8 June 2013 2.30 PM 69 F Sunny
My last entry reminded me that I had failed in my duty to whine extensively about how dreadful break up had been this Spring. And you know how much I hate to disappoint, so here goes.
Some of you will doubtless be saying – oh how dull and predictable – but I prefer to think of it as solid, reliable and reassuring. Yes, break up was awful. The end.
Actually, looking back on it, it wasn’t as truly bad as it has been in previous years. We certainly had less snow – and we even still had a little of it left in sheltered corners at the end of May. So there wasn’t quite the same volume of water to be moved. However, lest you think it was all sweetness and light, I have to take this opportunity to correct that very false impression.
I think it would be safe to say that there is no such thing as a “normal” winter in Alaska. Nothing seems guaranteed except for an unpleasant Chinook driven thaw at some inconvenient point in January. True to form, this year we had an early, harsh , deep cold start to winter. November brought temperatures colder than anything we saw the rest of winter and the snow was late to arrive and initially rather scarce. Fortunately, plenty more did eventually fall and we enjoyed many wonderful days dog sledding in the very pleasant days of January and February – not a phrase you’ll hear used very often to describe those months.
The concern for Spring time with this weather pattern is the fear that those early deep frosts, without an insulating blanket of snow, got deep into the ground and that would mean that once the snow started melting, it would be unable to percolate downwards as much as we would like. Thoughts of raging torrents of meltwater cascading everywhere in the search of somewhere to disperse are always a concern, for water truly is an amazingly destructive force.
Fortunately, days of bright Spring sunshine and nights of freezing temperatures meant we were almost able to keep up with the daily melt, at least initially. And I have also finally figured out that actually pumping the water away before it is deep enough to paddle a canoe in, is a good thing. This year, I was more organised and had 4 pumps running in different spots and that made a huge difference. I did feel a little sorry for our friends and neighbours whose yard is right next to ours, but ever so slightly downhill – so they get a lot of our run-off ………… let’s just say they could have done with that canoe to get into their dogs each day for a while. I know they were running 2 sump pumps each with a 20 gpm capacity, 24 hours a day, for nearly 2 weeks and they still had a knee deep lake at their gate.
By contrast, we seemed to go from snow cover, via a few days of punching through an icy crust, to a couple of days of swamp and then, voila – dry sand started appearing. The 6 Dog Pen is always the first to be worst – but equally it is also the first to give us hope that break up is not forever. Overall, the kennel fared pretty well this Spring, with the notable exception of The Girls’ Pen.
It suffers from being a late afterthought – most of the heavy construction machinery had left our place and we weren’t able to completely break up the clay layer and mix it with sand. This means the water really doesn’t drain away from that pen as you can see from the photos and it was still a pretty nasty mud hole long after everywhere else was back to looking like a beach.
The puppies really didn’t seem to care what the conditions were like during their walks and play times. They splashed through little rivers, swam across across puddles as deep as they were, rolled in the last of the snow and enjoyed digging in the newly appeared moss and mud.
So, break up remains my least favourite time of year in Alaska. By quite a large margin !