The daylight hours in December are short indeed. Today’s sunrise was at 10:09am and sunset came at 3:44pm. Many people ask how we can tolerate the long darkness of winter in Alaska. To these people we respond that though our days are short, these hours are often filled with the most spectacular lighting. Our afternoon skies are filled with intense oranges, pinks and reds. When the sun hits on the snow-covered mountaintops the angle of the sun produces lighting known as alpenglow. This beautiful phenomenon produces illuminated pink mountains. The snow on the ground and in the trees also helps to brighten our world with a white blanket. Unlike snow in the big cities that turns gray with dirt after 24 hours, snow in generally Girdwood stays white and clean.
Many people think temperatures in Alaska in the winter are extremely cold. However, in our area in South Central Alaska, our temperatures are mostly in the teens and twenties. Occasionally the winds send us warm blasts of air from the south known as the Pineapple Express. The air temperature rises up in the 40s and unfortunately this produces rain rather than snow. We have seen more of this weather pattern in the recent years, leaving our snow up in the mountains, but not on the ground.
We have found that we can almost always find snow a half hour drive away, at Turnagain Pass. Back country skiing and snow machining are primo in this area. Even on our shortest days, there is still time for a lap up the mountain followed by a ski down a (hopefully powder filled) run. By mid-afternoon the skies are getting darker, but some of the most glorious lighting, like the picture on this page, can be our reward at the end of the day.
There are so many fabulous hiking trails around Hidden Creek B&B; it is hard decide which trail to chose. Sometimes the time of year or weather will help select the best route for the day. Sometimes it is just a friend’s suggestion. Last week a friend
suggested a hike on Johnson Pass Trail, so off we went. It was a perfect Fall hike, with a bed of leaves on the ground and just enough openings in the trees to let the light come
through. Along the way we crossed two bridges over quickly rushing creeks. The trail continues for nearly 25 miles, but we were content to hike in for 3 miles and turn around and head home. One of the highlights of the trip was the spotting of a baby porcupine in the middle of the trail. I could tell he was frightened by our appearance, but he did not seem to know what to do. He sat in the trail and allowed us to take a few photos. We continued on, not wanting to cause him too much anxiety. What a cutie!
Alaskans love when it snows. By mid September you can hear people guessing what date the first snowfall will appear. This year Girdwood and the Portage Valley were graced with the glorious white crystals on Saturday October 21st. Snow is a wonderful thing in Alaska for a number of reasons. Of course, most of us love to play in the snow. Skiing, sledding and snow machining are tops on the list. Snow is also a welcome sight as our winter days get shorter and the hours of light dwindle. The snow brightens up our world. The beautiful foliage from summer has all decayed and turned brown so a covering of white is the perfect cure.
First ski of the season at Portage Lake
This year’s first snowfall gave us a three-inch coating of light fluffy snow, so it was time to dig out the skis and boots, gloves and hats, and try them out for another season. Ron and I decided to head to Portage’s Trail of Blue Ice for some cross country skiing. We were delighted to find just enough snow to glide through the woods. When we got to Portage Lake we were greeted with the most glorious vistas. The skies were blue, the mountains covered in snow and there was only a slight breeze. What a perfect first ski outing for 2017. We have our fingers crossed that the snow will continue to fall so we can have many more fun adventures in our winter wonderland!
Today was one of those days that remind us why we moved to Girdwood, Alaska, and why we are so glad we did. We had a free day to ski (Ron has those kinds of days almost every day) and the sun was shining so we headed to Turnagain Pass for some backcountry adventures. Now you have to know that we have had just tons of precipitation over the last couple weeks, most of it coming as rain in Girdwood. So we had become accustomed to the grey drizzly weather. Today was a whole different story! The sun has finally risen high enough in the sky, giving us longer days, warmth and a reminder that we have made it through another Alaskan winter. The sky was that perfect deep blue, with just a couple wispy clouds. The mountains had just received a fresh coating of snow on top of the seven or eight feet of snow that buried them the last couple weeks. As we looked around, the pristine white mountain peaks formed an elegant crown around our sparkling trail up Sunburst Mountain. The early birds had already completed two laps and were back at the car. Gazing up the hill we could see their perfect serpentine turns.
There were probably 25 other skiers out today on Sunburst, which is a lot for a Wednesday afternoon in Alaska. To us this almost seemed crowded, though there were just a couple small groups dotting the mountainside. The avalanche warning center had downgraded the risk from high or considerable to moderate for the day, so that made me feel a bit more confident.
Of course, it was lots of work hiking up the mountain with our skins on, but the beauty around us was invigorating and helped me to push higher and further back toward Taylor Pass. We did not make it as far as Ron would have liked, but it was a glorious day and all that was left was the ski down. I had anticipated some soft powder, with the new layer of snow, but to me the conditions were a bit tough for perfect carved turns. I had to settle for some big wide traversing turns, but still lots of fun. A great day! But Ron wasn’t done yet. When we got home he donned his Alyeska ski gear and headed out for a few more turns on that mountain. Bring on the sun…it is so energizing!
First ski tracks of the season!
Winter has arrived we hope this year will bring lots of snow!
Michelle and I hiked the Hope Point trail near Hope Alaska and the spring wild flowers were beginning to bloom..
Hope Point is across Turnagain Arm from Anchorage, Michelle enjoying a drink with Anchorage across the arm in photo.
I hiked up to the tram today with Bailey in the rain. The clouds were floating in the valley below making for a beautiful view.
At Hidden Creek B&B we provide guided hikes for our guests. To find out more read here.