Since mid-winter our somewhat unusual weather in south central Alaska has continued with what was a somewhat late arrival of spring and break up followed by an ‘explosion’ of spring-like conditions. It was almost as though spring was trying to ‘catch up’ after her somewhat slow start. I was still seeing snow piles in shaded areas come early June which were remnants from the very heavy snows of mid-February into early March. These same snows left a measurable snow pack well into May. In years past by the end of April there might be snow piles remaining but an actual snow pack was generally just a memory. Not so this year…
Apparently I wasn’t the only one to notice the slow start to spring conditions; I didn’t see my first robin until the week of May 13th. In previous years one could always hear the robin’s arrivals in middle to later April. And in keeping with these observations of our avian friends I didn’t see my pair of nesting Tree Swallows return until early June. Last year I’d seen the swallow box occupied by middle May. I was thrilled to see a second nesting pair of these gorgeous mosquito eaters take up residence in another swallow box at the front of my house. I’m hoping to see both pairs return annually to raise broods and devour the local mosquitoes.
Speaking of which it seemed to me the mosquito season was also slow in getting started although in the last week or so it has come on…in spades! The only mosquitoes I saw through almost all of April and May were the large, slow and noisy ‘over winter’ mosquitoes that managed to survive the ‘frigid season’. Normally, I begin to battle the new generation of smaller, faster and much quieter bloodsuckers by the middle of May. But this year I didn’t really see many until early June. As of this writing it appears the late spring/early summer of 2018 is going to be a banner year for the lousy little bloodsuckers. And this is happening despite some very dry conditions to this point in June.
One indicator of spring which wasn’t at all slow in developing was the arrival of the tourists. When I first relocated up here in August of 2013 the tourist season was running from late May through early September. Last year there were still huge tour buses disgorging swarms of tourists in the village right through middle to late September. This spring I started seeing the tour buses crowding the Spur in early May and by Memorial Day the village was being inundated by apparently endless crowds. Of the many facets of the transition from spring to summer in the Talkeetna area my least favorites are the arrival of the tourists followed closely, in terms of dislike, by the rise in the mosquito density. Both signal the onset of summer which, for me, produces true ambivalence. While I do enjoy the seasonal shift and with the warmer temps I can get out and do more, at least until the peak mosquito periods, I am no fan of tourists or mosquitoes. And although I am slowly getting used to the almost continuous daylight I already miss the dark night sky. But these are all facets of life at higher latitudes and if one is to live as such one must come to terms with these conditions.
I remain hopeful the mosquito season will peak within a week and by late July the little bloodsuckers will be present in much smaller numbers; they’re around this area until the first few hard freezes which normally occur in middle to late September. The tourists are…well, the tourists and as long as the village is okay with encouraging ever-increasing numbers I suppose I’ll just have to deal with the situation. I’ve already slipped into the now familiar ‘avoid the village at all costs’ mode and make just two trips a week into Talkeetna to pick up mail. The salt on this wound comes with the inevitable road construction; after not seeing much work on the Parks Highway (AK 3) last year it sure appears as if the state is trying to make up for lost time! Currently the Parks is under construction from Mile 99 – where the Spur intersects with the Parks (aka ‘the Y’) – all the way south to Mile 89. Within this work zone are two portions which require the use of ‘pilot cars’. This really slows traffic progress and has forced me to make any trips south during the early morning hours on Sundays when the construction is not operating and tourist traffic is light. The Parks needed work so I really cannot complain but I sure hope the work doesn’t take all summer!
And so the seasonal dance continues here in semi-rural south central Alaska. I’ll miss my dark night skies, cooler temps and ‘immense silence’ while welcoming more sunshine and better conditions for outdoor activities. As with all things in life it’s a ‘yin yang’ situation; the best advice I can give myself is simply to accept all that it is and look for the positives!