Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Alaskan winter

So many people say they could never handle the darkness of winter here in Alaska.  In honor of those people I took a bunch of pictures at the darkest point of the winter. Calculating the length of our day is a bit challenging in winter.  Reality is that it greatly depends on exactly where you are situated both in elevation and near what mountains.   According to Wikipedia twilight is when "the sun itself is not directly visible because it is below the horizon".  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twilight  I suppose by that definition we don't have honest to goodness daylight for a while through the winter.  The interesting thing is that if you go down the road a bit or up in elevation, you might have sunlight.  Most of camp is within the shadow of Amulet so we don't really get direct sunlight because the sun is low enough on the horizon that it can't get past Amulet.  This picture was taken mid-day on one of the shortest days of December.    

Turning around (and moving around a little to get a better view) this is what it looks like above and behind me.  There's our sunbeam just up the mountain a bit!  With the brilliant snow and clear skies, we actually get quite a bit of daylight, just no direct sun for a while.  

 It's still spectacularly beautiful.

 And when the moon is out on a clear night reflecting off the snow, it might as well be twilight.  The first is twilight, the second moonlight.

The lack of light does seem to bother a lot of people.  It doesn't really bother me, especially if I make sure to get out during the day and go for a walk.  Between the exercise and the daylight and the fresh air I don't seem to have a problem.  I actually have more trouble in the summer trying to sleep when it is light all night long.  If I wake up at 2 am and my brain sees light, it thinks it is time to get up and quite often doesn't want to be convinced otherwise.

This winter we had very little snow early in the winter.  It was quite a welcome change when it finally came!

But the reality is that it was too little too late.   The frost went so deep so quickly that many people have had problems with ice. The road crews spent a lot of time clearing ice off the roads rather than snow.  It's beautiful, but destructive.

Almost two weeks ago we had a water main break at camp and while fixing that, the lines froze at Alpine camp as well as the main line to the community.  It took 10 days to restore water to most homes with one that went to an alternate setup until summer when we can figure out how much additional damage there is to the line.  Fortunately the group at Alpine that weekend was a Russian youth group.  Most of the kids were not born in America where we are used to turning on the faucet and getting water.  They were amazed at how hard the maintenance guys were working to restore water to them.  "In Russia it could take a month or more."  They enjoyed the view up at Ranch camp where they went to take showers.  It was an interesting perspective!

We do have more snow now, enough to make it easier to enjoy winter activities.  The days are also getting longer quickly.  I sat in the sun for quite a while today editing pictures for this and the last post.


The longer days make it easier to get out and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors!

New York and the Alley cat

 I've still got quite a ways to go to catch up in blogging, but if things stay quiet enough, I might actually catch up by 2020! If things stay quiet – that's funny! I'd best go back to last fall and catch up on my trip back east to start.  This was the evening sky on the day I flew out.  Moonrise over Anchorage.

 I suppose I could also cut out Anchorage and still have a pretty picture, but I think half of the beauty to me is that you can hardly get away from the scenery in AK.  There are some dull places to be sure, but especially around where we are, there's more scenery than not.  It slaps you across the face no matter where you are, like at the airport, on the road in, walking out of Lowes or Walmart.  Ok, so I'll remove Anchorage now and see what you think.  The first one is still my fave.  It's my Alaska.

This visit to NY was mostly about visiting.  When my brother and his wife and kids invited me to come trick or treating, I jumped at the chance.  I didn't quite realize that it was for adults too!  The best part was little kids looking at my brother in awe!  There were a few that clearly thought it really was Batman!  His little sidekick sure was a hoot!  I've got to say though, I don't remember Batman ever having such a gorgeous woman by his side!

My niece also had a birthday while I was there.  Great timing!  Yes, it really was a New York kind of warm, not just Alaskan warm!  The kids really got into hitting the pinata!  Since it was her birthday, she got to choose for herself what she wanted to wear and may also have encouraged her little brother to follow suit. Gotta love it!

And like any kid, the wrapping is still half of the fun.  It's hard to see, but they are both stomping the bubble wrap.

Kids of all ages love to pop the bubble wrap!

While in NY I took a couple of side trips.  One of those was a driving trip to visit a few friends, one in Massachusetts where I only stayed for a couple of hours (too much visiting to take pictures in that short amount of time!), one in NY on the way home (with only a dead camera with me at that point) and a visit with one of my college roommates in Connecticut sandwiched in between (where the only camera I had with me at that point proceeded to die).  Despite what it looks like, I really seemed to be camera-challenged on this trip.  I took two point and shoot cameras with me and still managed to be without on a number of occasions!  First I left one at my brother's house, then I left the other there (taking the first one with me).  Then one of them died permanently, though I didn't know it was permanent at the time.  *sigh*  Good thing I got SOME pictures!  I confess that I was a bit bummed that this one was so over-exposed, especially since it was one of the few I was able to get in CT before the camera died.  I had a great, relaxed time hanging out with Michele, Geoff and their kids and of course Lucy!

I was so blessed to have my nephew fly up from Florida for Thanksgiving.  It's not that often that I get to see him any more and always a great time.  We got to spend a day at the Corning glass museum which was cool in it's own way, but even more cool seeing the technological advances with someone who uses that stuff on a daily basis.

Most of us-es.  My older brother already had commitments that he had to keep or he'd have come for Thanksgiving too.  Five out of six is pretty cool though, especially since we almost lost my dad not that long ago!

 I also got to visit with another niece and her little girl and then Rodney's sister brought another niece's kids over until we had quite a roomful of energy!  Such fun, but hard to capture in pictures!

I also flew down to North Carolina to visit a friend there.  She lives very close to Duke University where her son works so we spent one afternoon walking around in the gardens there.  Gorgeous!  I had a great time catching up with her and catching a bit of the flavor of Durham.  The temperatures were quite lovely there too!

The trip wasn't all play and no work.  I had a bunch of doctor appointments squeezed in between the visiting.  Here's the after-effect of my visit to the freeze-happy dermatologist.  If I ever go on a tanning rant, this is why.  If these aren't enough, I have more graphic pics of the surgery a number of years back. Public service announcement over.  ;)

This year when I got to NY there was one major change in my parent's household.  They got a cat.  Not just any cat, but an adult cat named Alley.  The name ought to have tipped them off if "cat" didn't.  When they took her to the vet the first time, he asked them if she had any bad habits because most people don't give up older cats unless they have bad habits.  They assured him that she had none.  My parents got a brand new couch.  As in, no one had even sat on it yet kind of new.  Guess who claimed it hours after it arrived?

And not just claimed it, but dominated it!  No room left for anyone else to sit!

 The funniest one though was the day I walked in the bathroom and saw the cat sitting on the toilet seat getting a drink!  Nooooooooooo bad habits here!  I was a bit slow with the camera - it's not like I carry one on me to go to the bathroom.

But the silly beast adores my parents so I guess she has at least one redeeming quality.   When I left they were trying to figure out how they were going to take her with them to Florida for a couple of months!  She definitely rules the roost!  She and her Basset alter ego Ellie have a lot in common!

That bag had yarn in it before her Highness commandeered it.

So did that bag. 

Goofy beast!  Oh yeah, so she has another redeeming quality:  entertainment.  In that first cat picture you can see her collar dangler.  That's a magnet.  It opens her door so she can go in and out as she pleases, but none of the neighbor cats can follow.  That magnetized collar provides hours of entertainment too.  Out of the blue you'll hear a "click" or a "clank" or a "clunk".  Depending on her whereabouts or the sound it makes, my parents can tell what the magnet has stuck to - things like the metal strip on the drywalled corners, the metal bin next to the wood stove, the fridge...  Hours of entertainment.  No, it doesn't make me want a cat, but I sure found it entertaining while I was there!

Morning commute

Morning commute