With the dumping of snow, and especially the layer of freezing rain in-between, moose have had some challenges getting around. Like many of us, they will gravitate towards the route with the least resistance, which puts them on our trails, driveways and outhouse paths.
A moose cow and calf were hanging out before the snow storm, and they have been regulars since. My shoveled paths have become their trails, and the trees in the yard have received a decent trimming.
Things became a bit cozier when the temps dropped into the -35F range a week or so ago. I was laying in bed one morning after the alarm went off, debating the advantage of employment, when I heard a creaking coming from right outside the front door. Looking out the window, I could see a moose standing on the front walk. Actually, I could not see the whole moose, as it was larger than my window frame, but going out to warm up the truck would take some extra precaution.
When I came home that night, I could see the bed the moose made just off my walkway, underneath a large spruce tree. No doubt, it was warmer being up against the cabin like it was. I didn’t mind the sleeping arrangements as much as the several piles of moose droppings, and it was the first time I had ever used ice melt on my walk to break up moose urine.
The next morning, the same thing happened, and I heard the moose get up outside the cabin after the alarm went off.
With the recent rise in temperature, the moose have been sleeping elsewhere, but they still stop by almost daily to trim a few trees.
I am a huge fan of Bradford Washburn’s photography. Here is an image of Moose’s Tooth, which is a 10,000 foot peak near Ruth Gorge in the Alaska Range. Moose’s Tooth is 15 miles southeast of Denali. The first known summit of the peak took place in 1964.
I had several friends travel Outside over the Holidays, while I was quite content to enjoy the cabin life in Fairbanks. Getting out wasn’t the problem. It was getting back to Alaska which has proved challenging. Most friends had layovers in Seattle, which were long enough to officially be reclassified as detours. One had a detour in Anchorage; getting oh so close to Fairbanks, but yet divided by a mountain of snow.
Two friends attempted to travel from Arizona to Fairbanks. There was a detour in Seattle, followed by a last minute flight to Anchorage. A second detour was then encountered. All flights between Alaska’s largest cities were booked out for days. Determined to get home, they booked a ride on the Alaska Railroad. I was excited for them, probably more excited than they were. I have never ridden that set of rails in the winter.
Out of the blue, I received a text from them. They were in Denali Park. “How long is this ride?” they asked. I hesitated, but eventually told them it was a 12 hour trip. One way. The Alaska Railroad is not high speed travel.
Late on New Year’s Day, I get a call. Taxis from the depot are three hours out. It’s -35F, but I head out the door to provide pickup/limo service.
The locomotive did look good, all decked out in Christmas lights.
We saw some oddities in our weather, not just in December, but throughout 2021.
On Christmas Day, Fairbanks was considerably warmer than Ketchikan far down the coast, as Ketchikan celebrated their coldest December 25th on record.
A day later, Kodiak hit 67F, which is the warmest temperature ever recorded, anywhere in Alaska, in the month of December. That broke Kodiak’s record high for the day by 9F. It was warmer in Kodiak than Los Angeles or Seattle. Cold Bay also destroyed their old record high on the same day, with a temperature of 62F. The previous record high for the day was 44F!
The North Slope saw extended thunderstorms, and Fairbanks set an all time record for precipitation. Yakutat, Alaska’s surfing hot spot, saw 67F in mid-April, and a day later, Klawock experienced the earliest 75F ever in the State.
Nome saw six blizzards over a three week period, Buckland saw spring flooding, and the Noatak experienced extreme summer rain.
Anchorage had an early heavy snow, King Salmon had a chilly autumn, and our capital experienced their coldest December in almost 40 years.
I was debating taking last week off completely from the blog, then the storm hit, and my days were filled with shoveling and plowing.
Officially, the ten day storm brought 30.2 inches of snow. You’re thinking: “Piece of cake”. It probably would have been if we didn’t have 1-1/2″ of freezing rain in the middle of the 2-1/2 feet of snow. It was simply a mess out there.
In the end, I had 52″ of snow fall at the cabin in the month of December. That’s good for second place in all recorded Decembers, and the fourth ever snowiest month. Total precipitation rivaled August 1967, when Fairbanks had its historic flood.
Not to be left out, Denali National Park HQ recorded 78″ of snow in December, breaking the monthly record.
We do not have any snow in the coming week’s forecast, which I’m beyond thrilled about. We have some digging out to do, but we seem to be heading back to more normal weather. Sunday morning saw temps at -40F/C. Thank goodness.
Theodore Lambert was a musher, freight hauler and miner in Alaska, as well as one of our premier artists. His knowledge of the outdoor life in Alaska comes through in his paintings. Lambert, disappeared without a trace, from his remote cabin in the Bristol Bay area in 1960.
The anniversary of the first truck to travel the Alaska Highway was on Saturday, 20 November. The truck was the first to drive from Dawson to Whitehorse, and then from Whitehorse to Fairbanks. In 1942, that must have been one chilly ride.
In 1948, The Alaska Highway Guide was published, which listed the scant accommodations and services along the route. The Milepost, which today is the bible of Al-Can travel, would be published for the first time in 1949.
Kodiak Island had a somewhat unique Winter Warning on Thursday. Mixed in the fresh snow was some ancient volcanic ash. Ash from the Novarupta eruption of 1912 was carried across the Shelikof Strait due to some high winds, and the ash came down with the recent snowfall. The ash was not expected to climb above 7000 feet, but airlines were notified, and air quality on the island may have been diminished.
The Novarupta eruption started on 6 June 1912, and lasted three days. The eruption was the most powerful of the 20th Century. The ash cloud is thought to have risen to over 100,000 feet, which is incredibly impressive. An estimated 3.6 cubic miles (15 cubic KMs) of magma erupted. That’s 30 times more than the Mount St Helens eruption. As much as 600 feet of ash was dumped on the region now known as The Valley of 10,000 Smokes.
The ash kick-up does happen from time to time, when winds hit the area just right, and carry loose ash over to Kodiak.
All seven volcanos in the Katmai region, including Novarupta, remain at Level Green.