Snow! Finally, we received a nice dumping of snow.
I have 8-9″ of fresh snow outside my door.
I took the snowshoes out for a spin for the first time this season, which required breaking a new trail. The beavers seem to be content within their lodge and under the ice. Any remaining standing trees should be safe until spring thaw, but I’ll keep checking on them.
Otherwise, it was just a nice afternoon out in the woods, checking out the fresh tracks in the new snow. Which includes, for the first time in a few years, lynx tracks. I’ll have to get a trail cam or two out there.
Halloween saw the fourth year in a row where Fairbanks officially had an inch of snowpack. Trick or Treat without bunny boots? The world is in chaos. By the end of the weekend, three inches of snow lay on top of our ice-coated roads.
Sunday morning saw the return of below zero to The Valley. Monday morning, my thermometer read -10F. It’s damn well about time. For those Outside, I’m sure excitement for below zero seems a bit mad, but Interior Alaska is built for below zero. For those who like to stay in the positive, the high temp made it to the mid-teens above.
This isn’t going to help with Alaska’s lack of sea ice. Utqiagvik, on the Arctic coast was above freezing, as was Nome.
But the Interior is at last making ice. For the moment, at least.
The Juneau Ice Field is located just north of Alaska’s capital city. The ice field covers 1500 square miles, more than a third larger than Rhode Island, and stretches from Alaska across the border into British Columbia. The ice field is home to over 40 large glaciers and more than 100 smaller glaciers. The Juneau Ice Field has been one of the most studied in the world, with the Juneau Ice Field Research Project being conducted annually since 1946.
Taku Glacier, as seen across the Taku River
One of the most talked about glaciers within the Juneau Ice Field has been Taku Glacier. It has been the last advancing glacier within the ice field. It’s “mass balance” has been in the positive; it has been gaining more snow during the coarse of a year than it has lost in melt.
Taku Glacier from the air
Taku is the thickest measured glacier in Alaska. It is considered a high elevation glacier, which has helped it maintain the title of an advancing glacier.
That designation has officially come to an end. With the increasingly warm temperatures that Alaska has been experiencing over the past decade plus, the Taku Glacier is now retreating.
When Taku has calved in the past, it has sent icebergs into the Juneau harbor. Massive calving events would not only send icebergs to Juneau, but also into the Inside Passage.
When Columbia Glacier in Prince William Sound started its retreat, sending icebergs into The Sound, the State of Alaska was forced to create an ice-watch program for oil tankers and cruise ships.
I went for a nice long hike through the Back 400 over the weekend. The dusting of snow that we had earlier, is now long gone. The muskeg is a varied shade of brown these days.
Each step brought a crunch up from the frozen earth. The snap of twigs is amplified in the chilly air. I came across a duck carcass on one frozen puddle. A raven was picking through the feathers that were scattered across the ice. Had the duck been caught in the quickly freezing puddle, or had it been caught by a predator, and the raven only recently found the remains? The scene was a mess of feathers, and I wasn’t confident enough in the ice thickness to venture that far out. Besides, the raven was not looking for my company anyway. Our rabbit population is quite high at the moment, which explains the number of fox in the neighborhood. We have had lynx here in the past as well, but I have not seen any sign of them… yet.
At the creek, I was amused by a pair of beaver. They had been quite busy, building a new dam across the now, slow moving water. It is amazing how many birch and aspen they can cut down in such a short period of time. I pushed my luck as I tried to quietly reach the creek bank. A crunch of tundra caused a double tail slap to come from the creek. These two are more wary of me than the pair in The Pond. Once my presence was known, they kept out of view, and eventually I wandered deeper down the bank to see what else was new in the ever-changing neighborhood.
We had roughly five inches of snow fall Sunday night, and close to eight fell the week before. I could hear the call of the snowshoes on Monday, so I strapped them on and ventured out into the Back 400. We had some snow out there, and my previous paths were completely covered. Still, it was a beautiful day to be out breaking a new trail.