Snowboarding days

Snowboarder in Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska



hey Folks,


Well, “about time”, I’m sure you’re saying. I know I am. Sorry for the long-ish delay in posts here. I’ve been pressed for time the last few times I got to check my email, and then, out of nowhere, my internet people (the neighbors) have taken off for warmer climes. I usually ski over to their place once or twice a week and check email, etc, for the princely sum of about 7 bucks an hour,, and then ski home. Well, they’re gone for 6 weeks, so it’s a hassle. instead of a 3/4 mile trip, one-way, it’s about 5 miles. And then it’s a guess as to whether or not the internet service is actually working over there. Such is life in a cabin in the Alaska woods, I suppose.


First things first; all Alaska conversations at this time of year MUST start off with the weather, it seems. So, in short – it’s totally crazy. Temperatures sank down to fifty below freezing, in what locals called ‘a cold spell’, over the New Year. That’s ridiculously cold. My nose stuck to the back of my camera at least 10 times. My camera quit working 4 times, and I quit working once or twice myself. I finally figured out, actually, why the Alaska winter is so long – it’s the only way it’s possible to get adequately dressed and undressed for the weather. Seriously, I spent about 3 hours a day layering up, layering back down when I came inside for a bite to eat, then all over again when I went out for the evening. A winter of 3 months, like normal, would be over before I was ready to step outside.


So next – the temperatures went from minus 50 fahrenheit to 35 deg F in about a week – for those readers whose mathematic skills are on par with mine, that’s an 85 degree temperature swing. In less than 24 hours, the temperature rose 45 deg, from 25 below zero to 20 above, and soon after above freezing, with rain. All my food, stashed in a cooler outside the cabin, nearly thawed out, creating a near-disaster – averted by quick thinking and good planning by me (throwing large chunks of ice into the coolers was the best I could come up with). funnily enough, the things most easily thawed, it appears, are bags of frozen vegetables. meat, such as steaks, chicken and pork chops, remain a solid frozen brick – I guess a function of being so cold a week earlier. Anyway, it looks like everything is OK.  More importantly, all the snow melted off the trees, and the landscape has lost much of its silent beauty (for now). That, and the crappy weather (rain and more rain and clouds) meant I haven’t done much shooting this last 10 days or so. But, the good news it’s cooled down again (10 degrees as I type this) and we had a sniffle of snow last night – just enough to remind me it’s white.


Let’s see, what else is there? hhhmmm .. not too much. i’ve been playing my wooden flute a lot, and enjoying that, writing some (not enough), reading a lot, splitting wood; the wood shed is virtually full- I haven’t split that much wood since my days as a boy, where I grew up in the slave labor camp (what’s Australian for “Gulag”?) that my parents made me call ‘home’), skiing some, snow boarding some, hiking, etc. I haven’t seen much wildlife – I started setting in a trail up one of the nearby mountains today, and did see a snowshoe hare, racing for his life into the woods. The recent warm weather and then cold snap froze the snow a bit, so it makes foot travel slightly easier – prior to this, walking anywhere off a main trail involved slogging waist deep through the powder, even with snowshoes on. I think now foot travel (hiking and skiing) will improve – though my skiing is probably what needs to improve the most. I do pretty well at most of it, but then I get going downhill too fast, and with these little cross country skis and simple bindings there’s no turning or control at all (for me, at least). So I tumble a bit. I went out with a friend and neighbor, Mark, the other day, and he’s much better – he didn’t fall down once – it was pretty amazing. but he has better skis, I’m sure that’s the problem. Good news is I’m a better snow boarder than he is. Thats important.


I’ve been playing guitar a lot – I have my acoustic guitar with me in the shack. Even changed the strings on it this evening, and it sounds ever so sparkling. The frozen north woods have been alive of late with some deep blues emanating from deep within the spruce forest. I even wrote 2 songs in the last couple of weeks!


It’s really amazing to see how quickly the light comes back here. Seems like we’re still in the dead of winter, yet the days are noticeably longer than they were over the holiday. It won’t be long now until we’re looking at 12 hour days and I barely have time to get back to the cabin, eat, sleep, and get out for sunrise. Then, before ya know it, summer’ll be here, and I’ll be trudging around the mtns all day long!


I can’t think of too much else. Hopefully I’ll get my mountain trail in over the next week or so, so that’ll keep me busy. It’s hard finding a good route up on to the ridge, and it gets pretty steep. The snowshoes are great until the descent – I haven’t quite mastered how to traverse down a mountain in them yet. On the ascent they work great. We’ll see how that goes.

I’m not sure how this new internet place will work out, so it may or may not be  a while before I can sign on and check in again. In the meantime, enjoy yourself, and look at the picture above of me trying to find a good line off the summit of Bonanza Ridge. Oh, and check out the stylin’ red jacket! (and, just for the record, it’s the layers, that gut isn’t mine at all).

Thanks for reading.



14 thoughts on “Snowboarding days

  1. Ron Niebrugge

    Hey Carl,

    Good to hear you are doing well!

    I can’t believe the weather extreme Alaska has experienced this winter – it might average out to a nice 0 or so, but it probably isn’t that temperature very much – either way above, or way below.

    Going downhill in snowshoes is a pain! Too bad you can’t lower your heels like you can your toes on the way up.

    Thanks for the update, stay warm and have fun shredding them hills!


  2. Beth Lunsford

    Hey Carl, Glad to hear you are doing well. That is a sweeet jacket!!We knew you weren’t putting on any pounds over the winter! I had to laugh when you wrote about the layering up & down. I’m still laughing! I bet it is like that. I believe it! You take care. Break a leg, snowboarding. LOL!! You KNOW that’s just a joke!!We all miss ya!!

  3. Mark

    Hey, I like that idea about identifying where you cabin is – I can at least see how much you are clearcutting the area. 🙂

    Thanks for the update Carl – glad to hear all is OK despite the cold – and damn – that’s cold! And guess what – I’m headed to Alaska in September!!!!!!!

  4. Neil Donohue

    G’Day Carl,

    If you’re only cutting as much wood as you did as a boy, its no wonder you’re cold out there. By the sound of things (snowboarding & skiing) you probably won’t be ready for the next Winter Olympics either.

    However I do like the photo, and by the way,



  5. Carl D Post author

    Hey Folks,

    Andreas, my cabin is just west of McCarthy, west of the Kennecott River, north of it’s junction with the Nizina River. There’s a pic of it on here from last year somewhere.


    Yeah, the snowshoeing downhill, I mean, down STEEP hills, is tough. I didn’t fall down though.

    Mark, You better catch up with me in September. Brooks?

    Beth, thanks .. I’ll try my hardest NOT to break my leg!

    Dad, I knew you’d appreciate the wood comments. Seriously, I’m a site to behold with an axe. Think of a whirling Dervish on crack – something like that.

    I missed email on Australia Day, but right back atcha all the same.



  6. Carl D Post author

    hey Mark,

    Cool – I know the name Michael Francis, but I don’t recall where …. you’ll have a blast man, for sure.

    keep me posted and we’ll try to work it out.



  7. Frank Maddox

    Neil I’d bet Carl just hauled in a bunch of those wax logs you can buy at Wal-Mart–instead of chopping he’s just unwrapping the wrapper. You might recollect years ago when we three went for a day of vigorous hiking in the north Georgia mountains and actually never left the car (except to grab a bite at NOC).

    I watched the X-games last week and can see a future Australian presence in the making in that photo above. What an embrace of the elements! Everytime we watch Bear Grylls in Man vs. Wild we talk about how Carl could top that every time. Carl you do a much better job of hiding your photo crew from the viewer than Bear does.

    Speaking of sport– as I write this Serena Williams is playing Kuznetzeva in the Australia Open and they just announced they’ll close the stadium top because the court temperature is 134 degrees. Just wanted to type that on the same page where minus 50 is typed.

  8. Carl D Post author

    Hey Frank,

    Funny you should mention ‘hauling wood’ .. I should post a picture of me dragging a sled loaded down with a ton of wood on it through the frozen Alaskan winter woods. I couldn’t decide if I looked more like Buck, from Call of the Wild, or Rocky preparing to fight the Russian. Either way I looked pretty darn cool. 🙂

    Are you sure we didn’t leave the car on that day? I sure felt flagged at the end of it.

    It was nearly 134 degrees in the cabin last night, when I had my big ole fire a crankin’! 🙂



  9. Neil Donohue

    Hi Frank,
    Good to hear from you. Yes that day in the mountains is vividly etched in my memory; not only did you two intrepid hikers not do any hiking, you did a lot of eating, and then managed to get lost in the same region you boasted of hiking all the time. If it hadn’t been for me you guys would have still been driving around up there. By the way, can you email us ‘cos our last one to you bounced back.

    Carl I think your readers, and especially your parents, would love to see that picture of you hauling a sled laden with wood (even if it was nicked from an absent neighbour) – I would like one for our family history album, as we don’t actually have one of you doing any work.
    Cheers Dad

  10. Carl D Post author

    Hey Dad,

    I’ll see what i can do Re a photo – now the wood shed’s all full though, and it would require me cutting down yet another tree – and Mark Graf has already had a couple of shots me over that. 🙂 You’d like my new wood cutting technique – I actually use 2 axes, one in each hand, and just whirl away. It’s terribly effective.

    You guys run along now . I better go stoke my fire.



  11. Neil Donohue

    By the way Carl, I was just admiring your snowboarding photo again and I thought I detected a half-hidden, rather hirsute visage. Is that why you are partially turned away in the photo, or are you just wearing a face mask?


  12. Carl D Post author

    Hey dad,

    I just spent 2 solid months in McCarthy – of course I had a beard – and damn if I didn’t look good with it. It’s gone now – and I STILL look good.



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