Friday, February 02, 2007

Hoary Marmot Day

While the rest of the US, excepting Hawaii of course, celebrates groundhog (Marmota monax), we in interior Alaska have to settle for the hoary marmot (Marmota caligata). No doubt they will not make an appearance because they are in deep hibernation now. I suppose we could root one out of its den to see if it could see a shadow, but it would probably curl up and sleep some more, or perhaps go into shock.

Whatever the outcome, Groundhog's Day signifies a number of thresholds for us. Winter is now half over, with the solstice 6 weeks behind us and the spring equinox 6 a little over weeks ahead. We have 7 hours of daylight and are approaching 10 hours of usable light. At this level, you no longer really crave the sun. And speaking of which, at our household we actually get to see the sun rise over the hill for the first time since late October. Soon its light bathes our north-sloping property for several hours a day.

This is also the time of year when temperatures moderate. It actually arrived a couple weeks early this eary. Ten days ago, we were in the depths of yet another cold snap. A week ago Thursday, it was -12 below at noon, and I figured that would be too cold to coach Jr. Nordics, but lo! at 4:30 in the after noon we were at +2, and by 6:30 we had +6. We've since basked in 20s and 30s--freaky for this early in the year.

No doubt that we'll have have another six weeks of winter. Hope so, because like Joe Namath once you get through mid-January you can't wait till tomorrow, because the skiing gets better every day.


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