Warm and dry weather has settled over south central Alaska promising the return of mosquitoes and tourists. Late last week I killed the first mosquito of the season; it was one of the big, slow and noisy ‘over-winter’ variety but its appearance heralds the first batch of this season’s blood suckers which will be small, quiet and very hungry. I’ve refilled the propane tank and will most likely setup the ‘Mosquito Magnet’ once the snow disappears. For the time being it is providing me the fuel to grill on the front porch. The kidz are reveling in getting out for daily walks with me; previously the roads were too icy and snow covered to safely walk. I love being able to do at least half my daily 12k+ steps outside in the sunshine and fresh air! Without question, we are into the winter to spring changeover.
Break up is my least favorite season up here as is true for many Alaskans mainly because water and the associated mud seems to be everywhere! In this area our mud is composed mainly of gray/brown glacial silt which is extremely fine grained; it clings to the coats of my canine companions until it dries – normally, inside the house – and falls off. I can tell their favorite resting areas by the accumulation of the floury, gray silt; while it cleans up easily there seems no end to the stuff during this season. Not all that long ago this area was buried beneath glaciers which slowly retreated towards the Alaska Range to the north and the Talkeetna Mountains to the east grinding up rock as they moved; this explains the abundance of the material. This glacial flour is also responsible for the clouds of dust lifted by vehicles driving on the unpaved roads; if it is windless this dust can hang in the air for minutes confirming its fine nature. This also explains why auto manufacturers consider this to be an ‘extreme’ area in terms of vehicle wear and tear; coupled with the snow and cold the dust makes it really hard on mechanical objects.
As the spring intensifies so does the solar radiation; this, in turn, begins to heat the interior of the house with time. Already it is unusual to awaken to an air temp in the master bedroom below 62.0° F (16.7° C); just a month back I would often arise to a brisk 58.0° F (14.4° C) or cooler. The slow rise of the internal ambient air temperature is something I encourage in early spring but by late spring I’m already using fans to draw in the cooler early morning air, despite the high humidity, such that the afternoon temps on the second floor aren’t getting too warm. Almost all my screens are back in place and I’ve even put up some light blocking shields in the master bedroom windows as it is remaining light until 22:45 and we will not see ‘Astronomical Twilight’ again until August 10th. I would like to learn to sleep with the sun streaming in the windows but to this point I’ve not yet been able to make this happen. Maybe with the passage of a few more summers..?
This will be the first year I’ll be added routines involving my 2017 R-pod travel trailer; I hauled it back here in September of 2017. The winterization process was very straightforward and fairly simple; I expect the efforts required to get it ready for use this spring through fall will be equally easy. With a bit of luck I’ll be able to load up the trailer, pack the kidz in the back seat of the Escape and do some camping in the Kenai Peninsula late April to early May. With luck this should allow me to avoid the first of the real tourist crush but there’s still a lot of snow in portions of the Kenai so I’ll have to wait and see. If I cannot get down into that area this spring I will do so come fall. After all, I didn’t go through the epic journey of hauling the unit from central Montana to Talkeetna just to let it sit!
The moose which were almost ubiquitous just a few weeks back have largely disappeared. I suspect this is a combination of a much decreased snow pack and the cows heading into the forest to birth spring calves. This winter was hard on the local moose population as I’ve seen more reports of moose carcasses since February than during any other similar time frame since relocating up here. There are the remains of a bull just about a half mile east of my place; a neighbor told me of the carcass last week. It is common to share such knowledge amongst the locals as such situations can and do draw bears as they come out of hibernation. Learning of the bull’s remains will cause me to alter my early morning walks with the kidz for the next few months; we’ll be walking primarily to the west. Once the local scavengers have had time to degrade the remains it will again be fine to walk that area with the dogs.
And so the seasonal cycle is once again on display in ‘The Great Land’. As with all things in life there are positive and negative aspects to this dance but in the long run I still enjoy the season’s shift and am looking forward to leaves again populating the branches of the birch trees and warm summer breezes. Of course, there will always be the mosquitoes and tourists but that’s all part of life in magnificent south central Alaska…
A look to the north on Riven showing mainly bare earth with the ubiquitous puddles.
Qanuk contemplates a section of East Barge Drive inundated by snow melt; he is less sure on ice than Anana (my Alaskan malamute)
As I prepare for my next great adventure to pick up my R-pod from a rural farm in Three Forks, Montana I thought perhaps I should finish clearing out some of more memorable images from my Alaskan life and visits. Included in this collage is an image taken on The Alaska Highway in British Columbia during my relocation trip from SE Michigan to Talkeetna. I mention it only because technically it isn’t Alaskan weather or Alaskan skies but it was tied to moving up here. I hope to be able to share some amazing images from the majestic provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and The Yukon Territories as well as from Montana and, of course, Alaska. Here’s to the wonder and majesty of Nature regardless of its location!
Smoke from my burn barrel slowly drifts upward as my German Shepherd Dog – Qanuk – heads out to visit me while I’m burning paper and cardboard which are two items not recycled in the Talkeetna area along with glass.
A cold afternoon at the Tesoro gas station located at ‘the Y’ which is formed by the Spur road intersecting the Parks Highway (AK 3).
An October sunrise from my front porch featuring the very common pastel pinks and oranges.
A September sunset over the northern portion of Cook Inlet reveals the Aleutian Range mountains of the west side of Cook Inlet.
The ‘big sky’ effect so common in the plains of Canada and across the provinces pushing up against the Rocky Mountains.
Long shadows etched into the Kenai Peninsula are created by the Kenai Mountains and the setting sun.
The toe of the mighty Matanuska Glacier as seen from a pull-out along the Glenn Highway (AK 1).
The remnants of ice fog ablaze in the afternoon sun on Riven Street.
Sunset on Question Lake which is just a few hundred feet from my house and home to a myriad of waterfowl and other Alaskan ‘critters’ year ’round.
A valley in the far distance – located center right in this image – is visible as a break in the low clouds along the Dalton Highway (AK 11).
A faint rainbow is just visible over a section of tussock tundra just west of Savage River basin on the Denali NP&P road.
Although very wimpy by lower 48 standards these are some of the few mammatus clouds I’ve observed in Alaska.
These buried mailboxes along the Spur bear witness to the heavy snow Talkeetna sometimes sees as well as the dearth of wind during such occurrences.
The glaciated Kenai Mountains form the backdrop to this image of Homer Spit – in the lower left of the image – thrusting 4.5 miles into gorgeous Kachemak Bay.
A favorite of mine, this image shows Anana and Qanuk wandering East Barge Drive amid the majestic fall color.
The awesome beauty of the Mendenhall Glacier reflected in Lake Mendenhall.
Denali and The Alaska Range bisected by split layer clouds as seen from The Alaska Range overlook just a few miles from the village of Talkeetna.
Spectacular Mt Redoubt, an active strato-volcano in the Aleutian Range, as viewed from around Kalifornsky on the Kenai Peninsula. If you look very closely there’s a float plane just visible in the air to the right of the volcano’s peak.
It has been a while since I last posted on this site as my sister and brother in law visited me and we spent 18 wonderful days together during which I was privileged to show them ‘my Alaska’. I say ‘my Alaska’ because across the years I’ve discovered many magnificent places to visit which very few tourists even know exist let alone visit. Examples are the Denali Highway (AK 8), Teklanika campsite in Denali NP&P, the west side of the Kenai Peninsula and the East End Road in Homer which is at the terminus of the Sterling Highway (AK 1). Both were mesmerized by these and other locations; the fact they’ve spent maybe 35 years living on the front range of the Colorado Rockies only highlights the majesty and awe-inspiring nature of ‘The Great Land’. I was sad to say ‘adios’ to them in Anchorage yesterday but also whetted their appetite for a return trip by explaining we still had the east side of the state to explore. Hopefully we will be able to do so in the near future.
So now I’m once again able to post my thoughts and I find this initial piece will be a bit different from most of the previous. The nucleus for my post began to coalesce with my reading of an excellent tome titled “State of Fear” by Michael Crichton. It is an amazing read focusing on how ‘We the People’ are being manipulated by a consortium of political, legal and media special interest groups with a focus on the outright lies perpetrated by the extremists in the environmental circles. Without a doubt Mr. Crichton has his own opinions and some of his ‘science’ is both a bit slanted and outdated – the latter not his fault as the book was published in 2004 – but overall I found the book eye-opening to say the least. He makes it abundantly clear that the current ‘global warming’ disaster claims are based on shoddy and incomplete science at best and often employ fear-mongering along with political and economic pressures to produce the desired outcomes. If one doubts this I can only point to the fact that many of the websites and on-line postings he highlighted as support for his beliefs have since disappeared from sight.
But I truly enjoyed his basic message which is; “Think for yourself, do your own research, question everything and do not just buy-in to what the lame-stream media or the current political party are spewing!” I’ve often railed about the average American being led around by their noses through the liberally biased lame-stream media agendas thinly veiled as ‘news’. Even these losers no longer try to claim they are ‘journalists’; indeed, we haven’t seen true journalism in these outlets since the early seventies. To me this should make it even more apparent to those of us who can remember the likes of Murrow and Cronkite – both of liberal beliefs, by the way, but unwilling to color their reporting with their own beliefs – that the current mass media outlets all have their own biases and use their programming to push said agendas. The purpose of ‘the Fifth Estate’ was to be a watchdog on the federal and state governments; given they now support liberal politics and smear anything else should not be lost on the American people.
Imagine my surprise when yesterday I read a story in ‘Discovery News’ which spoke to the falsehoods behind the environmental extremists who have been shouting that polar bears will be extinct due to starvation by 2068 when it is forecast that the Arctic sea ice will be absent 180 consecutive days each year. Apparently a just released report from American Museum of Natural History now states that polar bears are much more adaptable regarding food sources than the wacko environmental extremists wanted us to believe. There is now reason to believe these bruins will learn to eat other food sources which will substitute for the seal pups they will no longer be able to hunt and kill in the absence of Arctic ice. Of course this will pressure the species and that is not good but their impending extinction so touted by extreme environmentalists as a clear sign of our impending doom will most likely not materialize.
Do I doubt the climate is changing? Not in the least; the earth’s history shows the climate has been in continual flux since there was a ‘climate’. Do I doubt we are seeing warming temps? Living in Alaska this is abundantly clear and other world-wide data would seem to support this concept. Do I believe man is the main cause? By no means!! While I do believe mankind has contributed to the warming I remain unsure as to just how much. In addition I feel we know so little about the Earth’s climate over the past billion years we should not try to draw conclusions based upon a mere century or even a millennium of data. Only now are we beginning to learn of the effect of solar cycles on the Earth’s climate; the jury is still out on creeping shifts in the magnetic poles. I could go on and on but I believe I’ve made my point.
If we are to truly trust scientific research then we need to completely remove the influence of funding from special interest groups with their own agendas, allow research that is free from political pressure based upon pseudo-science and remove the emotionalism from all scientific efforts. Without this we will almost certainly continue to exist in a ‘state of fear’…
One of the less pleasant truths about living in Alaska is the cost of living; many items and services are incrementally more costly than their counterparts in the lower 48. As far as material things this is not a surprise as most everything needs to come to the ‘The Last Frontier’ via either air or water and hence has additional shipping costs. As to services; Alaska ranks 47th amongst the 50 states for total population and dead last in terms of population density. Therefore, there’s a much smaller pool of people to draw upon for any given livelihood so the average ‘quality’ of any worker is likely to be a bit lower than one might find in the lower 48 although this is definitely not a given.
It’s always bothered me that Alaska is the source of so much petroleum yet it has some of the highest gasoline prices of the 50 states. I can see places like Hawaii having extremely expensive gasoline and other petroleum by-products as they are islands with no native source of petroleum so everything must be shipped in. But this is not the case in Alaska. The only refinery I’ve seen operating in Alaska is in the NW corner of the Kenai Peninsula – in Kenai – although according to 2014 figures there are a total of six operational refineries. Regardless, there should be enough refining capacity to supply the needs of Alaska based upon its low population. But you wouldn’t know this to be the case looking at our gasoline prices which only in the past week finally dropped below $3/gallon. I’ve heard from friends in the lower 48 of gasoline prices around $2/gallon and even a few below that number. I also find it curious that fuel oil appears to be much closer to the country’s average ($3.17/gallon versus $3.66/gallon).
Regardless I was pleasantly surprised when returning from picking up donated food stuffs in Palmer I saw the following; and, yes, of course I filled up!
A Shell station on the Palmer-Wasilla Highway had the lowest gasoline prices I’ve seen since relocating here in August of 2013
This is a shot of the Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords NP with its run-off in the foreground; the glacier is just a bit north of Seward in the Kenai Peninsula. It is an alpine style glacier and sadly has been retreating very quickly across the past few decades
Here is the Portage Glacier which is located in the northern Kenai Peninsula; it is a classic Alpine Glacier
The Alaska Range is full of glaciers and there’s an unnamed glacier sweeping down from The Alaska Range foothills in this image taken from the Paxson end of the Denali Highway (AK 8). This image was taken in early September of 2002 and although it was snowy and cold in the immediate vicinity of the mountains just getting a few tens of miles to the north or south saw sunshine and air temps in the fifties.
The toe of the mighty Matanuska Glacier as seen from a school driveway off the Glenn Highway. This glacier cut the Matanuska Valley which runs for over 100 miles east-west and separates the Chugach Mountains to the south from the Talkeetna Mountains to the north
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.