I believe there are some Echo readers who have not seen my calendar that reduces winter to about three months and stretches summer to five.
Some time ago I declared, almost King-like, that since we live in such a high latitude, I would adopt a more suitable calendar. Perhaps with climate change, my calendar is becoming more accurate from a meteorological perspective. Whatever the case, I think it’s a guaranteed sanity preserver, provided you are prepared to do one thing: go outdoors!
I call the 2-1/2 months from February 1st through April 15th Spring.
By February 1st, increasing daylight is noticeable, and although temperatures can still be nippy, the long sunrises are spectacular, and the snow is usually in great condition for cross-country and downhill skiing. Daylight burgeons rapidly by late February, early March, when with prudence, Cayman Island-type tans are possible.
Summer is my longest season, from April 15 to September 15—a full five months in duration.
The sun has dramatically reborn itself by April 15, and snow is beginning to melt from the mountains’ south-facing slopes. Hiking is fantastic in these areas, like Bird Ridge south of Anchorage and Twin Peaks trail by Eklutna Lake, because the leaves are not yet on the bushes and trees.
Clear-sky days in May and June are the real heart of summer for me. There is something psychologically uplifting about moving into increasing daylight. If you plan to pursue the outdoor things that Alaskans are supposed to do: fishing, hiking, camping, biking, get with it as often as possible during these months.
July and August are often cloudy and wet, but they are genuinely good months for savoring the season’s flurry of photosynthesis, both in the garden at home and in the mountains. You will notice small incursions of darkness into daylight, but try to remain positive. It will take a considerable amount of time to erode all the daylight that’s been accumulated. When a sunny day pops out, drop everything and take it. Two consecutive sunny days at this time of the year are as rare as a legislator with a specific idea on how to cut the state budget.
September can produce a brief heat wave or Indian summer, and by many old-timers’ reckoning, is the nicest month of the year, with all of the autumn colors, the good fishing, hunting, berry picking, and crisp, cool mornings. By my calendar, this is still summer.
Fall begins September 15 and lasts until November 1.
Trout fishing in late September and early October before the lakes freeze is excellent. Hiking is again ideal because leaves are off the trees and there generally isn’t enough snow at lower elevations to make traveling difficult. Pestiferous insects are almost unseen. Astronomy buffs welcome the reappearance of stars after several month’s hiatus—and aurora borealis viewing is good.
My winter officially begins November 1 and extends until February 1—three months.
An equal number of holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, help break this up, along with a possible trip to warm havens like Hawaii or Mexico. Moonlight skiing and snowshoeing, even weenie roasts, are great winter spell-breakers, as are good books in front of warm fires.
A south-facing window, either at your place of employment or home, is a real plus during the depths of winter. Just 20 minutes of glass-filtered sunshine are uplifting, and of course, there is full-spectrum lighting, which some people claim is highly effective in ameliorating light-deprivation syndrome, or Seasonal Affected Disorder, called SAD.
At our south-facing home, we receive 1-1/2 hours of direct sunlight on December 21, the shortest day of the year. As often as possible, I will drop everything and crane my neck toward those precious photons. If you subtract sleeping time, your conscious exposure to winter, according to my calendar, is really only two months.
Before you know it, February 1, or Spring, has sprung. I do not allow snow-on-the-ground to define seasons. Rather, the sun’s warmth and light are my seasonal triggers. As I said earlier, the best skiing in the year is just beginning in February.
In summary: Spring is 2-1/2 months, Feb. 1 – April 15; Summer is five months, April 15 to September 15; Fall is 1-1/2 months, September 15 to November 1; and Winter is just three months, November 1 to Feb. 1.
That is a calendar I have lived with for many years. Why not give it a try?
Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer and ECHO News team member who lives in Eagle River with his wife Rebekah, a retired Birchwood ABC school teacher. To reach Frank, email: [email protected]