I’m trying to get out with the kids on at least a short hike once or twice a week. On at least one trip a week I would like to make sure we go up a significant hill. Hopefully starting this way will make it easier to get the kids (and myself) out on more lengthy or strenuous hikes without as much resistance. To this end, for the second Saturday in a row, we hiked up the trail from Herring Cove. While we hiked all the way around Beaver Lake last time, this time we only went up to the Bear Mountain waterfall view point. Like last week, I had done a bunch of squats the day before, however this time my legs did not feel particularly fatigued as we walked up the steeper portion of the hill.
Overnight the temperatures dropped sufficiently for precipitation to be mixed with snow. By the time we were driving out the road, we were seeing mostly snow, though it was still mixed with a bit of rain. As we hiked up the trail, we were seeing pure snow with increasing intensity. Near the waterfall viewpoint a half inch or more had accumulated in openings, with more falling steadily. As this was about 400 feet elevation, I half expected it to be mixed with rain again as we went back down, but by the time we returned, it was snowing at sea level.
The weather forecast described indicated this snow occurred as colder air from the north was pulled to the south over the Gulf of Alaska and then east as it wrapped around a low pressure center. I don’t think it is often the case that Sitka gets snow while Juneau is still seeing rain and temperatures several degrees warmer, but such was the case today.
Throughout the rest of the day, there were periodic snow and hail/graupel showers – sometimes even fairly intense. I also noticed a break or two in the clouds which allowed the sun to brighten things up for a bit.
Over the last two days a couple different people mentioned how frantically it seemed like the juncos and other sparrows were feeding. Marge suggested they might be sensing the coming snow – a behavior she has noticed before. It certainly seems like being able to gorge prior to a food-obscuring snow storm would have some survival advantage for our small winter residents.
The trail was pretty quiet on the way up – though I did hear a Pacific Wren or two. On the way back down, there was a loose flock of 20 or more Varied Thrush (it’s always hard to count these – as they are difficult to see when not moving, and they tend to be dispersed over a fair area).