Thursday, December 17, 2009

December In Alaska

I was out driving around last week after I had dropped Jan off at work. That particular morning the skies were clearing and it was really cold. A heavy frost had settled on everything and layers of fog were playing hide and seek with the mountains. One moment the peak would show through the mist and the next it would be covered and only the bottom half would be exposed. I really wanted to capture the top of Ears Mountain showing through with the sun starting to highlight the snow in a breathtaking luminous pink glow, but by the time I ran home to grab the camera, the whole scene had transormed. The weather here is unpredictable and can change in a moments notice. Since I had the camera with me I decided to see if there was anything else worthy of a shot. That sounds almost snobbish I guess- it's all worthy. I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth so sometimes you have to kind of pick and choose what you want to photograph or you'll have so many pictures you'll wear out the camera.
I drove on out to the airport to see what was around. Driving here is a fairly common form of entertainment. We only have a few miles of paved road and it's not uncommon to go out in the evening and shoot the loop a few times. There are several folks here that seem to do it
all day long. At any given time their car will pass by, their hands grasping the wheel with a death grip and a mannequin-like stare on their faces as they go down the street. In fact the only time I ever see them is either passing on the road or while they're pulled up to the pump. They probably get Christmas cards from Chevron.
Anyway, I stopped on the road outside the airport. I don't much care for the cold, but the trees looked so nice with the snow and frost on them that I just wanted to capture it. If I were to go out the same route today, the scene would be totally different. Over night the temps have warmed up and most of the snow that covered the ground has melted and of a certainty everything that coated the trees is gone. Just as well. For three years in a row we had terrible snow falls. I think the worst was 2006/2007. That winter we had twenty three feet of snow. It seemed like every day I had to clear out the driveway so we could pull the car out. The snow was piled so high I couldn't throw it any higher, so I started packing it one shovelful at a time across the street to an empty lot.Several times I had to climb up on our roof and get it off to keep it from collapsing under the weight. The deer population really took a hit then too. So much of the area has been logged that they had only limited areas to go to get out of the weather. Quite a number of them starved to death that year. I'm happy to report that from what I've heard from the hunters who have been out this year, the does and fawns seem to be plentiful and in good health. Hopefully the herds will rebound fully, but I think a lot of that depends on the remainder of the winter.
For the past few days several skiffs have been working the waters right out in front of town. I guess there have been a few king salmon around. The price is good and if you have a good heater and nothing else to do it could be lucrative. I should probably get out there and drag a herring around until I get bored I suppose. When the water is flat calm it's pretty easy to talk yourself into going out and giving it a try. It seems like a good idea until you have to go out to the cockpit and set the gear or pull it back in. That's when reality sets in- it doesn't matter how pretty it appears- baby it's cold outside!

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