Flowing Water and the Daily Light Show

It’s been a truly odd winter here in the Klondike. On the one hand it’s been colder, and colder for longer stretches than it has been for several years. Mostly, it hasn’t been really cold, which begins below, say, minus 35, and carries on down into the minus 50s, but we’ve had a lot of days in a row where it’s been minus 30s with wind chills pushing it down further.

On the other hand, a lot of these periods have been followed by minus single digit weather for as much as a week at a time.

Still, it is winter, and when I drove home from Whitehorse on January 26, the trip started at 0ºC, and stayed above -6ºC until we got to Gravel Lake, after which it steadily lost 19 degrees before we got home.

As you know, the Yukon River in front of town has not frozen over this year. There are a couple of pretty solid amateur ice bridges that allow access to West Dawson and Sunnydale, but the regular crossing at the ferry landing is out of service this year, and I’m told the open water extends several kilometres downstream from here.

The main “bridge” goes south up the east bank of the river, passes the mouth of the Klondike, from which there is still a small stream flowing, eventually finds a way to cross over, and then either goes southwest to Sunnydale, or north up the west bank to the ferry landing.

There’s a lovely video of that trip, shot by Sarah Lenart, that you can check out on the Klondike Sun’s Facebook page.

The river situation posed some problems for this year’s Yukon Quest, which uses the West Dawson YTG Campground for a dog yard during the 36-hour layover here. There was much debate about alternatives, but it was resolved to stay there in the end.

The IODE, which are Dawson City chapter of the women’s charitable organization, are still trying to decide just where it would be best to put the tripod that helps to determine the date of the annual Breakup Ice Pool. It doesn’t look like there will be ice in the usual spot.

We have more snow this year than last. In 2016 it hardly snowed after New Year. This year it didn’t snow much before Christmas, but has more than made up for it since.

What hasn’t changed this year is the play of light as the days increase in length. At Chez Davidson we have the advantage of a large front window, facing west, and I get to watch the interplay of light on the hills even better than I did from my former classroom at the Robert Service School.

At this writing, the sun rose in the southeast at 9:48 a.m. and cast a golden glow on the West Dawson hillside, enhanced by a sharply delineated shadow as it moved down the hill towards the streets of the town, which it hit between 11:30 a.m. and noon. We have long shadows here at all seasons, and the contrast shows up both the dark and the light.

By the time I took the photo that goes with this article, the light had changed, and most of the trees and hillsides were showing a silver hue.

On clear days lately the sunsets have been amazing. On this day it will be at 5:35 p.m., but the twilight is good for another hour or more after that, reminding us all that, groundhogs’ shadows or not, spring is on the way.

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