27 January 2007 Not-as-perfect Winter

The warm winds from the southeast started whipping along the Anchorage Hillside a few days ago and we've been anxiously watching the thermometer ever since. These winds from the Gulf of Alaska usually bring above freezing temperatures. On the first windy evening, we watched the temperature bounce from 26 down to 22 up to 27 back to 24 in the span of two hours. We thought that maybe this time, "the perfect winter" would prevail. Alas, 34 when we woke up in the morning. The temperature hovered around freezing through the weekend.

You may think us odd to desire below freezing temperatures, but these freezing-thawing cycles have bad consequences in Anchorage:
~ will the thin layer of snow on our steep driveway transition to ice, turning every departure into a luge run?
~ will every parking lot in town become an ice skating rink, with risk of twisted ankles and broken wrists?
~ and worst, will the snow melt on the ski trails and the tracks turn to ice?

Waxing skis around the freezing point is tricky, especially on the local trails. The temperature and consistency of the snow at any point on the trail is based on a combination of nearness to water, shade, recent grooming, and use. If you choose a wax too warm for the conditions, you have no glide. If the wax is too cold, then no kick to propel you. On Sunday we avoided the waxing dilemma and snowshoed. Tonight I corked 3 layers of red taffy onto my skis and enjoyed a warm ski under a clearing sky with a 3/4 moon.

One thing we probably don't have to worry about this year is losing our snow base on the ski trails (or in our yard). In the photo above of our garden gate, you can see where the snow is clinging to the mesh fence but has settled in the yard and at the gate. It's about three feet deep still.

19 January 2007 Old Rondy Trail

The perfect winter continues.

I had to work on Martin Luther King day so took Friday off. My friend Jo-Ann also had the day off so we met in the afternoon to ski part of the Tour of Anchorage trail. Surprisingly, I haven't posted any photos yet of the park lands near our house or their extensive trail system; we play here at least twice a week -- biking, walking, or skiing depending upon the season. The Campbell Tract is owned by the Bureau of Land Management and houses an airstrip and the Campbell Creek Science Center. The tract is surrounded by the municipal Far North Bicentennial Park. The eastern boundary of the municipal park is Chugach State Park, the 2nd largest state park in the country. (see blogs from last week, 31 Dec, 6 Nov, and 10 Sep.)

The Tour of Anchorage is an annual ski event with 25, 40, and 50 kilometer courses. The tour trail incorporates half a dozen trails through the city, including the Viewpoint and Old Rondy trails that Jo-Ann and I skied. The Old Rondy trail used to be the course for the sled dog races held during the Fur Rendezvous winter festival each February. But increasing trail use and a diversity of use types eventually led to dedicating other trails just to mushing dogs. Most of the other trails in town, like Viewpoint and Old Rondy, are used by classical and skate skiers, bikers, skijorers, dog walkers, horses, and runners.

On Friday we only saw a few people as we skied through the spruce and birch woods and over various branches of Campbell Creek. We did run into our friend, Diana, also a Wombat, who was skijoring. Her burly Australian cattle dog was pulling her along at a fairly good clip, though she said he's reluctant to pull her. We saw a few other skiers and runners, one biker, but mostly had the route and the 2" of fresh snow to ourselves.

(If my photos look blurry to you, would you email me or post a comment to let me know? I'm uploading high resolution photos but they appear blurry these last 2 weeks. Thanks.)

January 2007 Perfect Winter

If you like winter, as I do, get to Anchorage right away to enjoy the perfect winter we're having. Temperatures have been below freezing, sometimes well below, since the beginning of November, with only a few brief exceptions. We received a little snow in November; conditions were excellent for winter biking.

The snow started falling in December, usually 6 to 8 inches at a time -- enough to keep the decks and driveway clear and still have plenty of time to cross-country ski. The snowfalls increased in quantity around Christmas and New Year's, with a climax of 18" in one day on January 3rd. We only finished clearing the decks of that snow on this past Thursday, when the temperature hovered around freezing and threatened to turn what was left to ice. Before today's snow, I was estimating that we were around the 6 foot mark for snow. Most of it has been very light and dry so the warm temperatures this past week resulted in quite a bit of settlement.

The snow clouds have dropped another 2" so far today and don't appear to be moving on too quickly. You could be here in just a few hours, for a full day of skiing on Martin Luther King day!

New Year's Resolutions

I thought about breaking these out by category, but decided instead to make my first resolution ....
1. Integrate the personal, spiritual, and political aspects of my life because all these convictions should come from the same Source.
2. Remember daily how blessed I am and how many others suffer from illness, poverty, and war.
3. Let my government, especially my elected officials, know regularly that peace and social justice issues are important to me.
4. Reduce my support of war through my spending and investments.
5. Call someone in my family Outside (i.e. in the lower 48) weekly.
6. Munch less; move more; get outside.
7. Keep up on email and snail mail.

8. Keep up on the blog (now that I'm caught up).

31 December 2006 Prospect Heights

Paul is getting a little tired of using the snowblower, but the cross-country ski conditions couldn't be more perfect. We ended the year with a round on one of our favorite local trails, the Wolverine Bowl ski loop. It's a single-track that winds through meadows of tall grass and groves of white spruce. The deep snow hid most of the grass and slowed us down on a few steep pitches. The trailhead is only a ten minute drive from our house.