Friday, December 2, 2011

Winter Sunrise at Birch Hill Cemetery, Fairbanks, Alaska

Clear and 20 degrees below zero. Life is good.

I hiked up to Birch Hill Cemetery a couple of days ago to watch the sunrise. (Sunrise was at 10:15 am.) Birch hill is a large promontory at the northern edge of the Fairbanks city limits, and the cemetery is on its southern flank. Only a couple of miles from my house, it’s an easy walk. 

I used to be a groundskeeper at the cemetery and it is one of my favorite places—very peaceful up there. The temperature was only 20 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit) and I knew I was going to be active so I dressed lightly (for an Alaskan winter that is—longjohns, wool shirt and trousers, wool socks and Sorel boots, polarfleece vest, insulated coat, insulated mittens, muffler and trapper hat).
Big Dipper on hillside
North Star with fox tracks

The lower, steeper part of the hillside has an ironwork representation of the Big Dipper and North Star planted on it. In the summer the yellow stars really stand out, but they have a more subtle effect in winter. 

I had the hill all to myself. It was too early for the chickadees, and the only wildlife I saw was a raven flying overhead. There were signs everywhere though. The older sections of the cemetery are riddled with vole burrows and their trails crisscrossed the hillside. Of course, vole activity is of great interest to foxes, so fox tracks were also evident.