On Saturday, June 21st at 02:51 AKDT we arrived at the Summer Solstice; in the following image I fought off the mosquitoes to get a picture of my place just a couple hours after that time which I figured was close enough! The view is looking west from my driveway and includes my Alaskan Malamute (Anana) who makes a living always being in the way; I found it interesting to note the bright sections of the lower western sky seen through the boreal forest (just above the Escape) that surrounds this area. It almost appears as though the sun had just set but in reality it was already 40 minutes past sunrise!! For those interested Talkeetna experienced a sunrise on Friday, June 20th at 04:05 AKDT and saw the sun set at 00:00 AKDT on June 21st for a total of 19 hours 55 minutes of direct sunlight. This will continue for the next four days before the daylight slowly starts to diminish as we advance towards the Autumnal Equinox. With the passing of this annual event I’ve now seen all the equinoxes and solstices in my new home; a kind of milestone for my Alaskan existence.
Talkeetna just loves the Summer Solstice and there were many small celebrations of the event; a number of locals indulged in playing softball without any lights – they weren’t needed – well past midnight. Most of the local facilities had some kind of celebration with live music being a favorite. I’m sure more than a few drank to excess but then given how light it was it would’ve been easy to walk home or even hitch-hike on the Spur as folks were still driving around at that time. Up here hitchhiking is a safe means of travel and I regularly pick up locals on the Spur as well as the occasional tourist or visitor. I didn’t hear of any issues which was good but not unexpected. During my Friday evening newscast I did read a warning regarding a grizzly which had just killed a moose calf at the northern tip of Christiansen Lake between the water and Christiansen Lake Road. This lake is just to the east of the Talkeetna Airport which is located in ‘downtown’ Talkeetna. The grizzly was expected to remain in the area for a while so locals were being warned to give the area a wide berth; I also used the announcement to remind folks that its once again time to be ‘bear aware’. Across the next five months I’m sure KTNA will broadcast some similar warnings as well as information on specific verified sightings of local grizzlies. At the ‘KTNA Volunteer Appreciation Picnic’ on Thursday, June 12th I spoke to a volunteer who was riding her recumbent into town for her music show when a young grizzly boar popped out of the weeds right at the railroad crossing on the south edge of town; she said it thankfully just looked at her and strolled off south on the tracks. Large wildlife is a way of life in this area and so no one gets too excited about such situations unless there’s aggressive activity tied to the sightings.
Anyway, because I was up early I did get the dogs out for a 35 minute walk; thankfully I applied my ‘Deep Woods Off’ before heading out as even with this repellant there was a cloud of mosquitoes buzzing around me and they followed me the entire time. While I do find the hoards of tourists a bit irritating they cannot hold a candle to the hoards of blood thirsty mosquitoes; even the dogs get fed up with being buzzed by them and will snap at them when they fly close enough. In general they are immune to the flying ‘vampires’ thanks to their thick coats although the insides of their ears and their bellies do get bitten infrequently. I was pleased we did get in the early walk as the overcast thickened and by 08:00 it began to rain; just drizzle at first but it soon strengthened into a steady albeit light shower which lasted all day. We need the moisture so I was happy when I could report a 24 hour rain total of 0.49″ to CoCoRaHS (Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow reporting network) in my 07:00 daily report this morning. With the rain and a temp hovering in the upper 40’s this was a bit cool for a Summer Solstice but not too bad. Interestingly it was a far cry from Friday afternoon’s weather which was blazing sunshine with a peak air temps of 73.1 F which is easily five degrees above normal.
I’m slowly learning to exist up here in the warmer months but without question I prefer the winter to what I’ve seen thus far during this fledgling summer. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the continual light; it never even gets ‘dark’ from early May through early August; the best we see in terms of ‘darkness’ is what’s termed ‘civil twilight’. Since late-May its been possible to read a book outdoors at 02:00 without any additional light. When I’ve had some trouble sleeping I’ve taken the dogs for walks around this time without issue although since the bears have become more common I’m no longer doing this because they are more active during times we humans tend to be absent and 02:00 is definitely such a time. Thus far my single small sunflower seed feeder has remained untouched by anything larger than a Red Squirrel along with the Chickadees, Nuthatches, Juncos and woodpeckers its set up to feed. Even so I always look out the front door window before I exit onto the porch as its possible it could attract a bear. Alaska Fish & Game recommends not putting out bird feeders and water sources during bear season so I am flying in the face of that wisdom but I also want to encourage the birds to hang around so I’m just going to give it a go for now. If I get any sense it’s attracting bears let alone see any evidence of bruin activity it will be immediately taken down. I have to be very circumspect regarding my burning; anything with a possible food odor has to be stored inside the house until I can immediately get it to the burn barrel and thoroughly incinerated. I’ve been told every year someone loses sight of this necessity and ends up with a frightening bear encounter. I think we all get a bit lax from November through early May when the bears are hibernating. I did get my front porch netted in but I’m not satisfied with the fragile nature of the netting especially with two large dogs so come fall I’m going to purchase rolls of actual screening which is much more robust and redo the job. I was hoping to get by with the cheaper and lighter weight stuff but that just isn’t cutting it. Getting the dogs inside without bringing in mosquitoes is something I still haven’t mastered. I do force them to remain briefly in the mud room; often any ‘tag-alongs’ will fly off their fur and I can then swat them or use the concentrated pyrethrin spray to knock them out. Leaving just one lousy mosquito alive in the house will make for a bad time at night; I’ve learned its much wiser to take them out ASAP.
Without question I learn something new almost every day regarding living in rural south central Alaska; providing I live for another few decades I might actually get to the point where I’m fairly well experienced in such a lifestyle. I do know for sure this majestic land will never stop surprising or amazing me; Alaska truly is ‘The Great Land’ just as the Athabascan people named her…’Alyeska’!