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August 24, 2014

Cold August Days

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We can get dreary cold days any time of the year in Seeley Lake.  Usually, however, days during the last two weeks in July and the first two weeks in August are hot.  With the warm long days, summer seems to lull all of us into a mindset that late sunsets will be with us forever.  The seasons themselves seem structured to deceive people---the longest days are also the ones during which the number of hours in the day change at a teasingly slow rate. 

Mid-August, all of this changes.  The temperatures start to drop rapidly.  Highs and lows give up fifteen degrees before the first official day of fall.  Along with it getting cooler quickly, daylight starts to change noticeably.  I like riding my bike and running right before sunset.  As much as the drop in temperatures, the fact that I can’t rely any more on what worked only a few days earlier to make sure I’m home before it’s dark, tells me it will be fall soon.

Between mid August and mid September, it varies from year to year, the rain also changes from summer afternoon thunderstorms to larger storm systems moving through, and we get the first dreary days of fall.   That’s what happened this past weekend.  Cold air from Canada along with Pacific moisture gave us heavy rain and a snowline that dropped below 7,000’.  The highs for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were 62 F, 55 F and 62 F.  I had to build fires Friday and Saturday nights to keep the house warm.  This isn’t something I’m complaining about.  I enjoy any sign of the upcoming winter, my favorite season, and this includes running my woodstove. 

We have warm days ahead, but not many.  Chores I had put off are quickly becoming urgent.  I’ll be able to do any after fall starts, but only for a week or two.  This summer has gone by quicker than most, and fall will surely do the same.

Classically, fall is an even more urgent time for most wildlife.  Winter is sparse for any animal that grazes.  Bears need to fatten up for their time hibernating.  Only large predators, notably wolves and cats, must be eagerly waiting the stresses the winter puts on their prey. 

Not unlike wild animals, sled dogs notice the first cold days.  Most mushers say that, with these, their dogs start anticipating the first run of the season.  I’m not sure how much of this is the dogs cuing on mushers anticipating that first run, mushers reading and cuing on their dogs, or back and forth between both.  Regardless of the origin, dogs recognize seasonal change and know that that means we’re about to start fall training.

I should add that my dogs have never really chomped hard at this bit.  My best guess is that this is because I’ve always started my fall training early enough and it has always been consistent.  As older dogs, particularly, they know they’ll get plenty of runs and that these will start soon enough.  My plan is to start just after Labor Day. 

The image of autumn everybody knows is the color of fall foliage.  My poplar started changing a couple of weeks ago, but my aspen show only a hair of color at the edges of their leaves.  My larch are all still deep green.

By the end of September, I’ll be building a fire every night to keep the house warm. My aspen will have turned and the needles on my larch, usually the last trees to show color, will be a mix of yellow and green, well on their way to the gold they show right before they carpet the ground.  And, happily for all of us, I’ll be running my dogs once again.  And maybe, I’ll have finished those chores, as well.

   
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