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Friday, February 1st - The Wildlife Loves My Yard

"Away in a meadow all covered with snow
The little old groundhog looks for his shadow
The clouds in the sky determine our fate
If winter will leave us all early or late."
- Don Halley

Most of us don't celebrate Groundhog Day here in Alaska. Our marmots are fast asleep in underground dens and they won't come out until April or May. An early spring for us would be having above freezing temps in March. We did have that a couple of years ago. It warmed up to nearly 40 and stayed warm for more than a week. The ice sculptures began melting, and the festival ended earlier than planned. But generally, spring won't arrive until sometime in April or May. We've got a ways to go, whether or not Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow in Pennsylvania.

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Sunday, February 3rd - Junior Yukon Quest

Yesterday, Steve and I went downtown for the start of the Junior Yukon Quest race. The race is 135 miles long and starts and ends in downtown Fairbanks, under the Cushman Street bridge. The junior mushers race from Fairbanks to Twin Bears Recreation Area and back. There is a mandatory eight-hour rest at Twin Bears. Then, the mushers return to North Pole, where dog drivers must lay over four hours before proceeding to the finish line back in Fairbanks. Mushers were evaluated for their camping and dog care skills in North Pole.

At 11:44am this morning, the local favorite - Ava Lindner, age 17, of Two Rivers (and the daughter of 1984 Quest champion Sonny Lindner) - crossed the finish line with all ten of her dogs.

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Thursday, February 7th - "Cold! If the thermometer had been an inch longer we'd all have frozen to death." ~ Mark Twain

The temperature took a huge nosedive after Saturday's Junior Yukon Quest. By the way, Yuta Takagi - the only musher who hadn't crossed the finish line when I last posted - finally arrived back in Fairbanks at 9:14pm with only 5 of his original 10 dogs. I don't know what problems he ran into, but I was glad to read that he made it home OK. It was a great race, and I only wish that the temperature would have stayed in the -10F range.

Monday morning, a glance at the outdoor thermometer made me do a double take. The needle was at -45F, and it pretty much stayed near there all day long. When it's that cold, I don't leave the house unless I absolutely have to. It was easy to slip into hibernation mode. I pulled on fleece lounging pants and warm socks, and grabbed Steve's "woobie" (an army poncho liner) from the closet. I wrapped myself in it and spent the day watching TV, surfing the internet and copying videos from our video camera to my laptop.

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Monday, February 11th - 2008 Yukon Quest

Before we went to bed on Friday evening, Steve and I hoped that we would wake to something warmer than the -45F we've had for the past week. No amount of wishing and hoping made it come true unfortunately.

Because I wanted to be downtown for the race by 10:30am, and we had to stop at the PO on the way, we planned to leave the house at 9:45am. This means we started getting dressed to go out in the arctic freeze 30 minutes earlier. Polypro, wool, liner socks and gloves, fleece, vests, scarves, hats, arctic mittens, parkas, boots. We were both sweating when we got in the truck to leave.

The temperature in the truck read -40F when we left North Pole. I worried about how my camera, and our video camera, would fare. I made sure to tuck a few extra batteries in one of my mittens, knowing that the cold would zap the one in my camera quickly.

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Saturday, February 16th - This and That

We had a much needed warm up for a couple of days. In fact, a few days ago, the temperature jumped from -46F to 2F above zero overnight - a warm up of 48 degrees. What a treat! I joked with my family in PA that 2F was practically 'flip flop weather' after more than a week of deep freeze. I even went out of the house wearing my regular winter coat, and not my parka. Very nice! I remember the winter that Steve was deployed. It was late February or early March, and we had a warm-up to nearly 30 degrees. The night before, snow fell. I was outside shoveling the next afternoon, wearing only a t-shirt, and I was perfectly comfortable. Only in Alaska.

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Tuesday, February 19th - A much needed warm-up, and friends visit from Homer

The weather lately has been wonderful. Today, in fact, we reached a high of 39F. It's 35F as I type this at 7:30pm. While this is great for the mood, it's not going to be so great for driving when everything refreezes.

Just after my last entry, I received an email from our friends Chris and Ken Day - owners and guides with Emerald Air - that they would be in Fairbanks this past weekend with friends visiting from Texas. As luck would have it, Steve was off from work this weekend, so we were all able to meet up. They arrived in town on Saturday night, and we made plans to meet at Pikes Landing for the Champagne brunch on Sunday. Pikes is always a great choice, and we particularly love their Sunday brunch with delicious breakfast foods as well as ham, prime rib, shrimp, salmon, halibut and a lot more. It's a good place to go when you're starving and wearing clothes with some give.

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Monday, February 25th - The warmth was nice while it lasted

Last Thursday, the thermometer rose to 44F above zero. Skies were a beautiful blue, and the sound of drip, drip, drip could be heard all around the house. We actually broke the record for the warmest February 21st in history. It was lovely while it lasted, and made spring fever even more intense.

By Sunday, we were back to overnight lows that were below zero, but at least we were "warming up" to single digits. We have to stay below freezing so the ice sculptures don't melt too quickly this month! Speaking of the ice sculptures, the ice park officially opens tomorrow at 10am. As always, I'm very excited to see what the artists create this year.

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© 2008 Susan L Stevenson