The mercury has crept downward to more normal temperatures around here. We were spoiled by a very warm fall, after a miserably wet summer. It’s 8 degrees below zero F (-22 C) as I write this, which overall isn’t that bad. Heck it could be 50 below right now or 30 degrees and raining, creating impossibly dangerous road conditions like a few Thanksgivings ago. We were all home and icebound for 5 days then.
The sun will rise tomorrow at 9:49 a.m. and set at 3:24 p.m. – a loss of 6 minutes and 11 seconds from yesterday.We will continue to lose daylight until that magical day of winter solstice – December 21st – and then we start to slowly gain light. That’s a ways off though, so it’s best just to focus on the here and now.
There isn’t much snow to speak of. A couple of inches really. Everyone is still running dog teams with the four wheelers which gets old pretty quickly. Old and cold.
I took Bella and Sasha for a free run this afternoon, just about sunset which is my favorite time of day. I was wearing long johns, jeans, sweatpants, 2 pairs of socks, boots, hoodie, fleeced jacket, parka, hat, headlamp and gauntlet mitts with heavy fleece and a canvas outer layer. I realized on the way home that I hadn’t stuffed my neck warmer, which I can pull up over my face, in the belly pocket of my parka. I realized it when I felt the sudden sting of freezing skin. Sigh.
Frostbite is a fact of life if you spend any lengthy time playing outdoors in this part of Alaska. As much as we take measures to avoid it, the cold has a way of creeping in to find exposed flesh. I once froze part of my wrist where the tiniest line of skin had been exposed at the point where my parka cuff ended and my glove began. I’ve had frozen ears, toes, fingers and cheeks too. The thawing is the part that really hurts and the skin remains tender and swollen for a while. It is also very vulnerable to re-freezing and so care must be taken. My cheeks didn’t get it too bad today – just a mild case – but enough so that I have a very rosy face at the moment.
A few more folks have been on the trails judging by all the four wheeler tracks and yellow snow (don’t eat it by the way!). We haven’t run into anyone yet but I am always ready to call the dogs and step off the trail. It’s more usual for us to meet teams further down the trail than we go right now, because there is a large community of mushers there – 1,000 people and 6,000 sled dogs! It is a skill to have teams pass without incident and after each successful meet up a musher is always thanking the gods that they have good leaders!
Being passed from behind is usually a pretty smooth deal. Dogs are naturally competitive and so the passing team will just surge on by, while the other mushers rides the break ever so slightly to slow their team down. Head-on passes are another matter entirely. The dogs have time to see each other and all it takes is one of them to hop over the line of the on-coming team or to suddenly stop to sniff a butt and mayhem ensues. It is up to the leaders to keep the team lined out nice and straight and to pull their teammates right on by. We’ve had a few tangles over the years but thankfully canines and humans kept their cool, tangles were sorted out and everyone went on their way.
Today though, was uneventful. We saw tracks and left tracks and let the land soothe our spirits.