Friday, December 21, 2007

The longest night of the year

Sunrise: 10:58 AM, Sunset: 2:40 PM, Length of Night: 20hr 18min

Time lapse photo of the sun as it makes a low arc across the southern horizon on Dec 21st over Fairbanks, Alaska. Each photo was taken about every 30 minutes. (Courtesy Todd Paris). I posted this photo again this year because its a really cool image. The steam rising in the foreground is the UAF power plant.

Its a time of celebration for many in the north because starting tomorrow the sun will gradually be climbing higher in the sky and the days will be getting longer. I have this unnatural passion for the winter and the dark, cozy December days. So this time of year there is a part of me that is always a little sad as we make the turn towards increasing daylight and the inevitable melting of snow and ice.

There were an abundance of parties and pagan gatherings taking place this evening. Brian and I wanted to escape the bustle of the city so we decided to spend solstice out at a cabin tucked back in the wilderness of the Chena Recreation Area east of Fairbanks. We skied to the Nugget Cr cabin under a nearly full moon and crystal clear skies. No headlamps were need because the moon illuminated the frosted boreal forest with almost as much light as the mid-day sun.

We arrived at the cabin around midnight and the small wood stove warmed us up after skiing for several hours in -20F temperatures. We spent the remainder of the evening drinking hot buttered rums, eating pizza, and telling stories. This cabin is quite rustic and has a lot of character. It was apparently built in the 1970's by some trappers. The state began maintaining it a couple of years ago and added it to the cabin network in the Recreation area.

The ski to this cabin is quite beautiful as you traverse along the base of rocky bluffs above the S. Fork of the Chena River for several miles.

Ouch! Only the very first section of trail had been snowmachined and we ended up breaking trail through a foot and a half of snow for over 5 miles. Somewhere along the way I ended up snapping my ski in half just behind my heal plate. I didn't notice it until we were getting ready to leave the following morning. Fortunately I made the 7.5 miles back to the truck limping along on my busted ski as it slowly disintegrated.

My friend Chris just finished a 4 month sauna building project and had christening party this afternoon. This was a great way to end the day after skiing. Chris is a sauna masochist. He fired it up to 220 scorching degrees Fahrenheit. It was unbearable as he splashed water on the stove and sent the heat index through the roof. The "real feel" must have been approaching 300F. I had to escape after I dropped to the floor gasping for air and as my skin began to singe. I am still trying to determine if this was a pleasureable experience or not...