Nature & Literature Blog
...more web cam archives
A grey day in February (2005-02-06 16:08:49)
Just another gray, wintery cold day in February. Ok so it's super bowl
and overcast, windy and about 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Out the window it's
disfunctionally wintery. The ground is white but the snow is useless for
anything except storing frozen water. Ever since the big thaw in early
January that didn't quite totally melt the snow, it has been like icy
concrete. You can't ski on it or make a snowball. It's hopeless. The gym
has become the place to go rather than out skiing in the fresh air.
snow in the forecast (2005-02-08 10:04:18)
The last measurable precipitation we had was over a month ago, the beginning
We keep hoping for snow. Maybe today will be the day. According to the
National Weather Service, "Today...Snow likely. Snow accumulation of up
to 2 inches. Highs in the upper 20s to mid 30s. North wind 15 to 30 mph
in the morning becoming light. " The roads are generally bare and dry,
great for driving. The trails are ice, weathered and pitted, but slick
all the same. To walk the trails around here you need stableicers (a rubber
footbead with flat metal "spikes" that fasten to your shoes) or something
similar. We've found the pricier velcro-attached stableicers are superior
to the rubberized pull-on versions which can get sucked off when 'post
holing' through deep snow or hiking steep and rough hillsides. On Super
Bowl Sunday (2 days ago) the Ski for Women held at Kincaid Park in Anchorage
became the "walk for women". According to the Anchorage Daily News (2/7/05)
"Even with no skis and almost no snow, the ninth annual Ski for Women
still paraded a wind-chilled, nordic Mardi Gras through the forest of
Kincaid Park on Super Bowl Sunday. To the squeaky, scratchy sound of ice
grippers and sneakers, more than 500 women and girls walked, trotted or
even ran over a 2.5-kilometer course marked by frost, gnarled ice, brown
grass and frozen gravel..." A clerk in Nordstroms agreed that "we need
snow" but added "we need it now, not in April or May." Absolutely.
snow at last (2005-02-08 17:54:47)
Snow at last.
Finally, today, the snow arrived, successfully blanketing icy trails and
driveways (watch out though they seem even slicker beneath the new snow)
and camouflaging the frozen mounds of dirty brown snow that had been piled
up in out of the way places, by intersections and the back of parking
lots. During the dry month of January (think arctic desert) the Matanuska,
a well known and dreaded local winter wind, carried glacial silt out of
the river channels into the air, silt that eventually filtered to the
ground, adding to dirt and grime thrown up by vehicles and particulate
fall-out from wood burning stoves. At least we don't have any major dirty
industrial pollutors in this land of clean natural gas energy. And for
now these piles of dirty snow are gone, hidden beneath a couple inches
of clean whiteness.
February is almost gone. Where's the snow? (2005-02-25
February slips by like days flowing out of a nozzle. Not quite the langorous
"dog days" of summer but one semi-winter day after another. The main reason
this is worth noting is because it is so warm. Is this just a blip in
the historic weather pattern or is it so significant that even the non-believers
must come around to believing in global warming, or at least polar warming.
I believe. I see winter after winter here, in southcentral Alaska, that
is too warm. And why, I ask, live in Alaska if you can't go skiing right
out your back door? If the snow (assuming there is snow) doesn't crunch
and slip under your feet, like dry beach sand? if there aren't crystal
clear, dark nights where the aurora paints across the sky. Or moon lit
nights where the hairs freeze inside your nose and the trees cast unseemly
shadows across the pale snowy landscape. And where there is lots of snow,
not rain and not dry clouds. Where are these experiences?
One lackadaisical low pressure system after another glides up out of
the gulf covering our patch of earth with insipid grayness and wind and
temperatures so warm it doesn't even occur to you to plug in your car.
What snow there is becomes "wet and squishy", alternating with "hard and
icy"--the two worst versions of snow for cross-country skiing. And the
roads and trails are too icy for running and if you thought you'd "run"
on the shoulder of a road then you'd probably be breathing (1) car exhaust
and/or (2) the cars are sluicing you with a brew of road slush and icy
water or alternatively stirring up clouds of dust (which you inhale)--think
heavy metals, chemical fertilizer and salt. Ick. And you shouldn't be
running on groomed cross-country ski trails either, the skiers will hate
Well there is Independence Bowl skiing...
Why does MEA want a power line through Crevasse
Moraine? (2005-02-26 11:27:17)
Since the Matanuska Susitna Borough is the fastest growing part of the
state, shouldn't we all work towards keeping the superb scenic and natural
values that are why many of us live here in the first place? Those scenic
values are at risk because Matanuska Electric Association (MEA) is determined
to run a power line along the section line through Crevasse Moraine trail
system and University land.
I run, hike and ski
on the Crevasse Moraine trails. I can tell you these trails are priceless
as they are. Step onto these trails and you feel like you have left a
populated area and are in a remote wilderness. You will not see off road
vehicles (ORVs) or people shooting or GIANT 90 foot tall power lines.
You can excercise and enjoy the outdoors, a perfect and accessible way
to relieve stress.
For some incomprehensible reason MEA is fighting the Borough and the University;
they claim the new hospital at the south end of Trunk Rd has to have more
power by early 2006 and the fastest, cheapest "legal" way for them to
get power there is to run 90 foot high towers down the section line, across
the cells of the landfill, through the Crevasse Moraine trail system and
across University land. (It has been reported that the hospital is ok
with it's plan for backup power for the time being, at least.)
You can probably tell from the name, "Crevasse Moraine", that these trails
are built on a bunch of Moraines. Moraines, of course, are those depositions
of old glacial silt, sand, and rocks left behind when a glacier recedes.
If you look at a high altitude photograph of this area you'll see that
the topography looks like the wrinkles on an elephant's neck, deep, steep
sided and wrapping around close to each other. A section line is, by definition,
straight. It's a line. If MEA builds their power line down the section
line they will be marking an invisible line (the section line) with a
high and visible line -- the power line. Visualize a line that ignores
the topography. Towers at the top of the moraines, high voltage wires
draping down across valleys and lakes.
Looking south along section line cleared by MEA
Looking north across a small lake, Talkeetna Mountains in background (visualize
those 90 foot towers).
Last fall when I was running I saw the surveyors brushing the section
line. Last week we walked through and saw they really had cleared a small
path down the section line, even though the borough has taken them to
court to try to stop them using this route through the pristine Crevasse
Moraine trail system.
What's the problem with this? Ninety foot towers will ruin the view and
change the character of this open land. We can expect there to be erosion
along the access road that will be cut through for construction and maintenance.
And we can expect ORV access to and use of this area. As the power line
access crosses established trails it will give ORV easy access to the
existing (non-motorized) trail system.
MEA is a cooperative. By definition we are members of this cooperative.
MEA is operating without a social conscience, as a bad-tempered child
determined to get their way and to avoid having a real and open public
It seems only reasonable that, before high voltage, tall towered power
lines are constructed there should be an open public discussion and process,
a verifiable demonstration of need, a cost/benefit study (looking at ALL
the costs and benefits) of suggested routes, and that special attention
should be given to 'utility corridor' routes that are acceptable to a
majority of the community.