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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Whooville Trees & First Tracks

For the past week or so it has been pretty dismal in town - temperatures in the 30's and rain. But it has been dumping down snow up high. Above about 700 feet we have received around 2 to 3 feet of new snow. And better yet - it's the heavy stuff that will not blow away.

Yesterday I went up with Dale N to find ptarmigan for the Audubon Christmas bird count. We did it 'old school Audubon' style with shotguns. Afterall, the only way to tell the difference between a Willow and Rock ptarmigan is if you have both in hand - and they are TASTY too. We saw 26 ptarmigan and 23 of those are still flying around. Jack Withrow will take the 3 we collected (sans meat) to UAF where biologists are trying to determine if Kodiak ptarmigan are genetically different from the Rock and Willow ptarmigan found on other Alaskan islands.

Anyway, it was dumping down snow and all the snow had weighed down all the spruce tree boughs. Dale commented that they looked like 'Whooville' trees - like the ones in a Dr Seuss book. I like the description - see top photo of Dale with shotgun and trees loaded down with snow.

Today I went up at dawn and had Pyramid Mountain to myself (bottom 2 photos). Nothing like first tracks after a big storm. I skied the North Bowl and it was good, but when I went home via the South Bowl it was spectacular. Sunny, warm, calm and no other tracks but mine. The kind of powder where the harder you bounced the deeper you sank (bottom photo). Unfortunately, the snow changed consistency in about 3 turns around 300 feet up from the road. Heaven to Hell in 3 easy turns. I did a serious face plant. Patrick

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