Things were going so good too. Back in mid October sometime we got our first skiff of snow, pretty much right on time so I was happy. It was just a little bit and water in the river was still going down, but I was certainly happy. Then there was a cold stretch where temps averaged in the single digits and maybe into the teens, possibly warming up into the twenties during the day. Frost heaves began to show up along the trail, and I must admit, it’s fun crunching them down. I never get them all; sometimes they’re just too thick and hard.
Not long after that first dusting of snow, after it had almost evaporated away, we got another dusting of snow, and in the mean time every tree limb and blade of grass, and absolutely everything in between became coated with a thick frost. It was really quite pretty out there. I should have charged my camera and taken pictures.
The river went down to it’s lowest and ice grew across it more and more each time I went down there. Someone posted on Facebook a short video of what it sounds like when you throw a rock across the ice. It really is a rather amazing sound, so I went down to the river and did it myself. My ice was thicker and that sounds becomes less spectacular with the thicker ice. It’s still awesome. I never walked out on it though. I don’t trust that ice until I’m certain it’s thick enough.
Then comes this massive storm swirling into the gulf. Everyone is certain that it’s every bit as big as the nasty storm that hit the upper east coast a few years ago; the storm that very nearly rearranged the beaches and businesses all along there with massive flooding and super high winds. Our storm wasn’t so spectacular. There were some winds I guess, but next to no damage – at least nothing that made the news. Here? Next to nothing at all. In fact it was a very non-wind that surprised me. Always there’s some kind of breeze, but it was quiet. Quiet before the storm is what I expected so we waited.
And we waited.
And it warmed up.
And then it started to rain. Rain? In Alaska? In November? I was completely insulted.
I happened to be taking a nap when the first rain hit, and I remember thinking I should have my empty buckets in back catching the runoff, but I also figured my buckets would also get covered with ice (messy) and surely it wouldn’t rain for long and it would turn into snow soon.
Surely it would.
I broke down and put my buckets in back. I made the mistake and allowed it to wait overnight and the next day (no rain), so I had to use hot water to get my water/ice out of my buckets. When I was finished with that project, I brought in two buckets full of rainwater. Far more than I expected. Figuring it was all done, I once again lined my buckets out front in wait for the next snowstorm. But what happened next?
I was wakened by rain hitting the roof early in the morning so I got up and once again put my buckets out back to catch what came. That night (not waiting this time), I brought in two buckets + of rainwater. This time I left my buckets where they were, but it doesn’t look like I’ll be catching any more rain. Yesterday there were blue streaks in the sky upon occasion, and today the sky looks all blue.
The rain did make a royal mess though. My days started out around 35F, just above freezing, barely, and maybe warmed up ten or so degrees during the day. Warm enough to rain, but not warm enough for the ground to thaw, not even a little bit. Every drop that hit the ground added a layer of ice to the surface. Things up off the ground less so, but only because the water could quickly run down to a lower resting place. Anywhere it was still for more than a moment, it froze.
I walked down to the river yesterday on a trail that was utterly coated with ice. I can’t tell for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if all the hollow frost-heaved places were now full of water, especially if they were spots were I’d broken through the top. I saw enough frozen puddles in such locations to make me believe that. Places covered with leaves were coated with a glass of ice as each leaf held its drops in place as well as between where the leaf touched the one beneath it. Now filled up to the point of only the highest points protruded above the level of ice.
The place where I normally turn the four-wheeler around down there was an ice skating rink. It was still brown, but it was coated thick with glass-clear ice who knows how think – it didn’t break under my weight, which, considering it’s fairly soft sand, it might have if the ice was less thick. It was so clear I could clearly see all the birch seeds that had fallen during the course of the progressing winter.
As I was coming back, I noticed that my footprints looked as if I’d walked through flour first – clear white prints marked where I’d stepped. This was caused by my crushing all those bits of leaf and grass that had protruded above the ice – everything encrusted with ice, now shattered to dust. I had stepped in those places to take advantage of the traction the protruding vegetation provided. Believe me, there were places where there was no such traction offered. Those places were polished slick and I had to be very careful.