Well, yesterday was the first real snow. As in, snow that stuck. I was hoping it would disappear like the other little flurries we had, including snow the day before, but, alas, it was not to be.
It’s not much, but just enough to make my deck white. Granted, about half the snow that accumulated yesterday did melt. Now we are left with an icy, crunchy bit of snow that looks kind of pretty but is certainly not worthy of any type of snow activity. Usually in Fairbanks the first snow is the only snow that is good for snowballs and snowmen. The rest of the year, the snow is dry and won’t stick together to save your life. People Outside always seem surprised by that…but much of Alaska is technically desert. It’s dry here in the winter, despite the snow we get. It’s so dry that the manliest men are not embarrassed to have bottles of lotion sitting on their desks at work or to lather on the lotion after getting out of the shower. If they don’t, they run the risk of dry, itchy, cracked skin. Nosebleeds are common for some during these winter months, and I’ve already gotten bloody, cracked knuckles from picking berries outdoors.
But this morning I woke up to leftover snow from yesterday, and a different kind of visitor! We finally, after a month in our house, got our first moose in our backyard.
When we were living in Washington I enjoyed our location, a rural area where we saw all sorts of wildlife: bobcats, deer, rabbits, eagles, hawks, raccoons, cougars… But I have to admit, I did miss the moose. Even five years after leaving Alaska, I would find myself looking down power line easements for moose, only finding the occasional deer instead. I suppose some habits are so ingrained that you never really lose them. How long, I wonder, would it have taken me to lose that habit of looking for moose?
Since we’ve moved back, I’ve seen only a handful of moose. This perhaps marks my fifth, and most lengthy encounter with one. Only one of those five have I been endangered by, as a young bull losing his antlers decided to bolt across the highway as I drove past.
Those highway moose encounters are the scariest. Most people don’t realize just how large moose are. They are larger than horses, and weigh over half a ton. In a car accident between a moose and vehicle, I’d wager that most vehicles get totaled, and fatal injuries to both moose and human passengers are common. Despite their size, they can bolt out of the brush quickly, and their natural camouflage conceal them until their hooves hit the pavement. From fall to this time of winter (pre-snow), moose are most difficult to see on the sides of the road. In winter, the nights can actually be rather bright thanks to the clear skies, moon, and the reflective nature of snow. Because of this, the dark, large shape of the moose stands out.
Although I am not
much of a hunter at all, I am a biologist. Moose here are big. Very big. One moose will feed a family for a long time. Moose meat is good meat, and I grew up on it. Moose lasagna, moose spaghetti sauce, etc. Anything you can do with beef, you can do with moose meat. I’ve missed that about Alaska as well.
Too bad we aren’t residents this year and can’t go moose hunting. But, the thing about living in Alaska is that you usually have friends who go hunting and fishing every year. Often, they have so many fish and so much meat in their freezer that they physically cannot eat it all. They are more than happy to share the wealth, or exchange fish for moose or vice versa. Perhaps I’ll be able to exchange berries for meat? My parents keep us well supplied with fish thanks to my dad’s penchant for yearly dip-netting trips and salmon runs, so now just to find someone who’s bagged a moose this year…
Regardless, I realized this morning with our visitor that it’s a good thing I already spent so many nap times berry picking, because today would have been an entirely lost day with that moose out there, and the snow that continues to flurry.
So, I suppose this post marks an apt farewell to September, and a hello to both October and winter.