Yes, I Even Miss Alaska Winters
This year I find something very strange. Despite the winters in Iowa being bitterly cold, despite the zero degree temperatures reminding me just how cold it can get when you're under-dressed, despite all of the snow and wind - I still miss Alaska. Even in the winter months. We're not talking about the southern chain of islands around Juneau or Anchorage on the water to stablize the temperatures. I'm talking about the true blue Interior where temperatures of a full -43 degrees (Celsius or Fahreinheit - that's the temperature below zero where the two met) below zero were normal. Yup, I must have cracked - but let me explain just why I miss it!
Because the Northern Lights are unforgettable
This is one that jumps out at me immediately. I've always been a night person, a walker, and a deep thinker. These three things often combined to find me taking long walks for several miles lasting hours at night. So why would I let 40 degree below zero weather stop me from a long formed and helpful practice? Many times in Fairbanks I'd walk around from between 10 at night to 2 in the morning, and that meant often times I was outside when the Aurora Borealis would explode into the night.
No matter what pictures you've seen, no matter what videoes you've seen, nothing compares to the Northern Lights in person. They are absolutely incredible and show a depth and volume, almost like a three demensional actual river of writer. Green and blues are most common, but some yellows and oranges may even sneak in. I was blessed to see red twice - and one night ALL of the colors including flashes that I assumed were shooting stars or something. At times when the lights ended I looked around finally to see people who have lived in Alaska 50 or 60 years just looking down again - and all of us forgot the cold.
No denying the comradery
When you live in an environment that is that incredibly harsh, there is no denying that when you're stuck in a place that harsh and a culture that is built around winters that last half the year with bitter cold temperatures, no sun, and the long distanced promise of summers of endless sunlight - there is an amazing comradery that comes with that. In the bars, out on the street, just doing what you're doing. It's not easy living in a place like that - but people love to get together and when you all get together there is that underlying feeling of connection because of what all of you are enduring together.
This doesn't mean absolutely everyone gets along - and there is plenty of ugliness that can crawl out of people in an environment like that - but there is also a need, a desire, and a movement to connection with one another that is hard to argue with. And it's not one that's found everywhere. If you've been there, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
Incredible work by John Green
Amazon Price: $9.99 $1.09 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 1, 2015)
The pictures are great
One of my all time favorite pictures from Alaska shows my outhouse, completely frosted up on the outside, and even with the heatlamp inside you could see long frost crystals hanging off the inside of the walls and the ceiling. Mine also had a magazine rack on the side and a frozen fuzzy toilet seat. Because if you're going to have an outhouse, why not style it out and really enjoy it?
Seeing lights from the cabins at night outside my old place on Wecota Road made the entire hillside look like a living Hallmark Card. Ice sculptures, giant snow drifts, and the beauty of the mountains in the distance on a cold clear winter morning - these are images that you just don't forget. And no arguing: I miss them.
Amazing when the winter ends
One of the odd things about having winters that harsh is the reverse: the overwhelming feelings of joy and celebration that break out when you realzie that actual sunlight is sneaking back into the days, the temperatures start breaking, and on the first 48 degree above zero day (there's always one in between -30 days) when you see shorts and t-shirts and everybody's in a good mood - it's really something to experience first hand.
Those first tentative movements and signs are evidence that the long sunlight of summer will be on it's way....and in the summer Alaska is heaven. Even the very thought of that time approaching is incredible to cheer everyone up and you can't even begin to imagine what it feels like during that first initial time after getting out of winter. That camradery comes back in another form as well, that overwhelming sense of: we made it through another one!
The people - it's always about the people
There's no denying that the people are what I miss most. I could list thirty names here with barely a thought and it would only scratch the surface. It takes a different type of person to live in a place like Alaska, especially if you're up in the Interior where you meet Alaska at its harshest point. In other words, it's very hard to find a "normal" person - and I love that!
We played poker in the apartments, sledded down a steep iced coated hill on mattresses (believe me, it's 20 times more impressive than it sounds if you saw the hill), we stood around bond fires, we drank a lot, we wrote stories, played music, and looked for every opportunity to do anything interesting. We made independent films, celebrated at the local pub, and worked to live every moment.
Beautiful photo collection of Alaska photos
Amazon Price: $34.95 $20.68 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 1, 2015)
National Geographic Documentary on Alaska wildlife
Outstanding documentary on the amazing array of wildlife that can be found in different parts of Alaska.
Beautiful autumn picture of the Koyokuk River
This public domain photo is an arial view of the Koyukuk River in autumn in Alaska.
A lot of people may say this wherever they are, but the quality of company I found combined with the fun and outgoing nature is just hard to beat. There were always people up to get together, there were always friends looking to spend more quality time together, and there were always adventures to be had. I miss my friends - and that above all other reasons is why I really miss Alaska - even in the winter.