Spring season is finally here. Which means mosquito season is here.
I’m not done talking about my winter, but I wanted to write about Alaska today, and how mucky it is. In the Goldstream Valley, a lot of the terrain is permafrost, which means during the winters, it’s excellent for trails/being outside in it. During the summers, since Fairbanks is over a hundred miles south of the Arctic Circle, the permafrost here has what’s called an ‘active layer’, meaning there is a layer of soil on the surface of the ground that will melt and refreeze a lot during spring, and during summer, remain unfrozen (mucky/marshy).
We live on a pretty intense trail system used a lot in the winters by dog mushers, fat-bike riding, and skiers. For us, it is perfect because Zander needs tons of exercise, and throughout the winter, I would walk him several times a day on those trails. Since the breakup, the trails are pretty much useless unless you are wearing muck boots and carrying a small rifle to kill all the mosquitoes. 😛 Since the top layer of the Earth melts, it’s basically a permanent breeding zone for all the mosquitoes. It has become a lot harder to be outside (at my cabin at least) than it used to be. I appreciate the cold even more now since it means NO mosquitoes! And it’s not even prime mosquito season yet.
People joke that the Alaska state bird is really a mosquito. And on our first ever trip to Fairbanks, we stopped in a town called Delta Junction that has huge metal mosquitoes outside the visitor center. Maybe it’s trying to be ironic art?
In Fairbanks, the permafrost zones are only about 100 feet thick at the thickest parts. The farther north you get, the more frozen the ground. But since we live in this active layer permafrost zone, it affects road conditions too in a major way.
Every summer is construction season in Alaska. If you travel on one of the few highways that go about the state, the summer season has them packed with construction vehicles that are re-doing parts of the roads. Since the top layer of permafrost thaws out in the summer times, a lot of roads here have severe dips and small sinkholes. It’s crazy how they progress so quickly too. On Goldstream Road alone, so many new dips and potholes have recently formed with the thaw, that you have to maintain a relatively low speed at certain points of the road. And a lot of roads are like this. It’s not uncommon to see a lower speed posted, and then every couple hundred yards seeing a bright orange flag posted, letting you know there is a significant dip there.
Sometimes, this is cool. I always liked the feeling of being on a roller coaster when you’re in a car. When you’re a kid, these things are great. You yell to go faster so you can be launched a little bit higher. But when you own your own car, and have to maintain that car, you quickly learn the roads in Alaska, mixed with winter driving conditions, frozen and thawed engine components, frozen, thawed, refrozen roads, etc., create a horrid system for vehicles. New tires are needed every couple years (both regular and snow tires), new shocks and struts happen more frequently to keep the vehicle from bottoming out, and generally, cars just wear out quicker because of the harsh weather and road conditions.
I find this ironic. Alaska doesn’t really have a standard of vehicle like Virginia did. In Virginia, you have to pass a vehicle inspection every year, and reluctantly fix any issue wrong before the car is legally drivable. In Alaska, the opposite is true. You see more duct tape and broken windshields, and rickety sounding cars than ever because there’s no law requiring cars to be inspected. This may be a good thing because I bet no car would pass it every year. Not to mention how muddy it gets and how dirty cars get from the dusty, dirty winters and the muddy gravel roads in the spring.
I’m not sure how I went from mosquitoes to cars here…I should probably end this now before I go off on another tangent.