April Fools?

April is famous for it’s unreliability. As Robert Frost puts it:

You know how it is with an April day?
When the sun is out and the wind is still,?
You’re one month on in the middle of May.?
But if you so much as dare to speak,?
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,?
A wind comes off a frozen peak,?
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.

Dog Sledding in Talkeetna Alaska

North through the swamp. Photo by Kaija Klauder

Except I would have to say it’s more like we are back in February. Below zero at night, cool and windy during the day – but downright hot anyplace that is sunlit and sheltered.

My daughter Kaija and I took a short trip with the dogs for a couple days last week, doing some exploring in a big loop to the north and east. The dogs love going new places almost as much as I do. We had near perfect trail conditions, even in the afternoon. Everything was frozen up and white, all the stream crossings where uneventful – until we got to the last part of our loop. I was puzzled about the lack of new tracks on the trail, which is normally well used. Nobody had been on it for a week or more from the looks of it. It didn’t take long to find out why!

Well that explains it.

Well that explains it.

There is a maze of sloughs and beaver ponds back off the river. The trail takes advantage of all these ponds to keep out of the brush. The whole thing is bordered on its northern edge by a nice south-facing bluff – the perfect solar collector. The ponds along the bluff were wide open. Beautiful crystal clear water. Often it’s hard to decide where to camp for the night, and I am famously picky about campsites, but sometimes the decision is made for you. ?That’s it, we camp here. I had hoped to camp further west, with a Denali view. Instead we had a beautiful ?evening ?watching the light on our immediate surroundings.

Evening light on a beaver pond near Talkeetna Alaska

Springtime light is just delicious! About 8pm.

 The trail leading west would have to wait til next fall, while we went home another way, leaving it to the moose.

The trail leading west would have to wait til next fall, while we went home another way, leaving it to the moose, whose tracks can be seen at left.

Spring travel is full of surprises and contrasts. Fast icy trail in the morning can give way to posthole hell by noon. Sunscreen and shirtsleeves in the afternoon, then waking up next morning to a frosty zero or ten below.

Frosty dog sled bed.

You’ve heard of a sleigh bed?

Good dogs, good trails, beautiful scenery, great company. 🙂



November Dark

“One of the supreme ironies of civilized society is that the lights we
switch on to allow sight in the dark blind us to seeing our place in
the stars.”

I got this from my friend Teri, who got it from her friend Stephen, who says he got it from the world.

If you are going to live at latitude 62, it helps to have an appreciation for darkness. You don’t have to be happy to see the days getting shorter, nobody does that! But if you can’t at least come to friendly terms with darkness, you might need to head south.
Lucky for me I have always had at least some fondness for the dark. Years ago my wife and I bought a house and moved in, in October. It had a yard light, a big mercury streetlight on a metal pole. To my disbelief I discovered that there was no switch for that light, only a photo sensor. Whenever it got the least bit dark, the light was on. After all, you wouldn’t ever want to experience darkness-god forbid- or look at the stars, the aurora, or even see what the dogs were barking at out in the woods beyond that blinding circle of electric light. I tied a rope to the pole and the back of my truck and tore it down.

I find automated lights not convenient but annoying, especially if there is no manual override. Just because I open the door of my truck doesn’t mean I want the dome light on. Maybe I’m trying to keep my night vision, maybe I want privacy.

As I write this, I am sitting in my cabin by the orange glow of the wood stove. The teapot is heating over the blue flame of the gas burner. Outside the last of the sunset is fading in a pale yellow swath behind the birches. It’s getting dark. The wind is blowing in the woods. It’s all kind of melancholy and bittersweet. And real.

Would I want it dark all the time? Of course not. I’m not at all sure I could live in Barrow or Kotzebue. Bit I am sure we lose something important if we try to banish darkness from our sight, and from our selves.



Elements of a Good Day

Step One: Drink tea and read a good book in front of the fire while the cabin warms up.

Cozy in front of a wood stove with a cup of tea.

Sheepskin and tea. Aaaah.

Step two: Replenish the fuel supply.

Splitting Maul and Firewood, Talkeetna Alaska

Like money in the bank, only warmer.

Step Three: Get out and get some sunshine and exercise.

Dog team on the trail, Talkeetna Alaska

Just enough snow to run with the sled.

Step four: Receive a great truth from a humble source.

Quotation from All Quiet on the Western Front

Some things are just too true and too big to fit on a mere bumper.

November Light

The river is flowing crystal clear, or inky black depending on the depth and the angle of your view, and occasionally, solid gold. This was the scene from upstairs at “high noon” today. Beautiful, although I do wish it would hurry up and freeze over.

Sunlight on the Talkeetna River, November 2012

As light as it gets – High Noon!