What's in a name?
Hello, and welcome to our first ever blog post! We are Leaf Out Nature Guides, and we provide snowshoe tours, summer hiking, and other nature guiding services in both winter and summer in and around the Fairbanks area of Interior Alaska. For this inaugural post, we thought it fitting to share a bit of background on our name. “Leaf Out” is a day celebrated every spring by those of us that live in Interior Alaska. It is the day that birch and aspen buds burst open and the south facing hillsides suddenly go from brown to brilliant green. Every year, the day of leaf out is determined by the National Weather Service in Fairbanks using the same ridge and the same direction, and then exclaimed on the front page of our local newspaper, The Daily Newsminer. To those of us that live here, it means summer is just around the corner, bringing fresh greens, vegetables, berries, and the chance to peel off the many layers of clothing we’ve been wearing since last September. It means plants will go back to full on photosynthesis and we humans can start to get some vitamin D naturally again. For us, those tiny green leaves emerging carry with them hope, excitement, and the vibrance of life.
The average leaf out date in Fairbanks is May 9th, but we’ve seen it as early as April 26 and as late as May 26th in our 9 years here. Leaf out dates change based on temperatures, aspect, and elevation. In 2019, leaf out came on May 3 for us, as you can see in this photo Evan took last spring. This date is important for us as it affects a lot of our food planning and harvesting. Leaf out gives us an idea of how soon we can begin putting our vegetable starts in the ground and how long it will be before we can start foraging—earlier leaf out often leads to earlier foraging of many of the plants that go into our teas, foods, and medicines.
One of the things we love best about living in Alaska are these seasonal events that are celebrated and cherished as mini-holidays by most residents. These markers of time keep us intimately connected with this place, in all of its extremes. Other seasonal events include "break up," "freeze up," and both summer and winter solstice. Break up is when ice on the rivers melts enough that it separates into chunks that then flow down river, taking out swaths of riverbank, trees, and sometimes structures if the water level is high enough. It can be fast, furious, and destructive, or slow and barely noticeable. Either way it is another harbinger of summer, opening up the rivers to boat travel, fishing, and various other water-based endeavors. Freeze up is the opposite—when rivers freeze enough that they are solid and safe for winter travel, whether on foot, by dog team, or by snow machine. We have so few roads in Alaska, rivers have historically and continue to be used as a means of transportation, linking communities to each other and to hunting and recreation opportunities.
Ultimately, our lives in Alaska are about connecting deeply with the land. At Leaf Out Nature Guides, we strive to bring this connection into our work and share it with everyone who visits us. We are passionate about taking people outside to unplug and slow down, rekindling awe and appreciation for Earth. That is our mission, and we use it to guide all that we do. We hope you will join us on your next visit to Alaska!
Hi! I'm Shannon, the owner and operator of Leaf Out Nature Guides in Fairbanks, Alaska. Trained in biology and ethnobotany, I work, live, and play in the forests and tundras of Alaska. At Leaf Out we provide snowshoe tours and nature hikes in the Fairbanks area for adventurers of all ages and ability levels!