Happy exhaustion


The Labrador retriever version of a five-minute rest stop/Craig Medred photo

Twentymile River – The wind and rain that have long defined late-summer and fall in this corner of Alaska stormed into the country on Sunday, but the drought of ’19 – the hot, dry Summer to Die For in the minds of some – remained visible in the marshes that sprawl around the end of Turnagain Arm.

The tops of the wild celery remained burnt crisp from the rays of the relentless midnight sun. Some of the buckbean had cooked, and the sweetgale had flourished. It rose as a nasty wall of shoulder-high brush on the edges of the wetland marshes.

Everywhere, the water was low. Where it would be regularly crotch deep, it was thigh deep or less, and many places that on a normal Sept. 1 required wading were walkable.

It made the hiking both easier and harder. Easier where the bog mats of sphagnum moss and sedges had dried out enough to support the weight of man and dog. Harder where the bottoms of ponds, which normally offer some of the easier walking, had bubbled to life only to fill themselves with muck.

For the waterfowl, judging by their abundance, the long spell of warm, dry weather had clearly been good, but then that was probably to be expected. The chief source of mortality for young ducks is cold, wet weather, and most of the birds found at the end of summer in the state’s Southcentral region are the result of local breeding even if they Sunday appeared regularly bunched up in such numbers that they looked to be migrating flocks.

They weren’t; they were but huge broods.

The long walk

We found them in few of the usual places, but we found them far back in the valley in the duckweed ponds that hadn’t been much of anything in higher water last year. There were big flocks of pintails where once it was rare to see that species and the usual healthy production of mallards.

On the big lake, there were scaup, but we saw nary a widgeon, a common species in past years, and few teal, a species that has sometimes been everywhere as the common snipe asthis year.

Lars was flushing snipe at every turn it seemed. Startled by wingbeats, I was getting a good workout snapping the shotgun to near the shoulder before realizing what had flushed. It was an exhausting and interesting day.

The water levels, the vegetation, the ponds from last year gone only to replaced by new ponds this year, the constant encroachment of shrubs into a landscape that dropped with the Good Friday earthquake of 1964 and has been rebounding slowly ever since, and the mixture of ducks were all reminders of the only constant in nature: change.

Humans like to believe that what is now is what has always been, but that’s not how the planet works.

The geologic evidence would indicate that the valleys here at the head of Turnagain Arm might have remained buried under ice until as little as 1,400 years ago and were certainly hidden beneath glaciers 11,000 years ago, a blip in geologic time.

Scientists studying pollen buried in peat bogs near the communities of Hope and Girdwood east of here concluded that spruce trees “had begun to colonize western Turnagain Amr at least as far east as the Hope area by approximately 6800 calendar years BP (before present). In contrast, eastern Turnagain Arm was blanketed mostly by Alnus (alder) thickets and ferns for thousands of years after boreal forests arrived in western Turnagain Arm, even though no physical barriers prevented boreal forest vegetation from spreading farther eastward.”

When the coniferous trees did finally arrive, they came from the south on the winds similar to those still blowing in from Prince William Sound on Sunday. That pattern appears not to have changed in all these years, but who knows what the future could bring.

Global warming fears have focused attention on climate change. And last September in Anchorage, the climate did seem to be changing. The regular storms that bring wind and rain through the month were not that regular.

The future?

The weather was better for sitting on the deck watching the sunset than for waterfowl hunting, and Lars and I love waterfowl hunting in the most arduous of ways.

He was bred to it and then conditioned to my marsh-slogging from an early age. Where and how I came to it is impossible to explain. Blame, in part, a family and friends who were hunters all, but their passion was to sit in a blind and wait.

A lot of hours as a youth were spent in blinds, but I could never really sit still. There was always the urge to get out and wander. One might think that would fade with age, but it has largely been the opposite.

More sedentary activities from angling to fly-tying to rod building to beer brewing to God only knows what else have faded only to be replaced by activities linked to the need to move: bog slogging, cycling, hiking, still some running now and then.

The only time I sit now is to research and write, and then the mind is racing. It was going good today. It made me a little jealous of Lars who spent the day resting and recovering.

All of which, in turn, reminded me of those days with Arlo and Magic in the house, and then Bailey and Hoss; those days when two Labrador retrievers were necessary because after a brutal day in the marsh whichever had done the work would need a day of recovery when I was ready to go again.

For better or worse, those days have passed. It is to be expected in a world where change is constant even if that is easy to forget in these times when human survival is easier than it has ever been.

But birth, life, death – a progression of constant change – remains.











49 replies »

  1. The leftist Swedes have it figured out. Let us kill the planet to save the planet. Argh
    “Swedish behavioural scientist Magnus Söderlund has suggested that eating other people after they die could be a means of combatting climate change.

    The scientist mentioned the possibility of cannibalism during a broadcast on Swedish television channel TV4 this week about a fair in Stockholm regarding “food of the future”.

    Söderlund is set to hold seminars at the event, entitled “Gastro Summit — about the future of food” where he intends to discuss the possibility of eating people in the name of cutting down greenhouse emissions.”

    • Brings a new meaning to “ To each their own”. When god passed out brains Soderlund thought they said trains and missed his .

  2. What a lineup: a couple of Steve’s, an Opinion, a blowfly (Bryan) along with occasional salts and peppers.

    • You monk are entertaining at best . A waste of time at worst. Don’t you have to learn how to blow your nose or something?

      • Hi Opinion,
        Why don’t you get into a lengthy discussion about the proper way to blow your nose for the betterment of mankind? It would provide more insight than most of the ‘science’ that is usually thrown down on this comment section…
        So cute!

      • Jack I will leave that dissection/discussion to you and Monk . It’s in line with your interests and abilities. ; )

  3. The only thing more predictable than death and taxes? That no matter the subject of a Craig Medred story, you guys will turn this into a ‘who knows more REAL science’ comment section… This begs the question – What DO you guys do for a living? (Office Space Bob Slidel: ‘What is it you say you do here?) And, do your bosses know how much you research and comment on Craig’s site?
    Cheers fellow scientists!

      • Seek knowledge by flapping their gums about subjects they know little of? Harrumph!
        Let me know what your doctorate is in do I can nominate you to the Nobel prize committee. ; )
        Cheers, Doc!

      • I know Craig bills this site a “A home for readers and thinkers”, but I didn’t realize that a doctorates degree was need to comment. Don’t worry old man, I’m off your lawn now you can stop shouting at me to get off your lawn.

        I’ve always enjoyed comments in comment sections that are about the comments in the comment section. Commenting on comments, not the subject of the comments mind you, but just commenting that there are comments has always intrigued me. I always wonder what kind of a person makes these comments, is he the same guy that stands on the street corner holding a sign that says it’s raining when it’s raining?

      • That’s pretty deep, Steve-O… But much better to read than most of the other blathering that goes on with most of Craig’s blog posts. Although I would say that you don’t have to hold a doctorate to comment, perhaps we should all admit when we don’t REALLY know much about the subject at hand and stop acting like we do. Especially when the arguments dissolve into posting ‘facts’ from everyone’s favorite news sites as their evidence. Bunch of blow hards with too much time on their hands. Not so much thinking going on when everyone is just copying and pasting crap that they agree with…
        PS – I’m still young enough to do construction for a living – and I’m no dash board contractor. I wear nailbags and climb ladders all day long. How about you, tiger?

      • Jack , don’t quit your day job . Keep your nail bags on . Both Steve’s are above your pay grade . Your braggadocio doesn’t impress anyone. You sound like an insecure child. I for one gain knowledge with every post I read . Even yours .

      • Thanks for the advise, Opinion. I’ll cherish it since I know that it comes from such a wise soul. Funny, my financial advisor told me not to quit just yet too… This is definitely your best insight on Craig’s site! Perhaps you should start a new career as a life coach?… Well, off to work I go!
        Cheers sir!

      • Jack,

        Just speaking for myself here, but typically when I post a quote and provide a citation I do so in an effort so that others can read and expand their knowledge. You can see that in some of my comments on this very thread, my experience told me that logging has declined nationwide. My knowledge was faulty in that it was based upon my regional mindset, and I admitted as much. When I am wrong I admit it whether I prove myself wrong or somebody else does. I’m not afraid to admit I don’t know everything, or much of anything for that matter…I’ve done so numerous times here in the past.

        I’ve been around long enough to figure out, and it doesn’t take long to do so, that some people simply parrot what they read and do not understand it and do not even take the time to try and understand it. There are some here that fit that mold, fortunately from what I’ve seen most do not. Most here are interested in a lively debate and sharing knowledge and information, or perhaps I am naive and there are in fact a bunch of blowhards with too much time on their hands. The question that comes to my mind if that is the case, is why are you wasting your time telling these bunch of blowhards that they are wasting their time? Are you being forced to read and comment on all of these comments that do not meet your commenting standards, if so please let us know so we can save you the misery.

      • Governor William J. Le Petomane: I didn’t get a “harrumph” out of that guy!
        Hedley Lamarr: Give the governor “harrumph”!
        Staff member: Harrumph!
        Governor William J. Le Petomane: You watch your ass.

      • matthewcarberryblog – Nailed it! Mel Brooks is friggin’ genius on so many levels.

  4. I’ve gone down the rabbit hole…

    Reading about global forest inventories and ran across this article from 2015 Scientists discover that the world contains dramatically more trees than previously thought. “In a blockbuster study released Wednesday in Nature, a team of 38 scientists finds that the planet is home to 3.04 trillion trees, blowing away the previously estimate of 400 billion.”

    “The study also finds that there are 46 percent fewer trees on Earth than there were before humans started the lengthy, but recently accelerating, process of deforestation.”

    Hmmmm me thinks, while reading the article; humans have been cutting trees down since, well since we’ve been humans. While some think that oil and the burning of carbon is the problem, what if a part of the problem is that we have cut down almost half of our forests? Seems to me and my limited knowledge that if we were to rebuild those forests that would help put us on a path to helping ease any troubled minds, you know since trees eat carbon for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As anyone with any knowledge of how trees grow knows, a mature forest stalls out on the carbon sequestration front. New forests sequester far more carbon than old mature forest because they are actively growing and create far more biomass. We should be removing mature forests and replacing them with new growth that will sequester more carbon, if carbon sequestration is in fact the goal.

    The article starts wrapping up by saying some completely incorrect information in that cutting trees releases carbon, this is simply false. If you cut a tree down and store it in the form of a building, or bury it in the earth for that matter, it will not release carbon.

    The article really starts editorializing when it say…
    “Trees pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as they grow, and cutting or burning them down releases that carbon again. So that means that deforestation is making global warming worse — and it also means that if we were living on an Earth with close to 6 trillion trees, rather than 3 trillion, climate change would be less severe.”

    The last sentence is complete hogwash, climate change might be more severe with 6 trillion trees, rather than 3 trillion. The global climate has historically been chaotic with relatively short periods of stable climate, like the current timeframe that has led to the rise of mankind.

    • What I love about science is their “out” word “may”:
      “Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is also important because it captures heat radiated from Earth’s surface. That heat keeps the planet warm enough for plant and animal (including human) life to survive. Increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere MAY be responsible for long-term changes in Earth’s climate.”
      Let us not forget the heat that escapes our atmosphere every night.
      I say lets cut all the trees down and eliminate a huge “carbon footprint” from forest fires. Then lets go after the Hollywood elites and their carbon emitting jets.

  5. What is a “sentient being”? Does it include dogs and cats?
    Are humans somehow more advanced than other animals? Do we have “dominion” as they say?
    I believe it is not an accident of evolution. There are other civilizations that could be advanced beyond us by millions or even billions of years. We are a tiny part of the Universe.

  6. From the horses mouth back in 1989. Whelp…. Guess they were WRONG again.

    “UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ A senior U.N. environmental official says entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000.

    Coastal flooding and crop failures would create an exodus of ″eco- refugees,′ ′ threatening political chaos, said Noel Brown, director of the New York office of the U.N. Environment Program, or UNEP.

    He said governments have a 10-year window of opportunity to solve the greenhouse effect before it goes beyond human control.

    As the warming melts polar icecaps, ocean levels will rise by up to three feet, enough to cover the Maldives and other flat island nations, Brown told The Associated Press in an interview on Wednesday.”

  7. Craig you wrote…
    “Global warming fears have focused attention on climate change.”
    Let’s not forget about all the wildfires that have been raging across Alaska all summer and the damage to tourism, our lungs and Moral for the residents affected by these disasters.
    As fall arrives in AK over 50 homes have been lost in Willow and many residents are struggling to find shelter for their families and pets.
    This pattern will occur in more frequent patterns as we move forward in this “changing” climate in Alaska.

    “Large wildfires in the United States burn more than twice the area they did in 1970, and the average wildfire season is 78 days longer…
    Research shows that changes in climate, especially earlier snowmelt due to warming in the spring and summer, have led to hot, dry conditions that boost this increase in fire activity in some areas. For much of the U.S. West, projections show that an average annual 1 degree Celsius temperature increase would increase the median burned area per year as much as 600 percent in some types of forests.”

    • It’s not hard to figure out why fires might be bigger now than in years past. Logging of our forests has ground almost to a stop nationwide, in most places it has completely ceased to exist. Decades of mismanagement and putting out every fire has allowed fuel loading levels that will necessarily correct themselves with bigger fires. What do you do when you want a bigger hotter fire…add more fuel…that is exactly what we have done.

      • The “fuels” are just one part of the equation.
        More importantly was the unseasonably strong and constant wind along with the unseasonably dry and hot conditions…
        Firefighters use the Build Up Index or BUI to determine the hazard and rate of spread during these wildfires.
        “However, the BUI provides information as to a fire’s behavior through its increases in:
        1) Rate of spread (ROS),
        2) Fire intensity (FI or energy release),
        3) & the difficulty to hold or contain a fire within the firebreak.
        As the BUI increases, the width of the burning head fire will increase as well as the flame length. Under a well- developed buildup situation, fires are more persistent, burn deeper, and are harder to extinguish.”
        The Buildup Index (BUI) was part of the 1964 National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS).
        It is defined as “a number that reflects the combined cumulative effects of daily drying and precipitation in fuels with a 10 day time lag constant”.
        Experts on the McKinley fire (some with 40 years experience) have never seen so dry of a BUI….it was off their charts.
        This is why 50 homes and 3 businesses along with 80 other various structures burned in one afternoon…

      • Yup, more fuel on the fire made it burn hotter…like I said not hard to figure out. No fuel=no fire, no matter how dry or how windy.

    • Steve,

      According to this paper worldwide forest have increased by about 7% since the early 80’s

      “contrary to the prevailing view that forest area has declined globally—tree cover has increased by 2.24 million km2 (+7.1% relative to the 1982 level). This overall net gain is the result of a net loss in the tropics being outweighed by a net gain in the extratropics.”

      Interestingly while the tropics had a loss due in large part to deforestation the extratropics more than mage up for this loss. Makes me wonder just how many more acres of forests we have in the US that contribute to the additional areas where fires occur.

      • Agree, I do know there are more Co2 eating trees today then there were in the early 1900’s.

      • The number of fires in the US is way down, from a high of almost 250,000 in 1981 to a low of 47,579 in 2013, but the area burned is up on average per fire in orders of magnitude. We have more people, more forest, more area burned, but far fewer fires. The problem is the amount of fuel that was allowed to build up when we were actively putting out all of those fires decades ago.

        Area burned and number of fires in the United States, 1960-2015
        Year Area burned Acres Fires Number
        2015 10,125,149 68,151
        2014 3,595,613 63,312
        2013 4,319,546 47,579
        2012 9,326,238 67,774
        2011 8,711,367 74,126
        2010 3,422,724 71,971
        2009 5,921,786 78,792
        2008 5,292,468 78,949
        2007 9,328,045 85,705
        2006 9,873,745 96,385
        2005 8,689,389 66,753
        2004 8,097,880 65,461
        2003 3,960,842 63,629
        2002 7,184,712 73,457
        2001 3,570,911 84,079
        2000 7,393,493 92,250
        1999 5,626,093 92,487
        1998 2,329,704 81,043
        1997 2,856,959 66,196
        1996 6,065,998 96,363
        1995 1,840,546 82,234
        1994 4,073,579 79,107
        1993 1,797,574 58,810
        1992 2,069,929 87,394
        1991 2,953,578 75,754
        1990 5,452,874 122,763
        1989 3,264,126 121,714
        1988 7,398,888 154,573
        1987 4,152,561 143,877
        1986 3,308,095 139,980
        1985 4,434,736 133,840
        1984 2,266,106 118,636
        1983 5,080,553 161,649
        1982 2,382,036 174,755
        1981 4,814,206 249,370
        1980 5,260,825 234,892
        1979 2,986,826 163,196
        1978 3,910,913 218,842
        1977 3,152,644 173,998
        1976 5,109,926 241,699
        1975 1,791,327 134,872
        1974 2,879,095 145,868
        1973 1,915,273 117,957
        1972 2,641,166 124,554
        1971 4,278,472 108,398
        1970 3,278,565 121,736
        1969 6,689,081 113,273
        1968 4,231,996 125,075
        1967 4,658,586 125,301
        1966 4,574,389 122,174
        1965 2,652,122 113,976
        1964 4,197,309 117,230
        1963 7,120,768 165,430
        1962 4,078,894 116,418
        1961 3,036,219 99,554
        1960 4,478,188 104,120

      • “Forest and woodland area in the United States has plateaued at 823 million acres following decades of expansion. Forest land area alone occupies 766 million acres. Together, forest and woodlands comprise over one-third of the U.S. landscape and contain 1 trillion cubic feet of wood volume—enough wood to fill the Great Pyramid of Giza 12 thousand times.”

        “The U.S. Census Bureau reports the total land area of the continental United States and Hawaii (excluding the Caribbean Islands and U.S. territories) as 2.3 billion acres. The Rocky Mountain Region comprises 33 percent of U.S. land area, followed by the Pacific Coast (including Alaska and Hawaii) at 25 percent, the South at 24 percent, and the North at 18 percent.
        Forests and woodlands combined occupy 822.5 million acres of the U.S. land base. Of those, 93 percent (765.5 million acres) meet the international definition of forest, with the remaining 7 percent recognized as woodlands. Thus, forests comprise 34 percent of the American landscape, and forests combined with woodlands comprise 36 percent.
        Forest area trended upward from 1987 to 2012, but now appears to have reached a plateau”

        “Since 1997, forest land has increased in all but one region. The largest increase has been in the South, at 6 percent. The Rocky Mountain and North both saw gains of 3 percent of forest land. The Pacific Coast lost forest land (less than 1 percent), although it is important to note that much of that change is an artifact of changes in inventory process in the late 1990s and early 2000s that resulted in a paucity of available trend data during those reporting periods.”

        Lots of interesting stuff in that document. There is actually a lot more logging than I though nationwide, in the South and East especially. Logging has declined precipitously in the West over the past few decades and completely tanked here in Alaska.

  8. The call of fall is a strange thing, that it would be the most moving season, for many. That we started in 1952 is another thing … but fall has always been like this for me; first noticed it pre-puberty as dad took me out hunting.

    Nice picture on a sunny winter day:

    I have a small booklet, Wild, Edible and Poisonous PLANTS of ALASKA, Ext. Bull. F-40, 1953, ’57, ’62, Christine A. Heller. I think I saw it for download online, not long ago. Very nice line drawings; Wild Celery on the cover.

    • Bryan,
      Not sure what state you are commenting from but this has not been a very comfortable summer for most Alaskans from Fairbanks to Homer…
      Unseasonably dry conditions (which is not typical El nino) has chocked the state in smoke with air quality many times worse than Chinese cities.
      Your story says: “NOAA is predicting a warm winter in Alaska.”
      So are the 97 percent of scientists who predict Alaska will be at the forefront of Climate Change.
      Not sure how you can even claim El nino on a hot and dry summer across AK?
      Seems like many Americans are in a collective psychosis propagated by talking heads on Fox News.

      • Steve S. , Google “ADN el Nino Alaska” enjoy. Figured Id use a liberal source. Notice how long Alaska has been in an el Nino pattern. What? One dry Summer and a forest fire signify what exactly?

      • Actually Bryan,
        They way Norm McDonald explained it in a forestry information video was “3 once in a lifetime fires”…
        I have personally now lived through 2 in the last 4 years…
        One took my original homestead in 2015 and the second one (two weeks ago) stopped within 10 miles of my backyard.
        Another 2,000 acre fire (Deshka) was burning to my south at the same time….
        In northern California the mountains are now black from all the recent fires.
        Your interests are obviously opposed to the truth that much I am sure of from your comments.

      • Steve, I lived in CA for a spell in the 1980’s. Guess what? They had 60,000 acre forest fires near L.A.

      • Bryan,
        I also lived in Cali for several years after college and am no stranger to large wildfires.
        I arrived in Yosemite shortly after the devastating wildfire in the community of Foresta…they were just starting to rebuild.
        This was a summary from that disaster.
        “Sixty-six buildings in the 86-home community lay in ruins this weekend from a 200-foot wall of flame that raced through the area when the wildfires erupted Thursday.”
        (La times)
        My crew worked for 3 summers removing new re growth from that area to prevent further disasters and it appeared to have worked since only 1 home was lost in the 2014 “Rim fire” of nearly a quarter of a million acres in the park.

        What I do not get is why you and other commentors pick and choose the science that fits your mindset, while tossing out anything that stands in your way?
        NOAA writes of both El nino and Climate Change, yet nothing on Climate Change appeals to the crusty Alaskan “anonymous handlers”?
        NOAA writes that:
        “drought is an important factor affecting communities. Less snow accumulation in the mountains is important in the West and Alaska, where the snowpackstores water for later use.”
        The fires we are currently seeing have a “Build Up Index” that is unprecedented do to these prolonged droughts.
        I find it highly unlikely that this is caused by El nino…and 97 percent of Scientists agree.

      • Steve you bring a valid and very important question. Why do certain people ignore what bills itself as science. That’s worthy of a Craig medred series of articles. The basic take is identifying pure science versus propaganda. It’s hard but possible . Different people identify such differently. Take Noa for example. regardless of what it calls itself it’s imperative the science is pure without leading statements to be considered as science. Noas statement per your writing is leading as well as doesn’t provide backing proof of its statement. These droughts in the west and Alaska or rather less snow pack is very misleading. Where is proof we get less precipitation? True science shows every fact to best possible. Yes south central had little to no rain this season. How about prior years .? Lots of rain . Is 3-4 months a drought? Maybe. Did we get less precipitation over the last 20 years ? Where is that graph chart . ? Same with California. Lack of rain is up and down history. This winter they were slammed with precipitation. So reading a misleading statement can be dangerous to truth when there is inadequate information to back it particularly if it demands certain cultural changes. As to if you are correct or not that’s another question. I’m just trying to help you to get onto similar page of thoughts. Thanks

      • Steve S, the few Winters I have kistened to you say the same thing – “this or that river hasnt froze by now, there is now snow where there usually is now, etc..” and you basically swallow the “Global Warming” pill and fire off the warning flare. When in reality Alaska has been in a STRONG el Nino the last 5+yrs. NOAA will vouch for this. Of course they get billions from Democrats to spout the “Global Warming” nonsense as well. So, el Nino means WARMER AND WETTER Winters for Alaska. With that comes less snow and freezing and more rain and flowing rivers.
        Also, as you know California is no stranger to fires and never has been. Even fires in the mountains surrounding L.A. (San Gabriels, San Bernadino, etc..). Nothing you are witnessing or have witnessed in your lifetime is “new” to our planet. ZERO!!

      • Steve,

        I can only laugh when you say “What I do not get is why you and other commentors pick and choose the science that fits your mindset, while tossing out anything that stands in your way?” The reason I laugh is because just a few days ago you were trying to convince me that exactly 2,000 years ago is the only timeframe that should be used to definitively prove anthropogenic global warming is fact. That is simply laughable, you disregard any questioning of your dogma. Have you read anything about the Dansgaard-Oeschger cycles, what is your opinion on that?

        From what I have seen on this site, those who dare question anthropogenic global warming do so with various view points and various sources, including using sources who believe in anthropogenic global warming. Those on this site who believe in anthropogenic global warming simply repeat the same tired lines over and over and dare not question the dogma.

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