Time for the monthly “worse time of the year” statement – that is, of course, the opportunity for me to bitch about Alaska’s weather and exaggerate it compared to the rest of the year. Like usual, I am going to proclaim that “I really mean it, this is the worst time of the year”. But you have to know … this time I really mean it, this is the worst time of the year.
We are in what we call “Break-up” Season. The name comes from what happens on many of the rivers. They are frozen over, of course, but with warmer temperatures comes faster water coming from melting snows until the ice ‘breaks-up’ and frees the river from winter’s grip. On land, break-up is seen by ugly half-frozen snow drifts, continuous puddles of brown water, and potholes hiding in places that will eat your tires up (not to mention the coming out of a winter’s of Auggie’s backyard presents).
So, you may be thinking that it sounds bad but not like the rest of what could happen up in Alaska. Well, let’s do a little comparison. Mosquito season is an annoyance, but you can get repellent & sooner or later those buggers die. Rainy season is gloomy, but it just means you buy a good rain coat & there are some really nice sunny days in there. Winter is dark, but that’s why there are lights out. Winter is cold and can be harsh, but you can always buy heavier layers and there is a reason there are a lot of winter sports in Alaska. So basically, you can predict the conditions for the other season and / or be prepared for what comes. Break-up is unpredictable.
For starters, it happens when the temperature can’t make up it’s mind. Nice days are usually warm and in the 40s or 50s, then it goes back to freezing at night. So you may melt off half the snow in one day, but then have to deal with it all frozen in a puddle outside your door. When hiking in this weather, you can be on hard pack white, then step into mud a foot deep, then everything give way beneath you to the frozen ground. Some days, it’s like everything is dry and dusty. Some days, its like everything is covered in snow melt (read as, brown muddy water). There is no green yet, grass is still dormant, trees aren’t budding. All you are is faced with the changing days of winter turning to not winter.
But that’s just it! It’s NOT not winter yet.
Yesterday it was sunny and 55°F. Tomorrow Snow – accumulations of it, whatever that means. Then more snow this weekend maybe.
The worse part about break-up is that:
A) You don’t know how long it will last
B) You don’t know if this really is break-up or not break-up at all, and
C) You don’t know if there won’t be the need for another break-up
You only know there is miserable conditions not good enough for either winter or summer activities. So you are stuck to figure out whether or not to do anything at all.
So yeah … worst … time … of the year!
Until next month.