Friday, April 28, 2017

Last time out...

After finishing the bridge deck (All decked out...4/25/17), there were still lot's of debris from the demolished deck and unused lumber to haul back. The snow machine sled is really my trail groomer with some metal strips bolted to one side to act like skis. While it works OK on hard packed trails, the warm weather (it's been up nest fifty most afternoons), made for soft, sloppy trails. So after almost getting stuck a few times hauling loads back, finally was forced to use one of the dog sleds. These have plastic runners that glide well on the wet snow and patches of exposed ground, and the toboggan bed keeps it from sinking in. Of course it's not designed to haul lumber and hooks on with a rope hitch, so it tends to slam into the back of the machine on down hills. Not a good thing for sled longevity.
Fortunately, we had a light frost in the morning, so the trail was somewhat frozen. It was a slow trip down, stopping a lot to make sure the sled handle bars cleared the trees that were leaning into the trail. But made it there, loaded the sled and headed back quickly, while the trail was still frozen, if only slightly. The trip back was uneventful, kind of anticlimactic after the last few days of hurrying to get the bridge deck finished before the snow was gone.
The dog sled came in pretty handy to haul out the last load.

This may be the last blog post for awhile. Got lots to do before we head out of town in a few weeks and not sure if anybody reads this stuff anyway. Maybe later will have something worthwhile to write about. So here's a final photo, the pond near the bridge just after the creek started to flow, already filled with water. Just the day before it'd been dry, covered with snow. Spring always amazes me at how fast things change.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

All decked out...

Back in the day, the bridge over the creek in the valley behind our place washed out (Bridge Work 4/30/09). It caused a hassle running dogs, since the banks are 6-8 feet high and the creek frequently overflows. I got in the habit of building ramps by shoveling lots of snow After a few years, a local trapper dropped a bunch of trees on the trail in the vicinity of the creek, then went on vacation. So that 's what got me involved, just clearing up his mess and then doing the log work to turn the pile of logs into a timber framed bridge. My neighbor offered to help out with the deck. When I went to see how he was doing. the bridge already had a deck. While I appreciated all his hard work, he used a bunch of oriented strand board (OSB) he had apparently gotten from the dump. Now I know that OSB has taken over a lot of the uses of plywood, but it's not really good for decking, since it readily soaks up water. Over the years, it's been deteriorating, sagging between the log joists. I tried waterproofing it with some old wood preservative stain, but it didn't seem to help. What really doomed the deck was it became a regular part of the local moose trails. While they seldom use it in the winter, the moose apparently cross the bridge in the summer, often punching holes through the soggy OSB. The last few years I spent a lot of time patching holes in the deck. So when I went to shovel off the bridge this spring, it was obvious that the deck was now beyond patching. As much as I didn't want to take on a new project, I wound up spending the last week or so re-decking the bridge.


Forgot the camera the first few trips so don''t have shots of the old deck. It was so full of holes, it reminded me of the pictures of Bosnia during the Serbian war. The pile on the left is the old decking. The strip down the middle is the new plywood, ripped into two foot widths to make it easier to haul with the Ski Doo..

Wound up narrowing it up a bit before re-levelling and straightening the logs.


The finished deck. The project was largely completed with scrounged material. The main expense was gas for the Ski Doo and chainsaw and aspirin and vodka for my sore back.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Iron Dog 2...

When the old Ski Doo wouldn't start, it was a setback to my wood cutting plans, since this is the time of year when the trees that fall along the dog trail get bucked up and hauled back (Iron Dog 4/19/09). The local dealer no longer stocks parts for a machine that old, so had to order them from a place in Vermont. Took a week to get here and then a few days to install it. The ignition coils mount underneath the oil tank in a space so small you can only get two fingers in there. I was able to get one bolt fastened, but not the other. Fortunately, Andy offered the services of her long thin fingers, she was able to get the second bolt threaded, so then it was just a matter replacing the plug wires, caps, and spark plugs. It started first pull, so that was pretty good, since I wasn't sure if the coils were the problem.  So then was able to go over the hill, buck up some wood and haul it back. The main problem now is that while snow is melting fast on the south side of the ridge, on the north side, there's still almost two feet of snow on the ground, which makes it harder to find and cut up the downed trees.

The old Ski Doo hauling the wood home. Like me, it's getting older and slower, but still gets the job done.


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Last dog run?...

After a week of warm weather, it cooled off, clouded over, and dumped a couple inches of snow. While this will delay spring and all the changes it brings, it also means it's time for one more dog run.

Even though the trail out of the yard was soft and punchy, it was still winter in the valley.

The younger dogs ran great this winter and should be a solid team next year.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Signs of spring...

After an unusually cold March, April has started off quite warm with some firsts:
Been up to 50 for a few days now, the first since last October. 
The first time we've seen gravel since last fall.

And the first time the old Ski Doo wouldn't start. Waiting on parts to replace the ignition coils.

And here's the March weather summary:
Fairbanks had a mean monthly temperature of -3.0°F, a significant 14.4°F below normal. Third coldest on record, only seven of the 111 monthly average temps for March have been below zero. The highest temperature for the month was 48°F occurring on the 31st, while the lowest was -39°F on the 8th.
Precipitation was 0.17”, 0.08” below the normal of 0.25”. Snowfall was measured at 3.5”, 71% of normal, 1.4” below the expected 4.9”. Average snow depth was higher than normal at 26 inches at the end of the month. The highest wind speed was 25 mph from a northeasterly direction on the 15th, while the average wind speed was 3.0 mph.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Nugget of a trip...

Years ago Andy and I tried to get to a state parks cabin in the Chena Recreation Area. We never made it in, a combination of encountering overflow on the river and then following the wrong trail. So getting to the cabin became something of a quest. After checking out the the river crossing and confirming the route (Circuitous ramblings on pi day 3/15/17), finally made it to the cabin with my friend Bill.

Heading down the trail.

The dogs parked at the cabin.


The elusive Nugget Creek Cabin (photo courtesy of Alaska Div. of Parks, since I forgot to take one). It was kind of anti-climatic after waiting all these years to finally get there. It's just an old, kind of run down trappers cabin that the state appropriated, made a few improvements, and then rents it as a  "cozy log cabin with 3 platform bunks on the banks of the South Fork Chena River". The trail in is quite circuitous and could use some realignment(s), but we made it in and out with no serious crashes and the dogs ran great, so like they say,  it just don't get much better than that.
More information on the Chena Recreation Area at:  http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/cabins/north

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Circuitous Ramblings on Pi Day

Yesterday was pi day, no not apple, cherry or strawberry rhubarb, but the number pi, 3.1417. Surprised not more was made of it, since it matched our calendar date out to four places this year. But maybe the math nerds are too busy with computer games and/or hacking Facebook or whatever.
Andy and I went out to the park (Last Ride?...10/1/16) to check out some of the trails for a sled dog trip. We've had problems there in the past running into overflow and open water at the river crossings, so we decided to ski in to check it out before bringing the dogs. Back in the day, we did a lot of cross country skiing, winter camping and the like, but hadn't done that in years. When we got into running sled dogs, the skis just languished in the tool shed.

All geared up for the big adventure.


These older wooden skis require waxing. Unfortunately I guessed wrong on the wax, so had lots of grip but no glide. At least I never fell down, likely was stuck fast to the trail, so that's something


Monday, March 6, 2017

February Summary...

Here's the ever popular NWS summary for February:

February 2017 was warm and very snowy with 23.3 inches of snow falling at the Fairbanks airport. The 23.3 inches of snow that fell was 15.2 inches above the normal snowfall of 8.1 inches and ranked as the 6th snowiest February of 106 years of record. Season to date snowfall now totals 78.4 inches as of the 1st of March and is 22.1 inches above the normal season to date snowfall of 56.3 inches. Only 9 other winter seasons have had more snow through the end of February. Snow depth at the Fairbanks airport peaked at 34 inches on the 26th before settling to 32 inches. This is the greatest snow depth at Fairbanks since April of 1993.

The average temperature was 0.7 degrees which was 2.0 degrees above the normal average temperature of 1.3 degrees below and ranked as the 50th warmest of 109 years of record. The warmest temperature during the month of February was 35 degrees above on the 14th and the lowest temperature was 41 below which occurred on the 12th. 

Looking forward to March the temperature climbs sharply as the sun angle and length of day increases. The average daily maximum temperature increases from 18 degrees above on the 1st to 34 degrees on the 31st. The average daily minimum temperature increases from 9 below on the 1st to 8 above on the 31st.

March is on average the driest month in Fairbanks. Normal precipitation is 0.25 inches while normal snowfall is 4.9 inches. In some years the snow pack begins to melt out by late March.

Possible sunshine increases by nearly 7 minutes per day during March,  from 10 hours and 11 minutes on the 1st to 13 hours and 33 minutes on the 31st.


Here's the temperature chart for the winter so far:


What's interesting, to me at least, is the almost cyclical temperature variability this winter. It seems like every ten days to two weeks there's a major shift from warm to cold and then back again. And every warm spell from Decembers on, we got a pretty decent dump of snow. Not a big weather guru, but it seems we haven't had a weather pattern like this since 1990-91 when we set the all time record for snowfall at over 148 in (that's almost four meters to the French).

Another sun dog screen shot from the UAF/GI climate site. If it looks cold, it's cause it is. Been down to thirty below most nights this past week. Where's spring when ya need it!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Snow and more snow...

While February normally has the second lowest snowfall (next to March), this year is different. We've had, according to the NWS, 17 inches of snow this week,  almost two feet for the month, and 72 inches this winter so far  (that's almost two meters to the French). To those not from Alaska, this might not seem like much, but it is when you're running out of places to push it.

The piles next to the driveway are getting too high for the loader. Must be time for a bigger tractor!

Another job well done, at least until the next dump of snow.
Photos courtesy of Andy, who thought the blog needed some tractor porn!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Sunny Daze

The one thing I've noticed about these digital cameras is that they seem to need a lot more light to get a decent photo, compared to the older film type cameras. I guess this is maybe a throwback to those who don't know what a kodak camera is, but anyway, the sun was out on the last dog run, I remembered the camera, and the sky and snow don't look gray. So no matter where yah go there yah are...
Heading through the clearing on a new trail. State forestry bulldozed this area to create a fire break about ten years ago. 
Missy takes a turn up front with Jabba . Obi looked like he needed a break, so she got some training in lead. Down to a five dog team now that Barney, Polar, and Spuds are all retired.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Sign of the Beast...

Woke up the other day and saw this on the indoor/outdoor thermometer:
I figured it must be a sign of the end of times.  (According to Wikipedia, 666 has become one of the most widely recognized symbols for the Antichrist and the number is purportedly used to invoke Satan). Then I remembered the T-Rumpster was president and that confirmed it.
But when the world didn't end that morning, figured the best thing to do was go run some dogs.
Heading out on a new section trail; rerouted due to some major overflow  (aufeis) on the main trail.
Taking a break on the way home. Obi and Jabba have really blossomed as leaders now that Barney's retired. They act like a couple of clowns, chasing each other around the dog yard, but go figure, they're doing great leading the team. You just never know until you put'em up there.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

January Summary...

National Weather Service summary for January for Fairbanks, AK

A very cold airmass moved over the interior during the second week of the month and as skies cleared, temperatures plummeted. Fairbanks experienced its first 40 below since 2015. The temperature continued to drop and the next day the temperature dropped to 51 below at the Fairbanks Airport. This was the first 50 below or colder day since 2012.  There have been three days so far this year when the temperature has reached 40 below or colder. The average temperature was 9.5 below which ranked as the 54th coldest of 109 years of record.

Seventeen inches of snow fell during January at the Fairbanks Airport which was 6.7 inches above the normal January snowfall. This ranked as the 20th snowiest in 107 years of record. Season to date snowfall is now 55.1 inches which is 6.9 inches more than normal.

Looking forward to February, the average maximum temperature increases from 3 degrees above on the 1st to 17 degrees above on the 28th. The average minimum temperature increases from 16 degrees below on the 1st to 10 degrees below on the 28th. The average snowfall in February is 8.1 inches. Available sunshine increases from 7 hours and zero minutes on the 1st to 10 hours and 4 minutes on the 28th.

The outlook for Fairbanks in February from the Climate Prediction Center calls for near normal, temperatures and precipitation.

The main thing that struck me about this winter so far, besides how freakin' cold the forty below spell was, is how often it's snowed. Since late November, it seems like I'm out on the tractor an awful lot, at least compared to the last couple of winters. So one thing I really appreciate this year is having the rear blade hooked to hydraulics.  When we first got the tractor, it had a manual rear blade. To change to angle. you had to remove the clevis pin, push the blade to desired angle, and re-insert the pin. But you couldn't see it very well, since the pin and keeper were underneath the center support, so you had to either crawl underneath it to see it, or take off your gloves and do it by feel. I usually did the latter, my hands near freezing by the time it was done. So when my neighbor Bert offered to help convert it to hydraulics (Hydro Rear 1/23/13), well that was a pretty good deal.

So now every time I'm out plowing and have to change the angle on the rear blade, I appreciate the fine job he did,  making the work a little easier and keeping my hands a whole lot warmer.