Happy Marmot’s Day

In the Lower 48 today is Groundhog Day, but up here in Alaska it’s Marmot‘s Day. We like winter – nothing beats some nice snow and crisp temps so we can get out on the snow shoes or cross-country skis, or up on the logging roads on snowmobiles, or on the slough with ice skates if we get a long enough cold snap. Did the Marmot see his shadow today? I’m not sure – there aren’t that many hours of daylight to make a shadow. But as long as there’s some snow and sunshine, it’s okay if he did see his shadow.

We FINALLY (pronounced with great drama) got some snow and a couple of cold clear days – proper winter weather! So far, most of this winter has been ceaseless rain and moderate temps – useless for getting outside to play. But when the snow flies and the sun shines…

Devil’s Thumb mountain

…it can be magical. Fortunately the temps dipped down below 20F, so hoar frost started to form. The kettle ponds that dot the muskeg (Alaskan word for bog) freeze over so there’s no danger of falling in, and the frost makes beautiful patterns.

Kettle pond and Petersburg Mountain
Close up of hoar frost patterns on the ice
Super close-up of ice crystals

The views from the top of the hill above town were spectacular – I could see the water of Wrangell Narrows as well as Frederick Sound and the Coastal Mountains. Our red church spire was all that rose above the trees around town.

As much as the wide view was grand, the hoar frost kept distracting me. I tromped around the muskeg on snow shoes most of the afternoon, captivated by millions of glittering crystals.

Tiny twig with hoar frost crystals
Notice the crystal structure!

In the photo just above, you can really see the angular shape of the crystals. This is just 24 hours’ of formation – if we get temps that persist in the 20s or below, those crystals would continue to grow. Sadly, the temps warmed up a bit and the hoar frost was a fleeting gift. But still… the panorama was lovely, and you can see the tracks where someone headed off towards the NW on skis.

January has been a difficult month, with too much sad news from family and friends. Jim’s Dad passed away at 96, living life to the absolute fullest. And we know too many people who are battling serious illnesses at ages too young to comprehend. It teaches us to savor every day, every smile, each thing of beauty. And so we do, because sometimes it’s all we can do.

Each day the light disappears behind the mountains, but we know with certainty that it will return again tomorrow.