No much snow at sea level, so we headed up the Chilkat River last week. It slipped below zero a few times, and it was hard to keep fingers warm enough to take many photos but it was so beautiful with snow on the trees, ice floating on the river and rising mist. We have a little wood stove in our 1966 VW bus that helped keep us warm.
While parts of the lower 48 are suffering from a second polar vortex, Alaska is weirdly warm. The Southeast is not as warm as the interior and Kenai Peninsula where ski resorts are closed and dog sled races have been canceled, but it feels like spring with melting snow and more bright sunshine than I expected. As this is our first winter here, I don’t know what is normal but it seems that extreme weather is the new normal. I wonder how weird things have to get before climate change will be fully acknowledged as fact by the conservative factor in the US. Since it seems likely that we are not going to take swift action to turn things around, and it is probably too late anyway, this is a good place to prepare for an uncertain future. At times I feel overwhelming sadness for what is being lost due to human stupidity, but need to focus on enjoying the beauty that remains and doing what I can to hold onto it.
It is well worth going out into the cold to view the northern lights, one of the things I would miss if I ever leave Alaska…But I am not leaving! This is close to my idea of paradise.
It is always beautiful here, but things looks even better with a dusting of snow. This is Mud Bay, not too far from our house. I feel so lucky to have landed in such an amazing place!
Reports said this would be a good season for aurora borealis (northern lights), and it was but they didn’t come when expected. We get e-mailed alerts, and often the lights didn’t show up when predicted but often a few days before. It is fortunate that we are night owls, since they often didn’t start until 2 am. Last week we had another surprise show which lasted a few hours, and this will probably be the last one since the night sky is getting lighter and it will be harder to see them.
We are signed up for email aurora alerts, but we did not receive an alert for this past Saturday night. Being a night owl, I happened to glance out the window at 1 am and saw a glow, otherwise we might have missed the show. We bundled up and grabbed our cameras. The northern lights got better and better, going from glowing patches to streaming, pulsing clouds with interesting patterns overhead and covering the entire sky. The following night we did get an alert, but the lights did not show up. I would like to drive and get something more interesting in the foreground than spruce trees, but there is no telling when we will see them, or if we will see them. Sometimes they are very brief and disappear before I can even get my camera out, and sometimes they go on for hours. If we head for the car, we might miss it all together. The elusive nature makes it even more special when we get a really good show!
Wikipedia says that shorebirds and waterfowl leave the Kachemak Bay for the winter, but we have been seeing more of them than ever before! This photo was taken in February, but we started noticing more birds even in January. Flocks of them fill the air and float on the water. When there is a ‘bait ball’ of small fish, they swirl around it to feed. Islands and Oceans visitor center in Homer has good information about shorebirds in this area.
When the sun shines, the snow sparkles and everything is fine.
I just finished publishing my first photo book, A Back Road Traveler’s Alaska on Blurb (a print on demand site). It was a fun challenge to learn how to do it, and I want to do more! My next one will be more artistic… I started out just planning to show pretty pictures, but ended up writing captions and including information about some environmental issues. There are plenty of books with beautiful photos of Alaska, but you don’t usually get the whole story. I want to head in this direction next summer as we travel around Alaska. We plan to travel along the Haul Road following the pipeline to Prudhoe Bay, a route with much beauty sadly scarred with industrial development. Not my idea of the perfect vacation, but it feels important to see it.
The prices for print books at Blurb seem very expensive, too much for me to consider! All profits will go to the Alaskan Wilderness League. I am going to try to make a smaller and cheaper option, but then printing out books isn’t very environmentalist. My main goal is sharing and not selling, so the ebook version at Blurb is free! They only have it in epub format for ipads, but also put up a free PDF version at Issuu.
We finally have snow, and 5 feet of it! That coupled with unusually warm temps for Alaska…The unusual weather continues. I talk with friends in various places, and it is strange all over. Very cold in California, no snow in Chicago…The effects of climate change are showing. I still talk with people who don’t believe we have anything to do with it, and aren’t at all concerned. We need to be concerned, very concerned. It is too late? Here is a good discussion about climate change
Last winter we had record setting snow and cold, and this winter has been strange too. It dips down very cold, then gets very warm and we have had very little snow. These ice patterns are left on the beach as the tide goes out, with cold enough temperatures to freeze the still water. I wonder what the future will bring, and how different plants and animals will adapt to it. I wonder about the best place to live to avoid dramatic storms, drought, and extreme temperatures.
Things are getting cold…So cold it is hard to take photos, the car windows are frozen shut. The still parts of the bay are full of ice, and big chunks of it are washing up on the beach at Land’s End. Homer is a banana belt of Alaska, and this feels so harsh sometimes that I wonder what it would be like in the really cold places. Part of me wants to go there for the adventure of experiencing it, and part of me wants to run back to warm and sunny California. Not yet though! It is so beautiful to see it, especially in winter.
An ugly jack-up oil drilling rig has been parked next to the harbor in Homer for repairs, and while our bay is protected from drilling it mars the view and is a reminder of destructive industrial activities elsewhere in the state. It is headed the Cook Inlet, way too close for comfort. There have been many protests since they promised it would be gone in a week and now it looks like it will be here all winter. It is a constant battle to keep those who seek to exploit Alaska for profit from sacrificing natural places. Such short sighted thinking makes me very sad…