This is the first morning that I really have the feeling of getting up in the dark. This becomes such a normal part of the routine the winter, but here at the end of summer, it feels different. We are at the time of year that the amount of daylight changes at an astonishing rate. Things that are done on a schedule show off the changes in daylight, as I struggle to find lights I haven't needed in months. As I return people to their hotels after our evening tour I have to remember to turn on the interior lights and use not only my headlights but even the high beams on the ride back. It was 10:30 pm on August 14th the first time I saw the streetlights come on that mark the intersection of the Denali and the Parks highway. These are, by the way, the only two streetlights in Cantwell.
The darkness has allowed us to see Northern Lights again and there have been great displays this week. Max and I were watching them and he said to me, “I don’t hear any pops.” I think he must have mixed fireworks and Northern Lights together in his mind. How fortunate it is to see the natural and quiet fireworks.
Moose hunting season is upon us. I have such mixed feelings about it. Over the summer I have watched the moose. There have been a few I have seen on a regular basis. They have become strikingly beautiful. Their coats shining, a mixture between darker and lighter browns. Their extreme long legs are slender and give me the impression of teenagers wearing stretch jeans and high heals. While I have been enjoying observing these animals, I am also faced with the practical fact that we need one for food for the winter.
It is getting colder as well. We have had brilliant weather this last week, sunshine and clear skies. But with it have come the first frosts. The blueberries have gotten softer. I see so many I did not manage to pick. Out hiking yesterday, Max decided to put blueberries inside his peanut butter sandwich and we laughed at the way the bottom of his shoe had turned purple from walking on them. Along with the frosts the temperature has dropped into the 30s at night. We have started to use the wood stove on a more regular basis. We have been cutting, splitting, and stacking the wood for the winter. As I was driving back on the bus recently, I had the heat on high. And I thought to myself about how I could really have as much heat as I want on the bus. Since the heat is the byproduct of driving, it does not cost anything extra. And, so as long as it is just me onboard, I can make it as hot as I like. Here was a chance to escape my stinginess. I think there have been so many ways that I have had to learn to be frugal in the lifestyle I have picked. To afford dog food, I often have to choose things to go without. I turn out lights and choose not to turn on the heat unless we really need it. This is one way that the wood stove is such a treat. When heating with oil, I was always too much of a scrooge to really let it be warm in the house. With the wood stove the heat is inevitably higher, and there is no greater pleasure in the cold than a warm house.
The puppies are growing up so fast. I am proud to introduce the names of the I litter, from left to right Ichabod, Inmate, Irvin, Indy, Itch, Ivy, and Ice Cream.
And the J litter, Jackpot, Jingle, Juniper, Jersey, Jellybean, and Jamberry.
We are moving into the more serious training season for the dogs. The weather is becoming cool enough that the runs can get longer. Of course this is the time of year that summer weather is running out, and so is time to do all of the summer projects. All of us are looking for even more hours in the day to get it all done. I am so excited to watch the progress of some of the young dogs this winter. In particular, Mike has been impressed with Elvis and E-Street, Cannon and Carhartt. I am looking forward to seeing them grow as leaders and athletes over the winter.
Fall is my favorite time of year for landscapes. As we have watched the brilliant colors develop Max said, "Grandpa, take a picture of that beautiful color.” I am still impressed by his continued enjoyment of the scenery around where we live. Max has also discovered that you can blow fireweed seeds the same way that you can blow dandelion seeds.
Fall in Alaska is a short season. In just one week the leaves have all gone yellow and with a strong wind or rain storm they will fall. The snow is just around the corner. As Max and I were discussing how winter is coming, Max told me "Winter in Alaska isn't very long. You go to sleep and when you wake up in the morning, it's gone.” With all things from puppies, to fall colors, to toddlers, isn't that the truth.
Until next time, I hope you are having as much fun with your dogs as we are with ours.
Mike, Caitlin, and Max