The swans are in Paxson. I bet they are surprised by the four feet of snow on the ground. Friday night they will get another big surprise if it actually hits the 30 below that is in the forecast. It is hard to believe it is almost mid-April. In Kotzebue, Kobuk 440 mushers got a dose of Alaska reality when a nasty ground blizzard obliterated the trail and visibility.
All who spent their recreation time out-of-doors, should by now realize that Alaska has seven months of winter and five months of fall. We had friends from Wisconsin visit last year, and they left believing that Alaska “summer” is a myth. Who in the heck likes summer anyway?
If you think that June is a great month; try walking or even four-wheeling from Eureka to Maclaren River. The mosquitoes will eat you, the swamps will sink you, and the brush will defeat your ATV. The same trip could be accomplished this weekend in five or six hours of pleasant riding.
Honestly, this year is providing some of the best snowmobiling of the past decade. Last winter gave us excellent riding conditions. This season has been as good — and the snow is hanging in there. Fairbanks had record-breaking snow this past weekend. Some locations received over twenty inches. Total snowfall in the Fairbanks area this winter has reached ninety plus inches. That ranks in the top ten snowiest years in Interior history.
The snowpack has not begun to melt. The coming week will bring warmer temperatures, but the mid-thirties won’t damage our snow much. Expect two or three more weeks of decent snow-machining. At the risk of dating myself, I remember a few really snowy years on the Denali Highway.
One year, in the seventies, the Paxson Highway crew had begun to plow the Denali Highway during the third week in April. They stopped for the weekend and left their equipment at Mile 7. It snowed and blew like crazy Friday and Saturday. I came out from the trapline to check the progress on the Highway on Sunday afternoon.
I came around 7-Mile corner and spotted a can sitting on the snowdrift. I attempted to kick it loose as I ran by on my machine, and about broke my foot. What I thought was a tin can — was the top of the exhaust stack on a 988 loader. You can imagine it took a few days to get that equipment dug out and working.
Cold and snowy it may still be, but the birds are arriving only slightly behind schedule. There are already snow buntings on the Slope. Longspurs are in Delta. As of April 8, I have not heard of any geese in the Interior. The odds are that there are a few in Delta Junction; invisible in the blowing snow.
Spring bear hunters will benefit from excellent riding conditions that should allow backcountry travel into early May. Ice fishermen should also be pleased with the good snow cover that has kept lake ice to less than three feet on most lakes. April fishing is the best. Burbot are spawning. Lake trout are beginning to move a bit; (try eighteen feet of water). The stocked lakes, especially in the Delta Junction area, have decent snow cover. The lack of significant wind (significant wind in Delta is measured at over 50 mph), allows for good snowmachine traveling to lakes off of the road system. Rainbow trout and Char should be close to the base of the ice. When you drill through the ice, and water beetles are in your hole, fish a foot under the ice and good results will be with you.
Snow is a good thing if it is used properly. Without our great snow cover, April and May would be pretty dismal. Slush, mud and potholes can all be avoided if one leaves the highway. If you choose to travel on foot, opt for skis rather than snowshoes. Skis work well in sticky spring snow.
However one chooses to use it; take advantage of the snowpack while it is still in a useable state. The garage will have to be cleaned out in mid-May, Mosquitoes will rule June, crowds will swarm the rivers in July, and August weekends always rain out. After September hunting is done, all there is to do is wait for snow.