Thursday, February 22, 2018

Springtime in Denali

Spring and Fall in Alaska, you all know by now, are my two favorite seasons. To be honest, they have always been my favorite seasons even in my childhood when I called home the Rocky Mountains in the mining town of Butte, Montana. 


I'm pretty sure these became my two favorite seasons because of my father was always telling me that we can keep pulling on more clothes to stay warm but you never can strip enough off to stay cool in the summer! It didn't take long as a youngster to figure out on a scorching hot August day in Montana cutting wood, fencing, trail clearing or whatever the activity for the day was that he was right! However, in the spring, fall and even the winter, you could always just keep pulling on the layers until you got it just right.

In the spring, there seems to be about a 4 to 5 week period when the days get longer but the temps stay cool and the snow is just right for playing on. This is the best, all the benefits of winter without the extreme cold temps. Just the bright sun, the squeaking of the snow under the snowshoes or skis and a long day enjoying mother nature when she is being very pleasant. Along with the longer days of warmth, you start to see signs of life starting to pop all over the landscape. First, you start to see the snow dropping out of the trees releasing the branches of its weight that has held them down all winter. The smell of pine starts to fill the air with the release of the branches and our favorite feathered friends start showing on the branches after their long flights from the South. Then, not long after that, you start to see ice and water in creek beds that has started to slowly trickle down through the snowpack from exposed rocks in the steep alpine terrain. Soon there after, you may be lucky enough to see a bear track from an old sleepy boar emerging from his winter nap. After seeing all these seasonal changes for weeks, suddenly, towards the end of spring, spring often times ends with creeks flowing ice, fiddle ferns breaking through the wilted brown plant life from the summer before, and swans show up on your favorite lake or pond nearby.

Also, The Northern Lights are great to watch this time of year.  Once again because mother nature shows mercy on us with the warmer temperatures of spring. It is a lot easier to stay outside watching the aurora when it is 30 degrees above zero instead of 30 degrees below zero. Take my word, let's just say that it is about 2 less layers of clothing!

Ice fishing is great this time of year! The fish are starting to wake up with the increased sunlight penetrating the ice. The ice shanty actually gets so hot from the sun beating on its black walls that we end up fishing in our t-shirts. The kids start whining that they are to hot and want to take their snow gear off.

I actually look forward to my first sunburn of the year from the sun reflecting off the ice. Spring sun tends to really set the stage right for my raccoon eyes that are the tell of a fly fishing guide here in Alaska. I also get to start working on getting rid of my marshmallow white legs from the long winter of being covered by snow pants and long johns.

The only bad thing I can think of with the arrival spring is having to go clean up all the landmines left by the two Golden Retrievers and a Jack Russel all winter long. But, it comes with the territory if you're going to be a dog lover in Alaska!

Come along with us on a guided snowshoe trip, photography workshop, or guided ice fishing trip and see what I'm talking about! I promise, I won't make you clean up after my dogs, however maybe the kids!  ;) 

Justin
Denali Wilderness Winter Guides



Friday, February 16, 2018

September, March

My two favorite months in Alaska are September and March! Why, you ask? Well, there are many reasons that these two particular months capture my excitement.

Let's start with September. September in Alaska is the month of change. Colors are changing, temperatures are changing, animals are changing, everything is changing and it is amazing to wake up every morning and watch these changes everyday. The colors will blow your mind, the birch trees turn as yellow as the sun and the tundra looks as crimson as a red delicious apple that is perfectly ripe. The Mountaintop colors change from granite gray to white with the return of termination dust (snow to all you outsiders!). Temperatures start to plummet with darkness returning across the landscape that sees sun for months with no break. Moose and Caribou come from high elevations, where they have been avoiding the flies all summer, to their battle grounds to show off and fight trying to earn the right to pass on their DNA. The bears move from the streams eating fish to the high ground eating berries to top off their fat stores needed for the coming winter survival. All is awesome to watch the change!

Now March is also a month of change. March brings back the sunlight that all of us have missed for a very long time. With the return of the sun brings warmer temperatures. Usually just warm enough to get us out of our dwellings to go enjoy every type of winter recreation known to man. The big old bears will slowly lumber out of their dens. The ptarmigan become more vocal as they look for their springtime mates. The Northern Lights seem to show themselves often during this time of year.  However this may be attributed to us having more energy to get out and watch them since our bodies are starting to produce vitamin D again.  Even though breakup may still be months away, March starts to show signs of it with the longer days and an occasional water drip from melting snow off of a rooftop.

I tend to get out a lot on the trails in March either snowshoeing, cross country skiing, or snowmachining.  This once again is attributed to the factors I listed above of the longer days and possibly warmer days which once again brings more vitamin D.  Though March can bring some seriously cold temperatures, we seem to deal with them more rationally because the sun increases our good spirits (vitamin D again). Not having to wear a headlamp to do a simple task such as splitting wood or shoveling snow is surprisingly refreshing. March often times is the first month in several that my vehicle gets washed since September!



There are so many reasons that I love these two months that I could fill pages upon pages. Instead of me telling you about it, I encourage everyone reading this to come experience it for yourself! Come visit me,  I promise I will be thrilled to take you out and show you the Denali area and point out why these are my two favorite months.




Justin
www.denaliwinter.com