Saturday, April 26, 2008

Spring Time in Alaska

Jen skating on the sheet of ice that coated Kushtaka Circle where we live. That's Chris' old Chevy in the corner of the picture and the Chugach Mountains in the background.

Chris hauling in our gear by sled to his folks' RUSTIC cabin in Willow, Alaska. We spent about 4 weekends there this winter. We ski or snowshoe in with our gear, heat the place with a wood stove, chop through the ice to get our water, and enjoy a wood sauna at night. No electricity. No running water. VERY peaceful! Sled dog teams (and the famous Iditarod race) often skirt across Vera Lake, where the cabin sits.

This was taken at 10:30 AT NIGHT on APRIL 25. All our snow had melted and then we had 18 INCHES in one night! This is in front of our home in Anchorage.

"Break up" is a time in Alaska when the snow melts, the ice on rivers and lakes begins breaking up, everywhere is a slushy mess, and it doesn't make sense to think about washing one's vehicle. The last month has officially been break up. Almost all the snow had melted in our yard. I had spotted a trumpeter swan on a nearby lake that had returned from its journey south. The city of Anchorage had put their snow plows away for the season. People are trading in their skis for their hiking boots and bikes.

Everything (and everyone) is waking up in Alaska. I have been doing my Emergency Medicine rotation in Soldotna, Alaska for the last three weeks; a rural town about 150 miles south of Anchorage. One night we had our first bear attack. When the man (who survived) was brought in, one of the docs commented, "Well, it's officially springtime in Alaska. Spring is marked by the first bear mauling. Summer is marked by the first fish hook injury." Alaskans have an odd way of marking the seasons!

This is also the time of the year when people are getting ready for the biggest run of the year. I'm not talking about salmon - I'm talking about tourists! Much of our economy is about tourism during summer. Stores and restaurants that have been closed all winter are opening with special events for the locals before the big tourist rush. The roads are being cleaned and cleared of remaining winter snow and sand. The road "scenic stops" with their outhouses are being dug out of the snow (only the top of the outhouse buildings had been sticking out all winter long).

Yesterday marked the first day of a long-awaited 10 day vacation for Chris and I. We were planning on taking our sailboat from its home in Seward, around the corner to Prince William Sound - boating heaven. The last few weekends have been spent "un-winterizing" our boat, getting the engine and water system up and running and the sails put on. The days had been sunny leading up to our departure date...then WE GOT 18 INCHES OF SNOW. We were outside at 10:30 at night in the light of the Alaskan spring IN SNOW. So, we've postponed our departure for a few days and are enjoying the time catching up on neglected house projects. We have nicknamed our home "BASE CAMP," as we use it for our adventure jumping off point, but are rarely here when we have time off.

We look forward to our visitors this summer, Bob and Christine, Chris and Kim, and Jen's folks. Get your "reservations" in early for next summer. We make a great base camp for exploring.