February is winding down and winter is dragging on. But the days are getting longer and we can see light at the end of Alaska’s long winter tunnel. It is 10pm as I start typing this and Tanis woke from his couch nap with too much energy. He is out snow blowing in the dark with our new snow blower in front of the neighbor’s hangar. Hope Pat isn’t trying to sleep…
The past week, we have seen some pretty cold temperatures for Yakutat. Two weeks of nights getting to around zero, with daytime highs scratching just under 20. That is Fahrenheit, for our friends over-seas… Hard to complain too much with what is happening throughout the rest of the country right now, except Florida… Frightening to see what happens when Alaska weather hits Texas… Our thoughts and prayers are with you down south. You should burn more of your own oil for power and heat.
The past several days have been a lot warmer, with temps getting into the low 30’s. Had some rainish sleet on the 17th and 18th, but back to snow now. The ramp has a couple inches of fresh snow since the DOT plowed the pavement clear, on top of a half inch of polished ice. What a mess. But no snow pile… DOT keeps building it up, then taking it down. Last year, we had so much snow that the pile knocked our internet out in early March, not to come back again until late April. “Fortunately” the fly shop was mandated closed, so we didn’t have to process credit cards via the non-existent internet. They are doing what they can to limit the impact on us this year and it is greatly appreciated.
So… the river is frozen solid at 9 Mile, with a thick sheet of ice as far up and downstream of the bridge as you can see from it. We have about 2 feet of snow depth in the open, with not much in the trees. The road to the river is plowed and easily navigable, so no real risk of that being an issue come April. Or not much of a risk… Because of the cold snap, we have thick ice on the lakes now and getting an insulating layer of snow on top of that will keep the lakes colder even as the warmth starts to creep into the air. Still not a lot of total snow, but enough.
After saying it was looking like another warm winter and therefore early steelhead run, we are now back to an on-time run with our current conditions. March is just around the corner and we are definitely NOT at risk of the run showing up anytime soon. We can breath a sigh of relief, knowing whatever happens with the number of people allowed to enter Alaska from the outside, their timing will be relatively in line with the fish coming in. My guess is we’ll see a LOT of Alaskans coming this year after being forced to take last year off, and out-of-state travel will be less than half of what we’d expect on a “normal” year.
Tanis has been busy with the snow blower ever since it arrived on ACE Air Cargo in January. No snow, but he was out practicing with it on bare pavement. Now, we have had some snow for a month to actually blow. Keeping the path to the shop open by blowing all the snow into two piles in the parking lot that will undoubtedly still be there into May. After the first real snow of the year, he made a big pile about 40 feet long and 15 feet wide. I already mentioned previously that some kids from town came out and helped mine dig a tunnel all the way through the middle from end to end. Once night came, they carved shelves into the snow and lit candles for a nice glow.
The second storm a couple days later brought a second big pile of white. Tanis alone dig another snow cave, but this time just made one entrance and hollowed out a big cavern in the center. He insisted I had to spend the night out there with him, but I politely declined, as another storm hit that night with 60-70 knot winds blowing the entrance shut with more snow. The sun came out the next day while he reopened the doorway and enlarged the cavern. OK, we put down a tarp floor and loaded it with pads and blankets. Made a flap door with an old wool blanket and settled in for the night. The first of the clear/cold nights dropped to 7 degrees. Actually warm and comfortable inside! With my old-man bladder (ya, TMI…), I was up a couple times in the night. The first time, I poked my head back inside the flap and it was just as cold inside as it was out. The second time, I had accidentally woke Tanis, so he lit a candle for me to see my way back in. Opened the flap and my face was hit by an amazing warmth. From ONE little candle! What a difference! It stayed lit for a while!
Now the rain this week has made the fort a couple feet shorter, but the tunnels haven’t collapsed. Can’t say I’m eager to spend the night out there again, but it was a blast to camp in the yard with my little boy again, even if he is 21 now. Haven’t truly winter-camped with him since he was about 7.
We also had a great visitor – the Ozark Air DC-3. They were bring the plane back up from Montana where it spent the past couple years after their last visit. She was supposed to do some tourist flights down in the real world, but then the world ended and she just sat. On her way home to ANC, she had some mechanical issues in Sitka, so spent a couple months there getting fixed up and back in the air. On their way over Yakutat, the weather was going down in Anchorage and getting dark, so they turned around and overnighted with us.
This is a beautiful plane with passenger config, galley and lav. They are planning to do flightseeing tours around the Anchorage area as Golden Era Aviation, in period uniforms once they get the FAA stuff all set. Their website isn’t ready yet, but I’ll let you know when it is… These photos I stole from their preliminary site…
OK, Tanis just came back inside… About 6-8 inches of new snow since 6pm when DOT left for the day. Tomorrow is going to be a mess outside. Glad to be working INSIDE tomorrow, mudding and taping the holes in the downstairs bathroom ceilings. Had to cut out access holes when I needed to replumb the water system with PEX several years ago. Yes, PEX can burst when it freezes, contrary to what they say… Getting a little more done on the hangar… Trying to do SOMETHING every day, no matter how piddly. You eat an elephant one bite at a time and this hangar is like eating an entire herd. Several herds…