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Timely Slushwork

There is a golden hour for slushwork. Its the brief period when slanting light gives way to full shadow. Sunlit slush rapidly turns glacial once the light is gone. The golden hour is the time when the Wise Alaskan grabs a square shovel and makes three downhill passes to form a channel through the still-soft slush. Form your channel while the getting is good.

They key is to form a distinct cut bank on at least one side. These little levees will confine tomorrow's runoff long into the afternoon, keeping things moving the way they should. The goal in ditchless, gravel road country is to walk the line between sheetflow and channelization. The former is diffusive and non-erosive, the latter tends to incise and cause problems. Square shovel channels built during the golden hour are durable, flat-bottomed canals narrow enough to keep the melt-flow confined, but not so narrow as to encourage formation of a deep runnel.

Next time you find yourself during springtime in Alaska, keep a shovel close and a keen eye on the lengthening shadows.

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