Sunday, December 5, 2010


After a moderate cold snap during which I greatly enjoyed my nice, warm parkee the weather has warmed a few degrees the past couple of days.  Currently at my place of employment I am enjoying a temperature of about 5-degrees above (F).  When I checked the weather underground website a bit ago, a station about two miles from my house was reporting 5 degrees above.  Up here, near the White Mountains National Recreation Area, we've received a couple of inches of snow, though it is blowing and drifting to an extent that it is difficult to estimate the total snowfall.  I'm hopeful that we've also received a few inches at home.

According to the forecast, the temperature will be dropping a little bit over the next couple of days with lows down to around minus-20, and daily highs around 10 below to zero.  That certainly qualifies as "pretty good" dog mushing weather.  The ideal temperature range for dog comfort and good trail conditions ranges from about 10-above to 10-below. 

I'm short-timing here on the job.  Basically I have only one more day plus a wake-up before my tour ends at about mid-morning on Tuesday.  Tuesday will be basically shot.  I'll need to drive to town, do my grocery shopping and perhaps a bit of Solstice / Christmas shopping, check my post office box and so forth.  Usually I don't get a lot of "free" time on my first day off work.  Wednesday morning I'm planning to be out on the trails with the dogs - and I can hardly wait.  I have no doubt we'll be running on sleds rather than with the four-wheeler.

I have a dental appointment Thursday morning which will probably prevent me from running dogs then, but the weekend is wide open.  I'll have to spend 1 day doing some training in Anchorage in the middle of my 2nd week off, but I may be able to sneak in a trip to one of the public use cabins up in the White Mountains.  I'm sure the dogs would enjoy running on a less familiar trail, and I suspect that perhaps Ted might be up for such an adventure as well.  The next full moon will be the day before my scheduled return to duty, so I think I'll try to take advantage of that for some night runs, especially if the forecast is calling for relatively clear skies. That strikes me as a wonderful way to celebrate the solstice.

As we approach the solstice, the days are dark.  Today the sun will rise above the southern horizon at about 10:30 and will drop below the southwestern horizon just before 3 pm.  Including the gloaming of dawn and dusk we will have about 7 hours of visible light, but less than 4 1/2 hours of direct sunlight.  Add a thick covering of clouds and one can see that winter isn't the brightest time of year up here. 

On the 21st, the day of the winter solstice, the sun will rise at 10:58 and set at 2:40, giving us only 3 hours and 41 minutes of direct sunlight. From that point onward we can honestly remind each other that summer is on the way - as the sun begins its slow return to the north.  By New Years Day we will be gaining around 3 minutes of direct sunlight each day.  By the end of January the lengthening days will be very obvious.  By January 31st we'll be gaining more than 6 minutes of light each day, and will be enjoying more than 6 hours of direct light.  As the days continue to lengthen February and March will bring the best dog mushing of the year. 

As a short-timer here at work I'm anticipating a fun R&R this month, mostly taken up with running dogs.  I should probably visit some friends and neighbors lest I become too much of a hermit.  There are some folks I haven't seen in several months that I would like to visit.  I could be tempted to make some of those visits by dog-sled just for the fun of doing so. 

Mostly I am anticipating living in my own home and playing with my dogs for a while.  Even though a relatively short tour of duty, it has been more than long enough for me to miss my preferred environment as well as all of my furry buddies.

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