?  The mob mentality that has raised its ugly head in advance of some winter storms would hardly be a pale shadow of what would happen within a week of such an attack and happen in any and most likely all large cities.

This is just one plausible scenario that could wreak havoc upon our technologically based society; there are many tens of others.  As a people we are ill-equipped to survive such occurrences yet as we progress we become even less able to endure such disasters and more dependent upon government for our day-to-day needs.  This is a sure path to eventual chaos yet we seem locked into this dead-end.  And so I find myself once again reviewing my own preparations and find even them lacking although compared to most Americans I am very well prepared.  Even though I can make this statement I take no pleasure in it because there are so many Americans without a clue as what life might be like without our technological base.  If you think life without sat TV or cell phones or your computer is unthinkable you might want to reflect upon life without electricity.  Sadly few folks can do this accurately because they’ve never been without the electrical grid; trust me, its amazing just how many things require electricity in our world.  This is the classic case of not realizing just how important something is until it’s no longer available…  Our forefathers knew how to supply themselves with food and shelter from a variety of sources; sadly we as a civilization have become ‘one trick ponies’ in this important skill set.  In our current existence this seems superfluous but I guarantee you that should the worst occur there will be millions of people wishing they’d learned just a bit more about general survival skills…


One of the events I cherish in my new home is viewing true ‘alpenglow’ up here in ‘The Last Frontier’ and to this point I’ve seen some marvelous examples of the effect. To those unsure true ‘alpenglow’ is caused when the sun is just below the horizon – this can occur just before sunrise or just after sunset – such that the more energetic (i.e. higher frequency) portion of the visible light segment of the electromagnetic spectrum isn’t bent enough by the earth’s atmosphere and radiates into space while the less energetic (i.e lower frequency) portion – in this case the reds – are bent just enough to strike taller objects like mountains.  The phenomena is always very short duration and requires a clear atmosphere.  There are other instances of a pink to red light striking mountains which technically do not meet the above definition but are also referred to to as ‘alpenglow’.  While I prefer the images of true alpenglow I have included a number of examples of both effects in the following pictures.  This effect is just one more demonstration of the incredible natural beauty that truly makes ‘The Great Land’ unique and so memorable!


Mt Foraker, a 17,000 foot high mountain, shows true alpenglow on its western face


Denali and Mt Hunter awash in early morning alpenglow


Early morning alpenglow on The Alaska Range


Just the peak of Denali showing evening alpenglow

Unknown peak in Denali NP&P awash in alpenglow

Unknown peak in Denali NP&P awash in alpenglow

It’s About Time..!!

After the warmest January on record for the Talkeetna area and, indeed, for all of Alaska I was pleased to see the following NWS forecast for Talkeetna posted Saturday, February 8th at 05:00 AKST; it’s about time we saw such a forecast as its one we can live with:

  • Today Sunny, with a high near 6. East wind around 10 mph.
  • Tonight – Mostly clear, with a low around -3. East wind 15 to 25 mph.
  • Sunday – Sunny, with a high near -1. East wind 25 to 30 mph.
  • Sunday Night – Mostly clear, with a low around -5. Wind chill values as low as -35. East wind 35 to 40 mph.
  • Monday – Sunny, with a high near 5. East wind 20 to 25 mph decreasing to 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon.
  • Monday Night – Mostly clear, with a low around 0.
  • Tuesday – Sunny, with a high near 5.
  • Tuesday Night – Partly cloudy, with a low around -3.
  • Wednesday – Partly sunny, with a high near -3.
  • Wednesday Night – A chance of snow. Mostly cloudy, with a low around -5.
  • Thursday – A chance of snow. Mostly cloudy, with a high near -1.
  • Thursday Night – A chance of snow. Mostly cloudy, with a low around -1.
  • Friday – A chance of snow. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 1.

All I can say, and I know the locals would gladly echo my comments, is;  “Bring It On, Baby…Bring It On!!!!


What we ‘Talkeetna-ites’ hope to see…

High Pressure Brings Clear Skies and Heavy Frost

The cooler weather continues unabated and that has all us locals smiling once again although we would sure like to see more snow…as in a few feet more!  Still and all its been wonderful to feel the cold once more.  With this recent streak of cooler temps – this morning was the first below zero temp I’ve recorded since December 27th’s -15.7 F and that makes 40 contiguous days across one of the two coldest months in Talkeetna – has come clear weather and heavy morning frost.  I thought I’d seen ‘heavy’ frost in the lower 48 but once again Alaska has trumped my previous perceptions.  We’ve seen eight straight days of clear weather and each day the frost has grown more and more mainly because daytime temps have remained in the teens with night-time lows slowly dropping from the single digits to around 0 F.  As this occurs the frost builds across the days to form some amazing structures as evidenced by the following images:


Ice crystal formation on the railing of my back porch


A screw on my back porch railing pushed up by the repeated freeze/thaw cycles


A frost sheathed small tree in my back yard

The build up of frost can and does produce beauty equivalent to the aftermath of an ice storm but without all the resultant damage.  It’s especially pretty in the sunlight.  In the lower 48 the sun would normally melt off any frost but its been cold enough recently and the sun remains at a low enough angle that this hasn’t happened.  Given we’re forecast to remain a bit cooler than normal across the next seven days there’s little doubt the frost will continue to grown with the passing days.  Once more my new home both surprises me and amazes me with its unexpected beauty!

Has Winter Returned..?

After a record-setting January for Alaska in general and Talkeetna in particular regarding warm temperatures and a lack of precipitation it appears that maybe – just ‘maybe’ – winter might once more be visiting ‘The Last Frontier’.  The previous two days have seen close to seasonal temps with highs in the middle to upper twenties and lows in the low single digits.  Along with these cooler temps have come clear skies which were some of the first since early January.  As such I thought it might be interesting to take a walk down to Question Lake which is maybe 100 yards to the south; while I have no direct access I did use the unplowed driveway of a ‘snow-bird’ neighbor.  The remaining snow is so compacted thanks to the earlier rain and above freezing temps followed by the very recent cold temps that even at my very robust weight I could walk atop it.  Here’s a couple of views:






The first image is a SW view across the lake looking at the late January sunset while the second view is from the driveway looking to the SSE.  Perhaps five days earlier there was a definite appearance of sagging ice in the center of Question Lake and even some open water at points along the northern shore line.  Both observations are totally unheard of for January in south central Alaska but then this has hardly been a ‘typical’ January.  From my weather station come the following astonishing figures:

  • the mean temp for all of January was 25.8 F (-3.4 C); as a point of comparison December and January are typically the two coldest months in Talkeetna and December’s mean temp was 9.1 F (-12.7 C)!!
  • the high temp in January was 37.7 F (3.2 C) while it was 32.8 F (0.4 C) in December
  • the low temp in January was just +0.6 F (-17.4 C) while it was -24.2 F (-31.2 C) in December

Although I haven’t seen the ‘official’ figures for January 2014 I can guarantee that it’ll be the warmest January on record for the Talkeetna area (Upper Susitna Valley) and virtually guarantee it’ll be one of the warmest, if not the warmest, January for all of Alaska.  This trend continued the extremely warm weather that embraced Alaska throughout most of 2013 and now appears to be continuing into early 2014.  I know of no one in this area who likes this warmth; indeed, one reason folks live here is to enjoy the cold, snowy winters.  The winter of 2013-2014 is already assured a place in Alaskan lore.  I know I, along with a myriad of other Alaskan residents, certainly hope this warm trend breaks down and does so soon such that we might be able to enjoy a bit more winter.