I’m seated in front of my system but staring out my second floor office window at the slow but steady snowfall; I’m reminded just how much I adore this area during the winter. Granted, we hadn’t seen much in the way of the ‘typical’ winter across my first three years but the winter of 2016-2017 did produce some solid snow and cold and this year’s winter has finally come on strong. We saw pretty seasonable temps across most of the winter but couldn’t buy precipitation across December, January and the first half of February. That all changed during the last half of February as we received 36.5” of snow which is 31.7% of Talkeetna’s average annual snowfall. And this latest snow event has produced 4.25” to this point (14:27) with light snow continuing to fall. Our snow pack is 55.5” and looks to build a bit more before this latest event winds down this afternoon.
This winter has seen the birth of a new tradition; when I arise and see it is snowing I get ‘the kidz’ out first thing, prep their breakfasts, pull on my walking clothes, don my watch cap and headlamp, grab a walking staff and head out with the kidz to enjoy an early AM walk in the snow. This generally takes place between 05:30 and 07:00 and my walks of late have been between 2.4 and 2.6 miles requiring fifty to fifty five minutes based on the accumulated snow. I’ve walked in as much as 6.3” of snow – even though it was light and fluffy it was still a lot of work – and as little as 1.0” of new snow. In so doing I’ve had a chance to enjoy the semi-rural south central Alaskan early mornings with my canine companions. Even with the headlamp I still trust my dogs to scent out moose before I blunder into one. With this said they are not infallible so I constantly sweep the beam from my headlamp back and forth along the roadside looking for the tell-tale glimmer of a set of eyes reflecting its light. As it is winter the only large animal I’m likely to see is a moose so it isn’t necessary to actually see these large mammals; just the glowing eyes alerts me to the need to change our course to avoid the creature.
With all the snow of late the moose are being driven onto the plowed back roads as they are so much easier to walk although the road side berms of snow created by the plows makes it more difficult for moose on the roads to get back into the boreal forest to hide or to forage. During our walks I regularly see their scat and hoof prints along with the ‘creases’ in the aforementioned snow berms created when these large mammals depart the road. The kidz are fascinated by the scent the moose leave behind and frequently will attempt to follow the spoor into the boreal forest which is often hilarious as the berms are deep and the dogs will sink into them sometimes almost disappearing in the snow. To this point I haven’t had to dig either out but I could see this happening at some point.
This morning’s walk was fun in that there was only 1.5” of new snow at 05:25 so the striding was easy. As we walked I noticed I could tell which dog made which set of tracks. My ‘little’ angel – Anana – is an eight and a half year old one hundred twelve pound Alaskan malamute struggling with advancing age and arthritis. Qanuk (Ka-nuk) is an 88 pound six and a half year old male German Shepherd Dog who is still a puppy at heart and lives to run. When I first exit the front door in my walking garb both dogs are excited and joyful; Qanuk will do his version of a ‘happy dance’ supplemented by sharp, excited barking. Anana is much statelier but I can tell she is also happy and looking to go. During our walks I’ve come to observe that Qanuk’s tracks are well defined and are composed of just his paw prints. Anana’s tracks also show her paw prints but as she is older and lacking mobility her paws do not rise as high during her stride and hence leave ‘drag marks’ in the snow between her paw imprints. It is also funny to note that once we’re a mile and a half to two miles into our walk I begin to see those same ‘drag marks’ in Qanuk’s strides. This is an indication he is getting a bit more tired which is important as he needs lots of exercise. If the snow is much above three inches in depth Anana will only do the first half to three quarters of a mile before returning to the house and collapsing just off the SE corner of the front porch. By the time we return she is often mostly covered in snow but in her element. Qanuk always makes the full walk with me and would gladly do more if I was game.
Without question I’m enjoying this wonderful winter weather as are my canine companions. I relocated to this area because of its history of cold, snowy winters so it is great to finally see them materialize. Our early AM walks in falling snow is something we all cherish; I just wish my little angel could accompany us the entire distance! But as someone already seeing the limitations age places upon one’s body I can relate to Anana’s situation and I go out of my way to ‘baby’ her. With my boy Qanuk, the sky’s the limit regarding vigorous exercise..!
Great to hear about your morning walks. Glad to hear that winter has finally arrived in Alaska. Stay warm and dry.
Yes, I’m finally seeing the winter snows I’d only previously read about and saw in NWS historical records! It required quite a bit of the winter to finally see serious snow but at least it is ‘better late than never’. Of course, such a substantial snow pack bodes well for fewer and less large wildfires but it also means we will most likely see a bumper crop of those nasty Alaskan mosquitoes…
Many years ago, here in Florida, a family had an Alaskan Malamute and they moved away and left the dog to fend for itself. We adopted “Tasha” and I felt so bad for her with all that thick gorgeous fur meant for a northern climate. I don’t know how a dog like that ended up way down here, but some people are idiots. Turned out that Tasha wasn’t good with kids, which we had, and she went to live with people we knew who had lots of land and no children.
I lived in New Hampshire for a while and your photos make me homesick – except for the moose – I never did see one (tracks only) while in NH.
People can be so cruel to animals! Just having a Mal in Florida is cruel; while that double layer coat does also insulate them against heat they are cold weather dogs and really want to be in cold, snowy conditions. My Anana even finds the summers up here to be a bit too warm and we generally don’t see high temps much above the lower seventies. I can always tell the coolest place in the house; that’s where Anana will be sleeping. I’ve seen her sleep during a snow event up here when the air temp was in the upper single digits; she was almost buried when I realized I’d left her outside and called her. It was a ‘Kodak moment’ – now I’ve dated myself! – seeing a pile of snow quake and rise up with the black fur of her coat becoming visible as she shook off the snow and ambled to the door. How anyone could just abandon an animal, especially one they’ve cared for, is beyond my comprehension. I admit to being an animal lover, in general, with a real affinity for canines but we, as a culture, have to learn that all life is precious and just because a life form is different doesn’t diminish its value. I love living up here and it was my honor to bring Anana to the home of her breed. This area is thick with moose and both Anana and Qanuk (my 86 pound male German Shepherd Dog) quickly learned not to irritate these amazing mammals. I see moose many times each week and often they are wandering my property as I have some dwarf willow which they love to eat. Additionally, I see grizzlies a few times a year although I see their sign (digging, tree marking and scat) much more often and there’s a wolverine that’s very shy but calls this area ‘home’. I love wild birds and I feed them so I see a lot of them as well. And Question Lake is home to many sea birds and even loons; they are just amazing in terms of their calls during early summer and fall mornings. There are a lot of negatives to living semi-rural up here but I wouldn’t have it any other way and I came from almost sixty years of living suburban in the lower 48 – mainly in the Midwest although business travel took me to almost all fifty states. New Hampshire is a gorgeous state; when I was doing field IT support for the Clorox Company I always loved visiting their sales office in Nashua. I also did a bicycle tour back in the eighties through Vermont and New Hampshire during the fall color change; I’ll never forget such astounding beauty!