The weather gurus have told us to expect temps to drop below 0F the past few nights, but the expected mercury drop has not occurred. One night, I stoked up a nice fire in the stove, and ended up opening windows.
Now the low temps being forecast are back up into the upper teens. The below zero weather will arrive, but we’ve received a bit of a reprieve.
It is a conscious decision on my part to keep the politics to a minimum, here between The Circles. Whether that is good or bad is open to interpretation, and we will keep that discussion for another time.
Recently, however, a nasty debate has been growing in Fairbanks. The debate has divided families, and wedged itself between friends. Today, I feel obligated to throw in my two cents.
The question: Now that we are into mid-October, are you excited to see snow?
When I say that people in Fairbanks are passionate about this question, I am not exaggerating.
Since we have not seen so much as a flake, other than the residents, the question is getting asked more & more. On average, our first snowfall occurs on September 22. Only twice since record keeping began, have we had a later first snowfall than today. October 16, 1911 & October 20, 2018. The current forecast remains snow free.
Snowshoes, skis, snowmachines and dog sleds all remain off to the side, in limbo, and dead grass.
Many are desperately anxious to see some powder. I think it’s safe to say that an equal number of people are thrilled with the idea of a Brown Halloween.
The Interior is divided. The tension thick. Personally, I’m just going where the Chinooks send me.
Some regular readers may remember that I was out in the village of Newtok in February. I truly enjoyed my time there, and have great memories of the area, but especially the people.
Newtok is currently in the middle of a move. The village is under siege from the very water that gives it life. Due to the warming of the Arctic, ground is giving way, and Newtok is getting it from every direction. On one hand, the river is laying claim to huge chunks of land, taking homes with the shoreline. On the other hand, the ground is giving way to the melting permafrost, and water is filling in the gaps. In February, approximately one third of the population had moved across the river to the new location of Mertarvik, but it is going to be a long and complicated process.
Newtok made the news again this past week, when word made it around Alaska, that the generator that powers the village broke down, leaving the residents without power for an entire month. A month. In an age when most of us think about power very briefly, when we flip a switch or pay the electric bill, it’s good to remember that not everyone lives in such a situation.
Looking at the village from the air in the summer, it’s an entirely different world than when I was there in February. The contrast is stunning, so I thought I’d share a few more “winter” pictures of my time in Newtok.
I had picked up one of this summer’s Pandemic Road Lottery ticket into Denali National Park. In normal years, the road lottery would be taking place this weekend in Denali. This year, due to Corvid-19 and the lack of visitors, The Park had five additional lottery weekends.
I had two teenagers in Alaska for the first time, and we ventured deep into the park one Sunday. We covered the gamut in wildlife viewing, but the most memorable took place on our way out.
It was late in the day, and few others were still out on the Park Road. And no rangers nearby either! The grizzly meandered around the field in the photo, slowly getting closer and closer to the bull caribou. After a while, the bear would back off, and increase the distance between the two rivals, only to shorten the distance a few moments later.
We watched the dance between bear & caribou for about 45 minutes. The boys were looking for a fight, but I knew that the caribou did not get those large antlers by not being able to judge distance.
The grizzly broke the caribou’s comfort zone, and the bull was immediately on its feet. The game was up, but the bear refused to acknowledge that fact. After another ten minutes, the bear tried once again to close the gap, but the caribou had tired of the game, and he trotted off with his head held high.
On August 17, 1862, four young Dakota warriors killed five settlers near Acton, Minnesota. The killings would ignite the war between the Dakotas’ and the United States military, but tensions had been brewing long before that August day in 1862. The bodies of those five settlers would be brought, to what is now Litchfield, and buried at Ness Church.
I visited the church and the surrounding cemetery with one of C-to-C’s sponsors, when I was back in Minnesota this past spring.
In the back corner of the cemetery, close to the rows of corn, stands a monument. Buried underneath, in one grave, are the first five victims of the U.S. -Dakota War: Robinson Jones, Viranus Webster, Howard Baker, Ann (Baker) Jones, and Clara Wilson.
The Ness Monument was erected on 13 September 1878, by the State of Minnesota. It is the third oldest monument in the state.
In 1970, the church & cemetery were listed officially, as a Minnesota Historical Site.
The church was founded by Ole Halverson Ness and his wife Margit, who arrived in the area in 1856. Ole Ness was a member of the Acton burial party.
Also buried in the cemetery is Andreas Olson, another victim of the U.S. -Dakota War. Olson was killed on 22 September 1862.
The current church was built by settlers in 1874, a dozen years after the start of the U.S. – Dakota War. The church is said to be haunted by both Sioux Indians and the five settlers, in particular the young girl, Annie. The church historical society denies any haunting, although that has not stopped self-proclaimed ghost hunters from breaking into the church.
I witnessed no paranormal activity when I was there, but I did find the cemetery to be a very solemn place.
Camera for B&W photos: Kodak 66; Film: Kodak 120, Tri-X400