Author Archives: icefogger

About icefogger

Just a basic, down to Earth, laid back type of guy here, who loves the outdoors, the indoors, jazz on the turntable, a fire in the woodstove, the northern lights blazing across the sky, and the company of good friends.

Blue skies in the afternoon

Not everything that leaves tracks is on paws.


Running Below Freezing

It was a nice run Anchorage.

Graphic credit: NWS- Alaska

Anchorage made a go at it, I have to admit. They had been putting together an impressive run of days at, or below, freezing. Not Fairbanks, impressive, but impressive none the less. The record for Anchorage was, and still is, 59 days below 32F. The run ended at 58 days. Oh, so close!

The area north of the Brooks Range has the best grip on below freezing streaks, hitting 250 days of 32F or below.

By the graph: The Anchorage Run


Beaver trails in the snow

Beaver trail

This past weekend, a surprisingly large section of open water showed itself on The Pond. A steady stream of bubbles came up to the water’s surface. The bubbles were methane escaping the mud below.

The next morning, the temp at the cabin was -27F, so at ice level it was easily -30F. Much of the open area had frozen over, but a neat circular hole remained in the ice. From the hole, a trail led off across the pond’s snowy surface. One of the resident beavers had come out to explore the area. It followed all of the trails we made in the snow the previous day, and then it went off on its own, exploring at its leisure.

Beaver tunnel

There were several times, where the trail dipped below the snow, and the beaver tunneled for quite a distance, before popping up again to the surface. I had never seen where a beaver had gone swimming in the snow. Most of these tunnels were near the cat tail stands, but not all.

The day after I followed the beaver trail, the open water had completely closed over. The methane is the clear culprit in the open water, especially such a large opening. As the bubbles rise to the surface, the ice thins due to the movement of the water. Most of the methane pocket locations are known, and those areas are avoided when anyone traverses The Pond. We are guessing that this opening was caused by a large, unknown pocket, that gave way. The bubbles that we watched coming up were in three distinct trails, but we wondered if the beaver had helped things along. Surely, the beaver knew about the location of the thinning ice, and kept one section open longer than the rest. Did their movement below, open up the large section we found? The beaver is an intriguing species of rodent.


Potter Marsh

Potter Marsh and the Chugach Mountains

Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary is a 564 acre fresh water marsh, located at the southern end of the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge.

The marsh was created in 1917 when the embankment for the Alaska Railroad was built up, effectively separating the fresh water from the Chugach Mountains, and the salt water from Turnagain Arm.

Potter Marsh is often called the most accessible wildlife viewing location in Alaska. The marsh is easily reached by the Seward Highway, and it contains a 1550 foot long boardwalk to keep your feet dry.

This wetland maze sees roughly 130 species of migratory and nesting birds calling it home, for at least part of the year. Moose, beavers, muskrats, eagles and hawks all can be viewed at Potter Marsh. Spawning salmon are often seen swimming up Rabbit Creek from Turnagain Arm in season.

Both brown bear and black bear use the marsh, but they are very rarely seen here. Consider yourself very lucky if you spot a bruin moving through the wetland.


Fairbanks retakes the lead

Graphic credit: National Weather Service – Fairbanks

I do realize that some people find the long summer days of Interior Alaska difficult to deal with. I am not one of those people; I absolutely revel in them. Arguably, the land of the midnight sun has the best summers and we have no shortage of activities to fill the many sunlit hours.

Graphic credit: NOAA

Officially, spring has arrived, but winter is not giving up just yet. Atqasuk on Alaska’s North Slope saw -53F on Sunday morning. The Interior was considerably warmer with Denali Park at -27F, Fort Yukon -13F and Fairbanks a balmy -8F.

As the graphic above illustrates, Alaska and Canada have had a string of amazing northern lights viewing. Even with the waxing moon, the aurora has been dominating the northern skies of late, putting on some impressive shows.


Vernal Equinox

Happy Spring!

A March day spent snowshoeing


Moon over Turnagain

Turnagain Arm


Vernal Equilux

We hit the vernal equilux yesterday here in Fairbanks. That means the past 24 hours had 12 hours of daylight, and 12 hours of darkness.

Another 96 days until we start losing daylight here in the north.


Alaska Railroad 2021

Alaska Railroad outside Whittier, Alaska

Rail service was just another casualty in Alaska from Covid-19. With no tourists last summer, rail service took a huge hit within the state.

The Alaska Railroad has already announced increased service on all of their routes. Service between Anchorage and Fairbanks will double: 2020 had only four trains per week, while 2021 will see a total of eight. Every day of the week will see either a northbound or southbound run, and Sundays will see both.

Flagstop service will return to the Anchorage-Fairbanks route, which allows riders to get on or off anywhere along to route to access remote cabins and homesteads. The Alaska Railroad is the only train service in the United States that still provides flagstop service.

Southbound Alaska Railroad passenger train at the Anchorage Depot


Running the Moose Gauntlet

Mama and her calf

The hockey game was between periods, and I had to make a quick run over to the neighbor’s. I turned the corner from my front walk, and was looking right into the shoulder of a cow moose. “OH! Hello.” I reevaluated my route, and took the long way around the cow. I was guessing there was a calf close by, but hadn’t seen it yet. The cow seemed to anticipate my rerouting, because she was waiting for me when I popped back out, but her ears were not laid back, so I scooted by, and made my way next door.

On my way back, the calf had come out onto the narrow road to join the cow. I still would have been fine, but a snowmachiner chose that moment to drive by. The rider spotted the cow, and stopped even with the unseen calf. Then another snow machine came up and stopped, but both engines were idling. That was too much for the calf, who started to panic, which caused mom to get edgy. The two moose then took my long route back to my cabin, so I tried to make a quick go at the short route. The moose beat me. I hesitated, then made a break for my front door. Mama Moose was not impressed, and tried to cut me off, but a huge spruce blocked her way.

She spent the next 30 minutes at the end of my walkway, just daring me to come back out, but I had college hockey to watch, and the moose had already caused me to miss 10 minutes of the game as we played tag.

The moose may not look that big here, but when I first met her on the drive, I had to look up to see into her eyes.