A Holiday Reflection

Maybe ten days back I decided to take a brief morning walk along East Barge Drive which is the dirt road, now finally snow packed, that runs by my place.  Given the time – around 08:30 – it was naturally pitch black and the recent overcast prevented seeing any light from the waning moon.  The air was crisp but not terribly dry and there was no wind.  Given the air temp was 4.8° F, and this was warm after seeing -12.5° F yesterday morning, I was quite comfortable in my layered outer wear.

We have a 14.25″ snow pack and thanks to little wind across the past two weeks all the trees are cradling many inches of light, fluffy snow on their limbs and boughs.  I love this situation as the already extremely quiet environment is even more silent as the snow in the trees really does create barriers to sound propagation.  In addition, I’ve always loved the ‘creeeeak’ created by compressing extremely cold snow.  In this morning’s case the snow had just been subjected to over 24 hours of below zero air temps and hence was very cold.  With each step my boots created what sounded like an extremely loud ‘creeeeak’ but said sound was almost immediately quieted by the conditions.

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The ole homestead in light snow

Normally I wouldn’t take a walk with the kidz in dark conditions because of the potential to wander upon moose without seeing them from a distance.  I decided to wear my headset lamp which was a first for me.  Within a couple of years of living up here I noticed almost all the locals had a head lamp of some kind; given this I purchased one back in early 2015.  I’d used it when working outdoors during dark times but never actually used it to take a walk.  I was thoroughly enjoying seeing my small light beam bounce along as the snow creaked beneath my boots and my breath just hung in cold air.  Many times I would just stop, turn off the head lamp and enjoy the calm silence.  During one of said stops the overcast produced a small gap which allowed the moon to briefly shine through.  The effect was breathtaking as the surroundings literally flashed with bright white light yet everything remained dead quiet.  I guess given the incredible flare of moonlight I expected some sound..?  Seeing this literally took my breath away and I struggled to get my pocket camera free from my vest pocket which was inside my Eddie Bauer rain jacket.  Just as I did manage to pull it free the clouds once again occluded the moon and I was standing in darkness with the kidz milling around me no doubt wondering why ‘Dad’ had suddenly stopped.

For the remainder of the walk I reflected upon that event; the amazing timing and series of events that had to coincide for that one moment to occur.  I had to be out walking in the dark and decide to turn off my headlamp at just the right time to allow my eyes to adjust to the darkness before that small gap in the overcast moved so perfectly aligned to allow me to catch the full power and beauty of the just now waning moon on the snow covered landscape.  Such a myriad of ‘ifs’ that all fell together to create such an incredible sight!  In turning this over and over in my mind I realized far too often I just perceive such wonders without giving any thought as to their genesis.  In a way I am becoming somewhat jaded reading the majestic scenery of Alaska and that pains me.  There is so much wonder and beauty – not just in ‘The Great Land’ but everywhere on our earth and in the heavens around us – everywhere if we are willing to just take a bit of time, absorb the wonder and then reflect upon it if only for a few seconds.

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A ‘cool’ afternoon looking west down East Barge Drive; the temp is -8.2° F (-22.3° C)

As you approach the Christmas holiday – or whatever holiday you may be celebrating – please take just a bit of time when something truly extraordinary occurs to consider its genesis and really appreciate its beauty.  And make a special effort to do this with family and friends!  None of us knows how much time we have remaining to us on this plane so we honestly do not have the time to become jaded or dulled to the wonder around us.  And, again, that goes double when interacting with our family and friends.  Here’s wishing everyone out there the very Merriest of Christmases and the Happiest New Year yet!  And the same to those celebrating different seasonal holidays.  We all need to try to live more ‘in the moment’ because in the end that’s all we really can claim…

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The Alaska Range awash in Alpenglow taken from the overlook just south of the village of Talkeetna

Autumnal Anticipations

It’s a cool, damp and dark day yet again in south central Alaska along with being the Autumnal Equinox; I’m taking a break from working a plethora of spreadsheets to look out the window.  Uncharacteristically, there’s a fair amount of wind even down close to the ground and combined with the cool drizzle – it is 43.8° F/6.6° C – the yellow and gold birch leaves are rapidly falling to the ground denuding their homes of the last four plus months.  Said leaves are forming a yellow carpet which while pretty can be rather slippery when coated with rain.  The second floor view from my office window looks south into a portion of the boreal forest which makes up part of my yard and is often home to moose as there are a number of dwarf willows intermingled with the other ground based fauna.  Sadly, most of the color change is now just a memory as the weather is feeling more and more like fall.  We have seen a morning temperature below freezing just once to this point which probably explains why these conditions seem to be about a week to a week and a half later than I remember.

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The view from my office window on the Autumnal Equinox, 2016

Even with the windows closed I can hear the dulcet tones of my wind chimes; it occurs to me I haven’t heard much from them this year but then the thick boreal forest which I live within and stretches for tens of miles in every direction does an excellent job of stopping the wind.  It is not uncommon for me to see the tops of birches and spruce – around 35 to 40 feet (10.7 to 12.2 meters) – swaying many feet off center while there is almost no air moving at ground level and even smoke from the burn barrel rises only slightly off vertical.  The sky continues its multiple day run of ragged overcast birthing drizzle along with the occasional rain shower.  Indeed, we’ve seen 0.96” (2.44 cm) of rain across the last 48 hours.  September is this area’s second wettest month of the year averaging 4.2” (10.67 cm) but this September we’ve already seen 4.78” (12.14 cm) of rain which is 113.8% of normal.  We still have eight days left in September and we’re forecast to see rain across most of them so it is very likely we could well see 150% of ‘typical’ monthly rainfall.

I, along with most of the locals, am wishing for a ‘real’ Alaskan winter across 2016 – 2017.  The previous three winters have set records for the warmest and driest on record.  I long to see 5 feet (1.52 meters) of snow pack and taste the raw cold of a -35° F (-37.2° C) morning; while these might seem extreme in a ‘typical’ winter in south central Alaska they are almost ‘normal’.  Heck, I’d even deal with a daylong electrical outage if it were caused by a snowstorm dropping 20” (50.8 cm) of fluffy Talkeetna snow.  But, as we all know, Mother Nature will do as she will and we’re just along for the ride.

With the advent of autumn I’ve begun my ‘winterization’ routines; this being the fourth such repetition I’m beginning to get the routine down.  If the snow holds off for another seven to eight weeks I hope to get a number of blown down trees cut up, sized and stacked for seasoning.  My buddy, Sarge, will be visiting for a couple of weeks in mid-October and we have a number of large projects scheduled like building a wood shed and creating my long time longed for ‘aurorium’ from which I can view the aurora borealis in comfort.  There a myriad of other smaller projects as well but by the time we’re done I hope to be at a point whereby I’m done with ‘home improvement’ efforts for a while and can instead concentrate on ‘home maintenance’ work.

There’s a comfortable rhythm in this lifestyle; one tied so closely to Nature.  My Chickadees, Red-Breasted Nuthatches and similar are now at the feeders continually and I’d guess 85% of the black oilers they select are going into cracks in tree bark and similar as stored food for the upcoming winter.  They are also much more vocal when the feeders are empty; while the Nuthatches will dive bomb me chattering away I swear if I held out my hand a few of the Chickadees would alight and scold me vociferously.  I was seeing lots of moose a few weeks back but now that hunting season is open they are nowhere to be found.  I suspect the bears will soon begin to head up to higher elevations seeking dens in which to sleep away yet another winter.  And the days are really becoming shorter now; within a week or so I will remove the last of my light barriers in the master bedroom in anticipation of clear evenings enhanced by the aurora.  This flow just seems so natural and peaceful.

Alaska is an amazing place and one which is so closely tied to Nature; I love living up here as do my canine companions Anana and Qanuk.  I so enjoy watching Anana come back into the house after her morning ‘constitutional’ to take care of business when the temp first drops below freezing; she has a spring in her step and a glint in her eyes.  Qanuk just goes with the flow; as long as he gets outside to run once a day he’s happy.  I am blessed to have both of them with me up here and they are a huge part of my life in semi-rural Alaska.  And they continually remind me of the importance of living in the ‘now’; no need to worry about the past or the future – just enjoy ‘now’.

Sadly, I have to get back to my spreadsheeting but I also have a warm and peaceful feeling as I hear my Toyo Monitor furnace grumbling as it comes to life.  It has run just twice last week; prior to that it was late April when it last fired up.  I know I’ll be hearing a lot more of it in the coming weeks and I’ll be supplementing it with some now seasoned firewood in the wood burning stove Sarge and I installed last October.  The wind continues to blow the yellow and gold birch leaves around under a dark, ragged cloud cover.  Mmmm, this I just another wonderful Alaskan day..!

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A view of the unmaintained portion of East Barge Drive perhaps 0.6 miles east of my place; I took this image a couple days back when walking ‘the kidz’

Yet Another One…

This posting is really a follow up to the previous one and many of my friends will have seen it in an email I sent out a few days back.  Unlike many people up here I still find summer to be my least favorite season followed closely by break up.  I’ve listed some reasons for my choice of which numbers 1, 3 and 4 were commented on in the previous posting:

  1. Complete lack of a dark night sky resulting in circadian rhythm upset
  2. Warmer temps
  3. Hordes of mosquitoes
  4. Ditto regarding tourists
  5. Inevitable road construction
But to this list I add the attached image which says it all!  Poor Anana blows her coat almost every year but this year has been particularly bad.  Every morning I awaken with her fur in my mouth, nose and eyes regardless of how much I brush her and vacuum; and unlike Qanuk she doesn’t sleep in the bed with me.  Good thing I love her so dearly!  She’s gonna be one svelte girl when she finally finishes which, sadly for both of us, is still a few weeks out..  The second image shows just how fur can come out using a typical ‘rake’ type brush and brushing my ‘little’ angel for around seven minutes.
Anana Blowing Coat
Poor Anana showing the remnants of her winter coat along with that so much cooler summer coat
7 Minutes of Brushing
Qanuk, my GSD, with his back to the results of brushing Anana for just seven minutes!

Mosquitoes, Tourists…and Summer Sunlight

Today, May 27th, just happens to be yet another gorgeous late morning here in the Talkeetna area; the sun rides hot and high in the azure sky while gentle WSW breezes riffle the new leaves on trees and other plants.  The temperature is already above 60°F on its way to the middle seventies; that’s perhaps fifteen degrees above normal but then that’s how the temps have been running.  After a ‘winter’ – and I use the term very loosely – sleep the landscape is once again not just awakening but flourishing.  And with this seasonal shift comes other markers of the late spring in south-central Alaska.  The mosquitoes are out in force and the village is once again awash in tourists…and there is no longer a dark night sky.

This is one facet of living in the higher latitudes I have yet to adjust to and truly wonder if I ever will come to embrace.  As with my feelings towards the weather, in general, I prefer change on a relatively regular cycle but this is no longer an option.  And it will not be until late August; for me that three and a half month period is a long time to wait.  I know I have definite biases against the almost continual sunlight of the boreal summer based mainly upon my preference for cool temps – as in high temps in the low sixties – and I’ve always been a night sky watcher.  With the advent of each new spring I find myself once again preparing for warm temps and a complete lack of a night, as in dark, sky.  Couple these understandings with my distaste for hordes of mosquitoes and tourists – not sure which I dislike more although I also understand their value to this area – and it isn’t difficult to see why summer is my least favorite season right after break up.

Sure, I recognize there are some real pluses to the extended daylight.  Plants really grow under 17+ hours of direct light and there is far more time for outdoor activities not tied to snow and/or ice.  In addition, the moderating temps allow for the cycle of life to renew itself; if in doubt just notice how many cow moose have calves in tow now.  Perhaps if I could more readily adjust my circadian rhythms I wouldn’t feel so negative towards the long boreal days..?  My first two summers in Alaska were difficult for me with respect to dealing with the long days.  I quickly learned how to seal up my bedroom against light that never really dies and is just plain bright from 04:00 through 00:00; this had to happen as I am light sensitive when it comes to sleeping.  Late last summer I read about a study suggesting a small dose of melatonin once in the morning and again in the late afternoon to early evening can help reset one’s biological clock.  In elderly folks this regime can also reduce stress and lower blood pressure when followed.  I started this in August of 2015 and based upon that brief trial I was all set to start it again with the advent of this May.

It seems a bit strange to me that I have absolutely no issues with the extended darkness of winter; I was urged to take a vitamin D supplement to combat depression and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) but after three winters I just haven’t felt the need to do so.  And, of course, being a cold and snow lover the environmental conditions suit me to a ‘tee’ although I’m still waiting to experience a ‘real’ south central Alaskan winter.  But maybe most important to me is with the advent of very late calendar summer the night sky returns and I can once more relish the aurora, marvel at the constellations and hope for clear skies without a moon when the Leonid and Geminids meteor showers are in our astrological ‘back yard’.

I now laugh, as I’d wager other folks living at these latitudes do, when people from the lower 48 ask me how I can handle the extended darkness.  Most are surprised if not shocked to hear I prefer the darkness and have a much more difficult time dealing with the 20 hours of direct light we see on the summer solstice.  I think it is a matter of ‘imagination’ versus ‘reality’.  People who’ve never experienced such extended daylight think it would be fantastic to have longer days to get out and do activities.  But they fail to grasp the potential upset such long days with no real nights can and do wreck upon one’s normal biological rhythms.  I have tried to explain some of the negatives to such long days but for the most part my attempts fall on deaf ears; in most cases I think one has to spend a summer in such conditions to begin to understand it is not all bright sunny days…

I suspect folks born to these conditions are wondering why I’m making such a big deal out of the natural flow of the seasons.  In my time up here I’ve come to recognize such extremes in terms of light and dark are part of the ‘Alaskan Experience’ and fit right in with the often noted extremes in weather, wildlife and the landscape.  And, ultimately, I’m really not complaining as I realize these conditions help fuel the majesty and magic that is ‘The Last Frontier’.  Sure, if I could have my way I’d probably opt to make the long boreal days occur perhaps just in June and July but we all know the ‘value’ in wishing for things that cannot be…  After all; would I appreciate the dark and cold winter as much without the counterbalance of the warm, bright summer?  Most definitely not!  Sooner or later I’ll reach some kind of equanimity with the boreal summer; in the interim at least it does sharpen my apprehension of boreal winter!

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I should take a lesson from my canine companions who truly understand the value of living in the moment!

 

 

The Power of a Smile

With age I’ve come to appreciate so many of the simpler things in life such as sitting on my front porch and observing Nature in all her mystery and grace, that first sip of hot coffee on a cold early morning or the joy exuded by Qanuk – my male GSD – as he races through the boreal forest on the trail of some scent.  When one is open to such observations there seems to be no end to them and I relish identifying and experiencing all I can.  I’ve often noted the simpler these actions or situations the more pleasing they can become.  But most seem to stem from the world around me which is fine but also left me wondering why I am not the source of at least a few of my own ‘simple yet pleasing’ creations..?

Turns out I am capable of adding to the simple joy around me and by far the most powerful source for me is something I never thought twice about over the previous decades – my smile.  Since I can remember people have always commented on my smile, generally noting its ‘intensity’ and its apparently pleasing nature.  Sadly I did not smile much from my teens through my early thirties while in the grip of what I now understand was clinical depression.  Only when some internal biochemical shift occurred in my early to middle thirties did the heavy, dark cloud of this depression begin to lift and with that I became a ‘lighter’ and more outgoing optimist.  Of course my smile had always been with me but now it really did have a chance to blossom.

Across the past thirty years I’ve become more and more aware that my smile did set me a bit apart in some people’s minds and for the most part was seen as a positive.  It has allowed me to ‘break the ice’ with many a stranger and sometimes these occurrences have developed into friendships or more.  As with all such gifts it is a dual edged sword; often insecure people or those who feel ostracized or left out feel comfortable approaching me and starting conversations.  At first I was a bit unnerved by these events but with time I came to understand their basis and just went with the flow.  In so doing I learned to talk to almost anyone; developing this skill went hand in hand with my strong tendencies to verbosity in speech and writing.

As I reflect more and more on my smile I realize I have a history of using it to my advantage.  Yes, it was often a good ‘ice breaker’ but it also served to put others at ease and seemed to communicate I was a friendly and open person.  I now recognize I can readily employ my smile, along with humor, to put others at ease and this served me well when dealing with people from whom I needed something.  With the proper employment of said smile I could often ‘encourage’ someone to assist me or go that extra mile for me.  Without question this is a form of manipulation and in this context it doesn’t feel so ‘appreciated’.  However, we humans are social beings and there are schools of thought that espouse the idea all our communications generally proceed from a ‘power base’ in which one person is dominant and the other submissive.  If this is true then I’m sure I’ve employed my smile when acting from a ‘submissive’ position to help me modify the communication basis and ‘elevate’ myself.  While it is manipulation it does seem to be of a lesser degree than, say, verbally or through body language implying threats or similar.

Only across the past fifteen years have I come to understand that my smile – and, for that matter, most people’s smiles – can be a real force for good.  Smiles seem almost universally understood by humans and even many animals as a sign of peace, friendliness and openness as well as an invitation to communicate.  I’ve seen very young children, watching me from their Mom’s shopping cart in a grocery store, light up when I smile at them.  While volunteering in an Alzheimer’s facility there were many residents who showed a definite preference for being around me; the staff finally decided it was because of my beaming smile.  Sometimes when just walking in the village or other locations I will smile at a stranger and almost invariably they return my smile.  Many socialized dogs understand my smile to say I like them and mean no harm; this ultimately benefits us both as I love animals in general and canines in particular and I’ve never met a dog who doesn’t enjoy having their ears scratched.  In hindsight I’m pleased to note I’ve left a lot of happiness and comfort around me and 99% of it has come from just my smile.

Smiling is such a simple thing and an action we humans take for granted yet this response does possess a real power of its own.  But I’ve also noticed I get the best responses to my smile when it is genuine.  Sometimes I will just ‘force’ it when I’m preoccupied or not feeling particularly positive; almost always the results are much less impactful.  I much prefer to feel upbeat and positive when I unleash my smile so I’ve worked at insuring when I smile I mean it.  Doing this means I need to engender a generally positive and cheery outlook in my daily existence.  And this encourages a real ‘win-win’ situation for me; as I work to insure I maintain a generally buoyant and positive outlook I feel so much better and that’s reflected in the intensity and sincerity of my smile.

Please do not just take my word for the power of a smile; do your own research.  But here’s an interesting article from the website longevity.about.com which lists ten reasons to smile:

  1. Smiling Makes Us Attractive
  2. Smiling Relieves Stress
  3. Smiling Elevates Our Mood
  4. Smiling Is Contagious
  5. Smiling Boosts Your Immune System
  6. Smiling Lowers Your Blood Pressure
  7. Smiling Makes Us Feel Good
  8. Smiling Makes You Look Younger
  9. Smiling Makes You Seem Successful
  10. Smiling Helps You Stay Positive.

 Maybe now you will join with me in spreading smiles far and wide?  It’s so very simple yet it can, and does, have profound and far reaching impacts!

Family Visits ‘n Fun!

Of late you may have noticed a dearth of postings on my site; there is a reason for this and said dearth will continue into early September.  My sister and brother in law – Sal and Gene – are visiting Alaska for the first time.  They began their travels with a flight from Colorado Springs (CO) to Vancouver (BC) where they boarded a cruise which took them up the Inside Passage with stops at Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Glacier Bay before reaching Seward where they disembarked and spent a day visiting the sites.  Then they took a bus to Anchorage, spent a day looking around and then boarded the Alaska Railroad and traveled up here. 

Since they arrived the weather cleared up and has been warm and dry; I told them they were welcome any time and that Alaska was smiling on them!  Since arriving they’ve done the ‘Grand Tour’ on a K2 Aviation Beaver which flew them among the peaks and valleys of The Alaska Range as well as landing on a glacier.  We visited the Palmer-Wasilla area via the Hatcher Pass road, toured the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer (neat place and well worth the time), picked up great fish and meat at Mat Valley Meats in Palmer and shopped Fred Meyer before heading back to Talkeetna via the Parks Highway.  I’ve driven them around the area and they spent Saturday morning wandering the village.  Sunday they participated in my music show on KTNA; they gave their impressions of ‘The Great Land’ in general and of Talkeetna in particular in between music.  Both were fascinated by live radio and really got a kick out of seeing their ‘little brother’ make it happen.  They have walked ‘the Kidz’ multiple times each day and Sal is still trying to get a picture of the musher who takes her team up and down East Barge Drive on her ATV.  I’ve seen a bevy of moose but sadly Sal and Gene haven’t been with me but they did see a pair of moose in Hatcher Pass.  I also caught a brief glimpse of a grizzly at Mile 2.8 of the Spur but once again they were not in the Escape.

We finished baking six apple pies Sunday afternoon and gave one to my neighbor (Cathy); the remainder will go to Holly (my dear friend and realtor), the KTNA staff, the ‘ladies of the Talkeetna PO’ and another neighbor leaving one for us.  I still want to introduce them to more folks around town and get in a Mahay’s Jet Boar ride up the Susitna River.  Wednesday we drive to Anchorage to pick up a RV; we’ll return here to load it up and then head north to the Denali Highway.  As pets are not allowed in the rental RV Mark will live here in our absence and handle ‘the Kidz’.  We’ll be in Denali NP&P from Friday through Sunday and then most likely drive into the Kenai and visit Homer and the immediate area.  Then we turn in the RV the next Wednesday and we’ll have another four days here before they depart.

All told it has been a wonderful visit to this point and it there’s no reason to assume it will not continue to be great.  I am hoping they will get to see wildlife on Saturday when we take the bus in the Park to Wonder Lake.  At least they’ve already had a chance to see The Alaska Range in general and Denali, Mt Hunter and Mt Foraker in particular from Talkeetna so even if we don’t see ‘the Mountain’ in the Park it will be okay.  I’m also hoping for more moose views around here and in the Kenai and I remain hopeful they will get to see some grizzlies in the Park as well.

It has been a fantastic visit to this point so here’s hoping for more of the same!  I will be back to blogging on a more regular schedule come early September.  Here’s wishing everyone a great remainder of summer and a colorful upcoming fall..!

Sis Sal fitting glacier boots for walking on the glacier

Sis Sal fitting glacier boots for walking on the glacier

Heading to the Beaver!

Heading to the Beaver!

Hatcher Pass mine and vista!

Hatcher Pass mine and vista!

A cow moose and two yearling calves on the Spur

A cow moose and two yearling calves on the Spur

Data screens at the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, AK

Data screens at the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, AK

The Double Edged Sword of Warm and Dry

Spring ‘sprung’ about two to three weeks early across most of Alaska and with it has come uncharacteristically warm and dry conditions. Many of the locals love the warmth – across the past three days Talkeetna has seen highs running +5 F to +10 F above normal – and are particularly enamored of the lack of mud so common during the spring and break up periods. Indeed, I noticed that across the past couple of weeks driving just 25 mph up and down East Barge Drive produces a dust cloud. In the past such conditions have not appeared until the middle of May if not a bit later. Of course the warmth is just a continuation of the above normal temperature regime Alaska has experienced since the summer of 2013 but now the lack of moisture is becoming a trend as well. As with so much in life, in general, and with Alaskan life in particular this is indeed a double edged sword. 

I’ve enjoyed the drought conditions this spring mainly because my two dogs – Anana and Qanuk – are not dragging as much mud and glacial flour based dust into the house. This is a real plus as in previous springs and falls they are often relegated to the mud room for hours after a walk in the hope a bit of the aforementioned detritus might remain on the floor as versed with being carried into the house in general and into my bed in particular. They are not fans of this requirement even though their food and water resides in the mud room. In addition the lack of moisture appears to be slowing the appearance of the annual hordes of blood sucking mosquitoes and no Alaskan will quarrel with such fallout from the dry conditions. If we’re really lucky maybe we’ll see relatively low numbers of the blood thirsty little beggars this season..? One can always hope! 

Warmth is something I do not favor but above normal temps have been the rule in Alaska since I relocated in August of 2013. I have been able to leave windows open the last few nights although I have deactivated the Toyo furnace as the early morning lows have been right around the freezing mark.  I do this to allow the house interior to drop into the low to middle fifties such that when the sunshine returns and elevates the outside temps into the low sixties the interior of the house rarely climbs above 62 F during the day. Because I spend the winter months living at 60 F anything above 65 F starts to feel warm to me; sadly I am all too aware I will once again have to acclimate to 70 F temps as the season unfolds. One negative I noticed about leaving the windows open for multiple days and nights; this morning I awoke to hear two of my interior fire alarms chirping because the relative cold had caused the battery voltage to drop too much. Still and all it has been a boon to be able to open windows and allow the warm and dry outside air to circulate freely throughout my place. 

However, the warmth – especially when coupled to the drought conditions – does have some very potentially negative aspects of which wildfires are probably the most ominous. It seems strange to me that this area could be in a drought when there remain so many lakes, rivers and streams but given this past winter’s snow pack was just 22% of normal and that follows a snow pack of just 30% of normal across the winter of 2013 to 2014 coupled with just 33% of normal precipitation in March and only 20% of average precipitation in April it is no surprise. Sadly we are primed for a bad wildfire season which is based in below normal precipitation in this area across the last year and a half and the well above normal air temps which often foster below normal humidity levels. While most of the locals are cognizant of this potential many of the tourists are not and it takes just one careless camp fire or one smoker flicking a butt from a moving vehicle (why do so many smokers consider the world to be their personal ashtray..?!?!) to ignite a wildfire. By this point the local roadside growth should be greening up but as of yesterday the sides of the Spur remain brown and very dry. 

I have often wondered about this immediate area should a wildfire take hold; the village and most of the outlying areas have just one road to get the local populace out of the area – the Spur. And it runs only from the village south to the Parks Highway (aka AK 3); hence it has just one outlet. Should a fire take hold close to the ‘Y’ – our term for the intersection between the Parks and the Spur – many of us could find ourselves cut off from road access to the Parks and the outside world. Sure, we could walk or use ATVs to make the relatively short trek west to the Parks but that would mean taking only the clothes on our backs and our four legged companions. Needless to say this would not be a good situation but it is something all of us need to keep in mind. All the more reason to stay aware of Red Flag Warnings and be vigilant when burning garbage in our burn barrels as it is much easier to prevent a wildfire than have to fight one. 

So despite all the pluses this warm and dry weather brings to us it also bears the seeds of potential destruction and, as such, is indeed a double edged sword…