It’s That Time Of Year…

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… 

Almost Clear Back Roads

A look to the north on Riven showing mainly bare earth with the ubiquitous puddles.

Water Bound EBD

Qanuk contemplates a section of East Barge Drive inundated by snow melt; he is less sure on ice than Anana (my Alaskan malamute)


Height Of November 10th Snow Event

Height Of November 10th Snow Event

Around 14:30 I took the dogs out for a walk during what was some of the most intense snowfall of the entire event on Sunday, November 10th. I struggled to walk just a bit more than a mile in 9″ to 10″ of dense, heavy snow; in hindsight I should’ve tried out my snow shoes! This image is looking east along the unmaintained portion of East Barge Drive from its intersection with Riven; the two dark dots on the road were my two canine companions who loved the chance to romp in the storm

East Barge Drive Cresting Bonanza Hill

East Barge Drive Cresting Bonanza Hill

To the immediate left of this image is Riven which heads north to East Birch Creek Drive; continuing straight takes one on East Barge Drive to Bonanza Hill. As the sign suggests that’s a darn steep climb which changes 155 feet of elevation in less than a tenth of a mile. This section of East Barge is not plowed in winter and becomes mainly a snow machine trail

Wonderful Gentleman

During a brief break in the almost continual rain of late I managed to get the dogs out for 75 minutes of walking.  In this case we walked east on East Barge Drive then north on Riven,across East Birch Creek Drive and on north on Lewis & Clark.  Its very sparsely populated along Lewis & Clark so its a great place to let the dogs really wander.  I made it as far as the sharp bend to the Easy when to my surprise I heard a car approaching so I corralled the dogs to await its passage.  As is the case up here we waved at each other but then the gentleman driving stopped his vehicle to say “Hi”; I of course responded in like and we struck up a conversation.  I told him I was newly moved into the area and living my dream of retiring to ‘The Last Frontier’.  He asked me where I’d moved from and I told him SE Michigan.  At this point his eyes lit up and he shut off his car; come to find out he’d been born and raised on a farm just to the east of Leslie, Michigan which is a bit north of Jackson!  He was pleased I knew where the small burgh of Leslie is in the state; because I knew of it I guessed his farm was dairy in nature which he confirmed along with pigs.  I discovered he’d left the farm at 18, joined the Marines, went into the infantry and did two tours in Viet Nam.  I thanked him for his service; then he showed me his left arm which has a prosthesis from the elbow down.  He was shot in his left elbow which completely tore up the joint such that it was not going to recover.  He told me his uncle had served in the Corps as well and had actually survived the landing on Okinawa.  He appreciated the fact I knew of this battle along with many others in the Pacific during WW II and understood it was a major feat just to have survived that terrible battle.

He had a wonderful Black Lab named ‘Black Jack’ who was a real teddy bear; we of course hit it off right away and he also appreciated the fact that I was a dog person.  We formally introduced ourselves and I discovered his name is Ron Taylor and he lives at Mile 92 of the Parks Highway.  He’s lived in Alaska since 1966 and has seen huge changes take place in the last thirty years.  I was impressed because he lived up here before the Parks Highway was put through to Fairbanks.  The more we talked the more I realized here was a man who embodied all that’s made this country great!  He grew up farming, went into the service, served his country, was severely wounded, recovered and has worked right up until retiring a few years back.  He had no regrets for anything he’s endured and is just glad to have the chance to visit friends up here and talk walks with his beloved Black Jack.  Although he wouldn’t realize it he’s quite an amazing man and someone this country needs many more of especially in these trying times.  When we finally ended our conversation we invited each other to stop over some time; I told him I’d wave to him when I aw him and maybe we could get together again.  I’d love to really hear of his experiences in depth!  Such men are becoming fewer and fewer with time and that’s truly a shame…