Mother Nature’s Christmas Present for the Upper Susitna Valley

As those of you who follow this blog are aware the winter in south central Alaska this year has once again been mild in terms of air temps but extremely dry in terms of precipitation.  Sadly this is paralleling last winter although to this point there’s been much less precipitation and the temperatures have been much more mild.  To illustrate this I give you the following synopsis:

11/13: monthly average temp 15.5 F / days below 0 F – 8 / days below -10 F – 6 / days below -15 F – 4 / days below -20 F – 2

12/13: monthly average temp 9.1 F / days below 0 F – 12 / days below -10 F – 7 / days below -15 F – 6 / days below -20 F – 3

11/14:  monthly average temp 23.8 F / no days below 0 F

12/14: monthly average temp 21.0 F / no days below 0 F (NOTE: good through 12/25/14)

By the end of December in 2013 we had 29″ of snow pack; as of this morning we are less than half that amount with just 14.0″ on the ground.  For someone who moved to Alaska in part to experience brutal cold and feet of snow to say these first two winters have been ‘underwhelming’ is a bit like calling Denali a ‘big hill’.

But Mother Nature did bestow a gift upon the Upper Susitna Valley across Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the form of an unexpected snow event which dropped a total of 7.7″ of snow which boosted our snow pack to the aforementioned 14″.  The snow was continuous on Wednesday but rather light; on Christmas Day it was very much a ‘wave’ event with pulses of moderate snow falling briefly followed by longer periods of no snow at all.  This event was just the second snowfall we’ve seen this year dropping more than 2″.  The snow was much heavier north of Talkeetna towards the Alaska Range and dropped off  dramatically just a bit south of here.  Willow, which is 30 miles south down the Parks Highway collected just a couple inches of snow total during this same period while Wasilla which is 60 miles south of Talkeetna saw only an inch or so of new snow.

Still and all we desperately need the moisture so any snow is welcome!  We sure hope we see a lot more across the next few months; otherwise this area will be indeed dry for the second straight spring and break up.  While it makes the latter much more bearable overall it does not bode well for the local wildlife or the boreal forest.  In trying to keep up my ‘always find that silver lining’ philosophy if the drought continues at least the mosquito hordes should be somewhat less come spring.

If I’ve learned anything in Alaska it is that Mother nature will do as she will regardless of what we humans might desire; at best we need to just get sanguine with her ways and appreciate what we do receive.  I know many folks in the lower 48 are mighty happy they’ve seen a winter much more mild than the cold and snow of last year’s winter season.  As it is I’m still waiting to see a real Alaskan winter.  With that I’ll leave you with some images from the past couple of days; Happy New Year to one and all!

'The Kidz' - my Alaskan Malamute Anana and my GSD Qanuk - really do love the snow and cannot get enough of frolicking in the white stuff

‘The Kidz’ – my Alaskan Malamute Anana and my GSD Qanuk – really do love the snow and cannot get enough of frolicking in the white stuff

Anana checking out the Christmas Eve snow while I'm prepping to move the Escape and then knock the snow off the tarp

Anana checking out the Christmas Eve snow while I’m prepping to move the Escape and then knock the snow off the tarp

Christmas morning with 'the Kidz'; we're south of the ole homestead clearing the new snow from the sat dish

Christmas morning with ‘the Kidz’; we’re south of the ole homestead clearing the new snow from the sat dish

Christmas afternoon looking west towards my home and the Escape's 'garage' seen on the left side of the image.  We saw repeated snow bursts which were pulses of moderate snow followed by a period of no snow.

Christmas afternoon looking west towards my home and the Escape’s ‘garage’ seen on the left side of the image. We saw repeated snow bursts which were pulses of moderate snow followed by a period of no snow.

Dog Exercise and Warm Weather…

I just returned from a mere 35 minutes of walking the dogs; I had to cut it short because not only was my left Achilles tendon aching – I injured it on New Year’s Eve – but it was starting to rain.  I have been trying to let that Achilles Tendon heal over the past six days by cutting all exercise; previously I tried to just ignore the ache and push through it but all that did was make it slowly worse until it really ached and I was limping as a result of the pain.  My canine companions have been very good given they went seven days with only indoor exercise but the strain on Qanuk in particular was beginning to show.  I had hoped they would play with each other more in the house but that hasn’t happened and in retrospect it’s no surprise.

I knew when I added Qanuk to the pack I was bringing a breed in which is the polar opposite of the Alaskan Malamute; I thought perhaps Anana could moderate some of the German Shepherd Dog’s innate urge to be protective and a super watch dog while Qanuk might teach Anana to be at least a bit more concerned about strangers on her property.  While the former did take place, and in retrospect too much so, the latter remains a dream.  I also brought Qanuk on as a partner for Anana and a playmate and this hasn’t really happened.  In hindsight it’s no surprise given how the two breeds view ‘play’.  Mals do not play with ‘things’, they play with other beings.  German Shepherds will play that way but far and away they play with toys of which a tennis ball is probably their absolute favorite.  While Qanuk and Anana may start to mix it up Anana must continually take the lead if they are to play much at all; as soon as she backs off Qanuk grabs his ball and Anana could care less.  This means they then look to me to play and now I have two dogs hungering for play of totally different types.  I could get Anana to chase a Frisbee when young but only for a few throws; then she wanted to wrestle or just run.  Qanuk will chase either a tennis ball or a Frisbee until he drops.

I feel so badly for both dogs as they’ve been so very good regarding the recent lack of exercise; this drove me to take them out today and I’m paying for it already with a very sore Achilles tendon.  They cannot understand that their exercise has been limited because the alpha male is hurting; indeed, I’ve seen Qanuk play on even when he’s scraped a pad raw on concrete back in the lower 48.  In that same vein I had to regulate his exposure to the cold ground when it was really cold up here – right now that seems like a dream – because he would remain outside far too long and then suffer with very tender paws for the next few hours.  I wish I could just ignore the pain and take them on daily long walks but that’s out of the question based on my experience from January 1st through January 7th.  Of course today would’ve been short even if I wasn’t nursing an injured Achilles tendon because of the rain.

It’s just unimaginable that it’s never stayed below freezing four out of the previous five days!  Even more unimaginable is the forecast which is calling for lows in the 30’s and highs in the mid to upper 40’s through next week!!  For Heaven’s sake; as of this point if I’d remained in SE Michigan this winter I’d have seen as much snow and almost as cold temps!!  The lowest temp I’ve seen this winter was -24.2 F yet I know SE Michigan saw -19 F a week back and that’s only five degrees warmer than the coldest its been up here.  A major reason why I chose Alaska was to experience some truly cold and snowy winters and to escape the little snow and temps in the middle thirties I’d endured for years in SE Michigan; its like that damn weather followed me up here!

I know this is an anomaly and its virtually assured that I’ll see truly cold and snowy winters upcoming but I’m afraid this one’s a lost cause.  Historically December and January are the two coldest months in Talkeetna yet there’s only ten days remaining in January and the forecast for almost all of them is way above normal temps and rain.  I cannot imagine all the snow melting from the ground in February but if the warm weather continues this will happen.  Good grief; when I flew up here in early April of 2013 to locate my home there was over 30 inches of snow on the ground and I saw temps that regularly dropped into the minus teens and often never made the middle teens during the day.  However, what can one do..?  Ole Mother Nature will do as she sees fit and we’re just along for the ride…