Termination Dust above Seward – Photo by Michael Sharp
Alaskan lore says that termination dust “the first significant dusting of snow on the higher peaks” predicts the onset of winter in six weeks. The clock is ticking. We woke a few days ago to a heavy dusting just above Seward. The next day the first of the north winds started to blow, and blow they did. We had reports of gusts over 65 knots in the harbor, so we are heading back in to Prince William Sound. The north winds are a result of low pressure in the Gulf of Alaska and high pressure in the Arctic. These winds turn the fjords into wind tunnels. It seems that at this time of year, the NOAA and NWS forecasts wander into the realm of voodoo, sometimes strikingly accurate, sometimes completely wrong. After all we are in the North American weather factory. Here on the edge of the North Pacific Ocean and so close to the Bering Sea weather develops and changes quickly. What may be predicted as 20 knots out of the north quickly becomes 65!
One of the things I like the most about Alaska is the transition between seasons. I’m very excited to know we could be skiing by the middle of October. A few days ago we noticed that darkness is coming, mind you, that today the sun will set at about 8pm and it will be DARK at about 9pm. All you readers in the Lower 48, think about that for a moment, the last time you saw light that late was July!
As our time in Seward winds down, we think of the coming weeks. We are headed back to Valdez for a second winter of skiing and snow and hope to arrive in late October or early November. We have a very romantic ideal of waking to a foot of snow on the boat while snugly anchored in some cove, then finding our way back to the dock for the winter. I know it will be nothing like our romantic vision; it never is. Often it seems much more spectacular, rewarding and challenging than I could ever envision.
Another sign of fall and the impending arrival of winter is the Wonder Dog. Nisa has started growing her winter coat in earnest. She is convinced, and has a long history of being spot-on correct, that winter is on its way. She becomes fuzzier and fuzzier every day.
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