Sunday, November 9, 2008

Borealis times two

The aurora borealis dances above the Borealis cabin in the White Mtns

Silence.... I am always surprised how the complete lack of sound can be so loud. It doesn't quite make sense when I rationally contemplate the physics of it. A winters night in a cold and windless valley in Alaska radiates a silence so powerful that it is difficult to describe. A silence that makes you stand completely still and struggle to absorb some sort of distance vibration traveling through the atmosphere - a breeze rustle a branch, ice expanding on the river, an owl hooting, a jet flying miles overhead, a lone wolf howling at the moon. In the end the only conscious sound that I hear is that of the blood being pumped within my body and pulsing through my arteries and veins.

I was just reminded of the deafening sound of silence during a jaunt with Ann out into the White Mountains north of Fairbanks. Ann and I ventured 20 miles out to the Borealis cabin on the frozen shores Beaver Cr over the weekend. We were last here in May shivering in the early morning sunshine as we stumbled out of our packrafts during an overnight traverse in the endless twilight.

Ann frosted over as she radiates heat into the -20F(-30C) arctic air.

The entire forest was cloaked with a bouquet of hoar frost crystals that shimmered in the mid-day sunshine.

Two inch long crystals were delicately clinging to everything exposed to the atmosphere.

Slapping more kick-wax on my skis - grasses and sticks protruding through the snowpack quickly peeled the wax from my ski base. The low lying boggy areas still need some more snow before the tussocks are entirely covered and the trenches in between are completely filled in.

Peering out of the cabin before we ski back to civilization.

The high noon sun gradually drops closer and closer to the horizon as we head toward winter solstice and a few meager hours of sunshine each day.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Back into the Whites

Dan studies a trail junction sign in the White Mtns

A whole new world opens up as winter descends upon the north and rivers, lakes, and the swampy lowlands freeze-up. Areas that were nearly impassable in the summer months are easily accessed as a blanket of snow accumulates on the landscape. This means that a whole network of winter-only trail systems come to life as dog mushers, snow machiners and skiers explore the countryside. Dan and I made our maiden voyage of the winter to a cabin on one of these trails up in the White Mountains this weekend.

Mashed potatoes by candle light in the Moose Creek cabin

Curtains of northern lights gracefully move across the sky. The aurora was quite nice when I got up to relieve myself in the middle of the night. I will forever revel in the novelty of seeing at least some auroral activity on most clear nights during the winter months.

Dan and Sky depart the Moose Creek cabin