Living in the wilderness – tracks tell you who is there
When we moved to Alaska, we rented a house out in Goldstream, in the subskirts of Fairbanks. In this area, houses are at least 200 yards apart, typically built on a clearing of a 20 or more acres property. The Goldstream Valley is covered by discontinuous permafrost. Thus, trees grow low in height and most properties are dry cabins rented out to students, outdoor enthusiasts, environmentalists, and low income young couples. Dry cabins have no running water, but WiFi. Typically, they have an outhouse and you have to carry a Styrofoam toilet-seat to not freeze with your bum to the toilet when using it at temperatures in the double digits below freezing (-4F, -20oC).
The house we had rented was halfway up on a hill with a view into a small tree-covered valley with a little creek that we couldn’t see. Despite there are houses downhill, we couldn’t see they from the property. In the cold season, we could barely see the house uphill or the next house at same height as the one we lived in. In the warm season, birches and alders totally hide them. Thus, when we moved in, it was like moving somewhere in the middle of nowhere. A typical European would call this area wilderness pure. But the area is considered to be the outskirts of Fairbanks. 🙂
Animal tracks around the house
When you are a regular reader of this Focus Alaska series, you know that I wasn’t excited about renting this beautiful house. One reason was it’s being so far away from work and the wilderness around it. Thus, one of the first things I bought was a little booklet by Chris Stall called Animal Tracks of Alaska.
While living out there, I always compared the tracks I found in the snow to figure out what is sneaking around the house. The most common tracks were those of moose, squirels, and ravens. I once saw the tracks of a lynx, wolverine, and gray wolf in the snow. I never saw the tracks of the two grizzles that roamed the area for several weeks. Today I regret never having taken photos of the tracks I had found. At that time, I was only interested in the tracks for security reasons. We had no dogs so I always was a little worried when being outside for snow removal, and alike.
We finally moved out in 2005. In early January 2005, we had been cut off the roadnet due to heavy snow storm and no plowing during school winter closure. Furthermore, in July 2004, a dry thunderstorm was over the area during the record 2004 wildfire season. There is only one small dirt road out of the neighborhood. If a lightning strike ignites a wildfire down the road, you will be lucky when you still can get out off the area.
Even in town there is wildlife
At the new place, neighbors are less than 50 yards away. You would expect that I now barely find any tracks. The opposite is true. Neglecting dog tracks, again the most often tracks are from squirels and moose. But now I also see a lot of duck, snow-hare, and vole tracks. Sometimes there are tracks of ravens. While I haven’t seen owl tracks, we saw owls in our yard on my birthday this summer. The owls didn’t even fly away when we took outfit photos!
Because of the moose tracks I always look around when I want to step out of the house from June to March or so. I want to avoid to get between a cow and her calf/calves by accident. The hooves of a moose are very dangerous. There are many reports of moose cows having killed people when the cow felt they endanger her kid(s).
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A posh chic outfit for frigid-cold days
Last week, we had our first notable cold snap of this winter. Temperatures went in the double digits below zero Fahrenheit (colder than -23.3oC). Thus, adding layers, wearing wool socks and long underwear were a must. I wore this outfit for Casual Friday.
Do you have snow in winter? If so, do you look for tracks in the snow? Do you take photos of them? What do you wear to stay warm on frigid-cold winter days? Let me know your winter style challenges by email, so I can help you.
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Photos: G. Kramm
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