10:07 pm ADT
The first beaver tail slap of the season.
There is a lot of snow on the ground still. Anywhere from 12-18″ of depth, but the 50F degrees this past weekend has put the melt on. Lots of sun right now too:
Length of day: 16 hrs, 53 mins
Length of visible light: 19 hrs, 17 mins
Today will be 6 mins and 59 secs longer than yesterday.
The beavers have open water in front of their lodge, which happens for two reasons. Their swimming back and forth helps to keep the ice thinner, but there is also a methane release point in the same location, which helps to do the same thing. In fact, the circles of diminished ice in the background, are also methane pockets.
Beavers patrolling The Pond. The birch, aspen and cottonwoods are all targets.
There has not been any action from the beavers since early spring. Once we made it into late September, and had the first hard freeze, they shifted into that busy beaver mode. It’s been nonstop action, day and night, collecting their favorite trees for the pantry, ever since. They already have a decent pile of semi-submerged tree limbs in front of their lodge.
They are a fascinating rodent, but if you want to save a nice birch from their teeth, you need to be proactive. My “yard” has a fence around it, but they still manage to break through from time to time. The neighbor though, offers them an easy smorgasbord, so for the most part, they seem to take the path of least resistance. In one night, three beavers dropped a dozen trees and waddled off with roughly half of their lumber in that raid. The next night, they came back for the other half, logs and all.
This will continue until The Pond finally freezes over. It’s a rough six weeks of the year for a birch.
A landslide blocked Lowell Point Road in Seward over the weekend. Workers began to cautiously clear the road on Monday. Lowell Point is outside Seward, and the narrow gravel road follows the shoreline of Resurrection Bay out to the point, where there are several campgrounds, lodges, resorts and B&B’s. It’s a pretty area, dominated by the beauty of Resurrection Bay. As of Tuesday, there were at least 40 cars trapped on the “wrong” side of the landslide. No word on how many travelers, who were trying to get out to Lowell Point, and now can not get to their destination.
This post is less about the landslide, and more about giving yourself extra time when visiting Alaska, and accepting the unexpected.
This is Alaska, after all.
I’ve seen a lot of complaints online about the slide from tourists, and I know several housing accommodations have taken some flack for the road closure. No matter where you are in Alaska, and this includes Los Anchorage, you are never very far from wilderness. That is the main draw of the place.
Our infrastructure is minimal when compared with the Lower 48. Many communities have one way in and one way out. In my time in Alaska, I’ve probably seen it all: Roads closed from landslides, wash outs, beaver dams, ornery moose and/or grizzly, avalanche and wildfires. Flights delayed or rushed because of blizzards, volcanic eruptions, and pilot strikes. Sometimes, all you can do is take a deep breath, open a cold refreshment, and chill out for a day… or two…
We all have deadlines, but sometimes we find ourselves dealing with forces that have no interest in flight departures. So, if you visit Alaska, by all means, get out and explore the state, but leave the time planner at home. Enjoy both the view and the ride.
As forecast, a Chinook blew into Interior Alaska this past weekend, driving temps in Fairbanks up into the 40’s. It was +44F at 8am in the valley on Sunday morning. The average high on Halloween is +18F. Also, as expected, our dusting of snow became a few patches of white.
Further south in Alaska: The NWS station in Girdwood at Alyeska recorded 9.5″ of rain in a 24 hour period. Nearby Porter Glacier Visitor Center recorded 10.34″ of rain on Saturday. It is the first 10+ inch precipitation event in 24 hours in Alaska since 2012. The storm total at Portage Glacier was 17.72″, as of Sunday evening. The epicenter for this event is Mount Baker, which is just 75 miles east of Anchorage, but 13,000 feet higher. The forecast for the slopes of Mount Baker “Snow could be heavy at times”. SATURDAY AFTERNOON: 29-35″; SATURDAY NIGHT-SUNDAY MORNING: 108-114″ Possible; SUNDAY AFTERNOON: 82-88″; SUNDAY NIGHT: 100% Chance of Snow, Heavy At Times.
The neighbor stopped me one night a week or two ago. The beavers had broke through the fencing around his yard. I asked if he had stopped up the breach, but he said he wasn’t concerned as freeze up was almost upon us. I did issue a warning about the damage a beaver can do in a short time, but I left it at that.
24 hours later, I received a call. Is there any way I can help plug up the beaver portal? I went over to the new clearing and counted ten new stumps. Not ten trees necessarily, as most were hauled off through the portal to the pantry. The bigger ones were left behind for the next night, and two were hung up, which obviously caused some beaver irritation, judging from the chaotic pattern of wood chips.
Camera: Rolleiflex 3.5 MX; Film: Kodak 120, Tri-X 400
A pair of swans, who had been spending the summer on the Back Pond, recently moved up to The Pond. I was watching them one evening, when a second pair of swans crashed the party, and chaos ensued. The original pair did not take kindly to sharing The Pond. For an hour the original pair chased the interlopers across the usual still waters. I was stacking firewood, and I’d hear the Flap,Flap,Flap… of wings beating the water as they skimmed across from end to end. Pretty fascinating to watch, although I’m convinced the beaver just wanted the peace & quiet back.
When I took the video, things had calmed down some, but you can see one of the interlopers off to the side, testing the waters, as it were. Eventually, that lone swan crossed the red line, and chaos ensued once more. It was getting dark when the four swans finally paired off at opposite ends of The Pond.
An honest to goodness thunderstorm is rather rare in Alaska. We get lightning by the bolt load, but nothing like a midwestern U.S. hill shaker. We just do not have the humidity to drive impressive, tornado birthing, cells. Still, what developed just across the northern bank of the Yukon River near Beaver, AK actually brought out the official Severe Thunderstorm Warning call from the Fairbanks office of the National Weather Service on Wednesday evening.
It was noted that it has been over two years since the NWS from Anchorage or Juneau has issued such a warning. Who knew such competition existed within the NWS?
Definitely not a normal occurrence.
On another note: Last night was the final night of the year for a post midnight sunset in Fairbanks. Summer is going by so fast.
Ducks, geese, swans and cranes have all come back to the neighborhood. The back pond still has ice, although it’s looking more than a bit dodgy and should go out this weekend. The beaver is patrolling the edges, occasionally flushing a pair of mallards from the open water to the ice, where they stand patiently waiting for the open water to be beaver free. Even the gulls are back, swooping low over the pond’s edge looking for the perfect nesting spot.
Spring has indeed arrived in the Far North.
Camera: Leica M3; Film: Kodak 35mm, Ektar100