Gulkana Glacier…

(Featured photo credit to Chris Schweikart)

 
So, as you will soon read, I hope to keep this blog going. Instead of focusing on solely dry cabin living, I’m going to write about different experiences that are unique and sometimes exclusive to Alaska.

For those who follow me on Facebook, you’ll know I recently went on a trip to a glacier in south-central Alaska—the Gulkana Glacier. Three of us set out on a 6 (ish) mile hike over rivers and through moraines and up the icy slope of the glacier to several hundred feet above the firn line and camped out for a couple nights. Our original plan was much cooler. We planned to fly into Pika Glacier in the Alaska Range and spend a week out there. Unfortunately, this summer has been consistent in giving us rain and clouds, and after three days of waiting, we decided to call the trip.

Bummed and downtrodden, we headed back to Fairbanks, but I wasn’t about to let this time away from work keep me from getting out there. So when my friend Chris suggested heading down to Gulkana, I was all in, and so was Logan. The purpose of our trip to Pika was to try some different rock climbing peaks, possibly skiing down to the Kahiltna Glacier, and mainly, practicing how to move as a team on a glacier, and crevasse rescue. Mountaineering is a complicated sport, and I’ve heard it said that the only easy part of it is dying. Along with an intense skill set that must be memorized back and forth, you must have a physical strength and willpower to keep moving—through snowy, icy, rainy conditions, through potential white-outs, through thinning air, all the while, carrying your gear to survive and maintaining a semi-consistent, regular heartbeat.

Part of this skill set is knowing how to move on glaciers, how to self-arrest yourself in case a member of your team falls into a crevasse, how to ascend a rope by yourself, how to route find up different peaks, how to set up different kinds of snow and ice anchors for belaying purposes, etc. The list goes on and on, but these were some of the things we wished to practice with our time on the glacier.

Going to Gulkana, we weren’t able to do any rock or ice climbing, but we were able to practice these skills.

When we arrived to the trailhead, spirits were high, packs were heavy, and I was anxious to get started. About three miles of hiking through shrubs, rocks, and Alaskan wilderness and we came to the base of the glacier. Once we arrived, it had been raining for quite some time, but it was pouring when we got to the base. Our plan was to cross the glacial river at the safest point, stash our hiking boots in hopes that they dried out in a few days, and switch into mountaineering boots and crampons. Getting to the actual ice was challenging in itself! Glacial mud is NO joke. It’s worse than quicksand, swallowing your feet faster than you can move them. It was nerve-wracking, and needless to say, I had grayish sloppy mud up to my thighs. Finally, after maneuvering my hands through the cold rain, I got all the right gear on—double plastic mountaineering boots, crampons, and waterproof (Goretex) gaiters to go overtop of it all, to keep my feet dry. When it comes to mountaineering, keeping your feet dry is pretty essential, especially when you’re dealing with below freezing temps.

The trek up the glacier itself wasn’t that bad. To keep my spirits up (I don’t particularly like being soaking wet and incredibly muddy), I made up little songs or tunes and hummed the whole time. A few hours later, when we were about 500’ or so below the USGS hut we were staying in, things got very tough. I was incredibly hot and exhausted at this point, and my legs were hurting pretty badly, and this was the steepest part of the climb. We could see another storm rolling in a couple miles behind us, so we hauled it up to the hut, and then it became a glorious day. 😉

We immediately got to work melting and boiling snow for water, since we only had brought enough to keep us hydrated for the hike. No sense in carrying extra weight. This is another aspect of mountaineering—melting and boiling water is a must. And luckily, with mountaineering, there’s always a supply of snow or ice around.

Once we got settled in, hung out all our gear and clothes to dry, and ate dinner, we decided to walk up to a ridge behind the hut that overlooked a couple of other glaciers and the beautiful Alaska mountains. This was some of the most peaceful scenery I’ve ever experienced—nobody around for miles, just the sounds of nature and ice outside, ice falling under the surface, rock slides—pure greatness and chaos all from such a serene environment. It is truly an experience to behold.

The next day, we spent some time around our little camp/hut and practiced some glacier things. When a group of people move on a glacier, it’s sometimes necessary to be roped together, depending on the terrain. The purpose of roping up is to keep everyone safe and alive, since there are crevasses on glaciers. Sometimes these crevasses can swallow a bus. They can be HUGE. But they can also be very small. When you are above the ‘firn line’, this means instead of walking purely on ice, you’re walking on snow built up from previous winters, sometimes hundreds of feet above the ice of the actual glacier. And in the spring and summers, the snow melts and freezes and melts and freezes. The snow can also completely cover a crevasse. When this happens, it’s called a snow bridge, and snow bridges can be sketchy, depending on the time of year. We move as a team so that no one person falls into a crevasse that could be unavoidable and deadly. This involves a series of rope management and knot tying, but it’s a relatively simple process to rope up.

We also practiced self-arrest. Self-arrest is a method of crevasse rescue that prevents someone from falling or falling farther into a crevasse. You use an ice axe and the idea is as you walk, if a member of the team starts to fall, they yell ‘Falling!’ and the remaining team members fall into self arrest, by slamming down their ice axe, turning your head away from the adze, and slamming your feet (with crampons), into the ground to form kind of a triangle, with three points of contact to the ground. To practice self-arrest, we didn’t rope up initially. We just climbed a steep hill and would just fall down, gaining some momentum, and then going into self-arrest. When someone falls into a crevasse, you can never tell how exactly you’re going to be falling, so we practiced falling down feet first, head first, upside down on your back head first, and various other forms of falling down. It was fun in a sense, but the idea is to know how to self-arrest properly and efficiently. It would never be fun to actually have to use those skills on an expedition. However, if the need came, you need to be well versed in these skills. On the final day, before we left, we practiced more crevasse rescue things—self arrest, and then building an anchor system, and eventually a 3:1 pulley system used for hauling someone out who has potentially fallen into a crevasse and is unable to ascend their rope. This is the most extreme of the rescue scenarios, and is hopefully never implemented, but again, is a necessary skill to know like the back of your hand. I definitely still need practice mastering the pulley system, but I understand the anchor system pretty well. There are a LOT of little steps involved in a very large process, and any step left out or put out of correct order could mean potential danger. Practicing these skills is a crucial aspect of mountaineering.

One of our potential objectives at the Gulkana was to summit one or two of the peaks out there. While the Alaska Range houses the largest mountains in the country, where we were particularly, in the Deltas, the peaks were only 8000-9800’. Still, in Alaska, since we’re so far north, they say altitude starts affecting you around 6500’. I didn’t find this to be an issue at all, even though we were camping around 6500’ and hiked higher. We set out to summit Minya Peak, which included a lot of routefinding. We kind of trekked all over when we could have taken a more direct route. But when you’re out there, you have to make judgment calls, and you can’t always see closely how the terrain will be. So, taking the safest route that we could see and find, we made it ALMOST to the top. However, those clouds are persistent! We ran into whiteout conditions, where the fog gets so bad, you can’t see clearly, and especially not clear enough to be walking on unfamiliar ridgelines. We weren’t too disappointed in turning back. After all, we are able to come back almost any weekend, and now we have a more definitive understanding of the terrain here.

Once we got back to the camp, we settled in for the night. It was a long day, but the more time I spent out there, the more I learned, and the more I loved every part of it. There’s something really interesting about this sport—how it pushes you farther than you are comfortable going, but you learn to be comfortable despite it. Being tired becomes normal, and you can’t let physical tiredness or hunger or sore legs or backs keep you from continuing. To move means you’re surviving, and if you stop moving (without the proper gear), you won’t survive. I’m a girl who loves food. So I learned even more that food is an incredible motivator for me. Apart from just the pure willpower of wanting to finish the task, I look forward to eating dinners or snacks. I guess to each his own method of motivation…:)

Thank you for putting up with this rather long blog post. If any of you are wondering why in the world any of us would want to put ourselves through these scenarios and call it a vacation, I have some news. It is all for preparation. A few people know this, but I will make it public now by saying, Logan and I are planning to attempt Denali (20,310’) next summer. I say attempt because the summit rate for Denali is about 50-50. There are SO many factors that are involved in this process. But over half a year ago, we made the decision to attempt the highest summit in North America. I will surely be writing more about this to come, but for now, I’ll let you soak all this information in, and open the floor to any questions anyone has. Haha I’m not crazy, I promise.

 

the new place

FYI, I wrote this blog over a month ago, at the beginning of June. Yes, it’s taken me that long to gain the effort to go out in public for decent Internet. The struggle is real, especially when you realize the Internet is obsolete. So…pretend like it’s the first of June, and that’ll get you up to date with my life.

We are officially no longer living in a dry cabin! The move happened so fast, and we’ve had family and events in and out over the last couple weeks. But we’re on about week 3 of living in a real log cabin, with a holding tank for running water (complete with a lovely hot water heater). I’m going to explain a little more here about this transition, because it was not as easy as you may think.

I know that I sometimes complained about the inconveniences of the dry cabin, but at the same time, I knew deep down that I valued the extra efforts we had to make to live. I appreciated the small space because you can only have so much extra stuff. Less to clean, more stuff to keep organized in the small space, but it was simple. This isn’t to say where we are now is not simple, because it is!

The new place is great. We both loved it when we saw it. It’s funny, the two things we both desired desperately in the next house was running water, and to be closer to town. I wrote sometimes about how frustrating it would be to have to plan so far in advance trips to town and errands to run living 20-25 minutes out. Well, we moved just a little bit farther out…but with that compromise, we gained 5 acres of land, mostly wooded and great for trailblazing. We got a 3(ish) story house with running water, a bathroom, a shower, a bathTUB, and a pretty big kitchen. (Did I mention the kitchen also has a sink with a faucet…and hot running water?) It has a sweet wood stove, which is exciting. We’ve never had a wood stove, but it is another one of those Alaskan experiences. A lot of people have wood stoves as the main heat source, and toyo stoves or radiant heaters as back up. Keeping a wood stove running through an entire Alaskan winter is hard work, and the work starts NOW. It takes time to cut up wood, but even longer to store it because it’s best to burn wood that’s been dried out. This process takes 3-6 months.

Built in the 70s, this place has a lot of character. The main support beam that goes through the main floor ceiling is kind of short. Logan has to duck his head to the side to walk from one side to the other. The guy who built it was eccentric…or maybe short. Or maybe it was a joke?

Since we lived in such a small space before, moving didn’t take too much time. We rented a van and moved all of our furniture in one trip. And since Logan works a lot, I mainly did the rest of the small stuff in a few fully loaded car trips. All in all, the process took 2-3 days, off and on. This is kind of a weird accomplishment, but I managed to move every single item we possess without using packing tape, or bubble wrap. (haha, talk about lazy). Who wants to individually wrap cups and plates and glassware, just to drive 10 miles down the street and unwrap it all. Call it laziness, or call it efficiency…;) I just drove slow, and nothing broke.

For those few days it took to fully move out, I went through some crazy emotions. Being in transition is like living in limbo—stuff in two places. You can’t remember what’s packed and what’s where. And you feel like you’re destroying one home, and rebuilding another one from scratch. This sounds ridiculous, but I had the hardest time finding places for our stuff in the new place. I went from having literally 2 drawers, and 4 cabinets in the kitchen to having like 8 drawers and 15 cabinets. And I was moving MY stuff into a place I didn’t know. Call it OCD, but I find it frustrating when I can’t find anything in my own kitchen. And overwhelming when there’s too much space. Things have since settled quite nicely. I like where things are, and the more time passes, the more I feel like this new place is home.

We are living the spoiled life now! We can take hot showers, do dishes and rinse them with hot water; we have two closets! I bought bathroom accessories the other day (?!!), I have a little loft upstairs that is housing all my music and recording stuff, which I think is pretty sweet. We have a 2-car garage! This is unheard of unless you have lots of money up here, but we lucked out! And my all time favorite part of this new place, is the large garden space and HUGE raspberry patch. It took a LOT of work, and still needs a lot more work to look fully presentable. But I am SO excited to live here. It is beautiful. Enjoy the pictures below. 🙂

 

a neat freak, not a germaphobe

Disclaimer: The following blog post is filled with habits and lifestyles that are not typically ‘normal’. If anyone knows me in any depth, they’ll know that I believe in kindness towards all, regardless of race, religion, sexuality, and in this case…cleanliness. 😛 So please be kind.

I live in a dry cabin. I’ve spent many posts talking about the lifestyle we’ve chosen to live (temporarily), and we are soon coming to our end in the cabin. July 1 marks the end of our lease, and we hope to be moved out in late June. When thinking about the past year, I have so many conclusions about dry living, but one that sticks out in my mind more than most is this: living in a dry cabin is the equivalent of accepting the existence of countless germs and bacteria. And I honestly believe this notion has helped boost our immune systems, and made me less of a germaphobe!

I don’t think I ever claimed the title germaphobe, but after this year with no hot, running water, I’ve come to realize maybe I used to be. When we first moved into the dry cabin, doing dishes was the worst chore possible. I was so against that way of doing dishes that I wrote a whole blog post about it. Oh, the hassle of heating and reheating water. Back then, we would not only reheat water several times during a dishwashing session making the process last MUCH longer than was ever intended, we would even have a huge pot filled with water and an iodine solution for ‘cleansing’ our dishes once they were rinsed. And I’ll be real straight here, that habit only lasted a few times.

More times than I’d like to admit, I’ve come across a dish or two that isn’t perfectly spotless. There’s a bit of coffee residue here, a little residue there. It’s definitely not a classy, high-style life. And here, I will admit another mistake I’ve been making for the last 10+ months (until I just recently realized). I have been doing laundry the wrong way!!!

Yeah…you read that right. A 23 year old woman who grew up doing her own laundry, perfectly capable of DOING LAUNDRY has been doing laundry wrong. I am so ashamed. I take our laundry to this tiny little building on the army base that has 4 small washers and dryers. It is not normally occupied by anyone, and is located by a series of trails, so it’s been perfect for me with a dog. Doing the laundry takes up a good chunk of the day because I only do it once every week or two. So apparently, with these particular washers, you have to put the soap in the bottom of the machine (even though it has an agitator) before you put in your clothes! I never read the directions on the machine because why would I need guidance on such a simple chore?? -_-

So yeah, the past 10 months, not all of our clothes have been exactly cleaned properly at each wash. I even added more soap a lot of the time because I always noticed our clothes didn’t have that freshly washed laundry smell when I took them out of the washer, and I just blamed that on the fact that “it was probably just the washer’s fault…it’s not as good of quality.”

Add this on top of the fact that you just can’t really wash your hands that well at all in a dry cabin! And when you do, you are using completely cold water. Do you know how many times I’ve cooked dinner in this place!? Do you KNOW how messy baking dishes get when you have leftover dough or batter sticking to the bowl, not to mention, all over your hands? I make homemade pizza dough probably once a week, and it is AWFUL because of the mess that gets on your hands! Handling raw meat? Just forget about it. The germs are going to be there, regardless. Raw eggs? Same deal. It seems I can’t crack an egg without somehow getting it all over my hands. Lysol wipes are my best cleaning partner.

I’ve saved the most gross (for some) for last. So if you’ve made it this far…hold tight. Showering. I’d say most regular adults shower at least once a day. It’s typical for most to either start or end their days with a nice hot shower. It either gives you a jolt of energy in the morning or cleanses your body of all that the day brought. Some shower twice a day if they are very active. When you live in a dry cabin, 30 minutes from the nearest shower, daily, routine showering becomes rather obsolete. Now bear with me here.

I consider myself a clean person. Studies have actually shown that showering every day can be more harmful than beneficial unless you are legitimately dirty. Most people shower daily because it has become the societal norm. When you soak your body in hot water every day or more than once a day, it can severely dry out your skin and hair, not to mention that unless we are working out every day hardcore or working in a chemical factory, we’re probably not that dirty anyway! Your body also uses bacteria for good too. The body’s exposure to good and harmful bacteria helps to regulate your system and boost your immune system. Besides, in my opinion, showering just a few times a week only makes the experience that much sweeter.

In the Alaska dry cabin community, this news is completely second nature. Of course you don’t shower every day…that’s absurd. When we first moved in, I tried making daily showering a habit, but quickly discovered that it was too time consuming and there were much better things to do with my time. I once mentioned to a dry cabin friend that I am so thankful for baby wipes because that is my go to shower, if I can’t immediately go shower in town. Logan will warm up water on the stove and just pour it over his head on our deck down to 30 degrees and that is just as refreshing. When I said that to her (about the baby wipes), she laughed and said, “Oh, you’ve discovered the glory that is baby wipes.” haha…this is a thing. It is a real way of life.

I’ve gone on and on about germs and the inevitable grossness of living in a dry cabin. But I find irony in that while I am not a germaphobe, I am definitely a neat freak BECAUSE of living in such a small space. I ‘clean’ my house every day, which mainly consists of putting away the unnecessary clutter and trash that comes with living. Everyone has that junk drawer or several piles of just stuff that is unnecessary. I don’t mind living in a small space with no water, but it will most definitely be clutter free! I’d go insane if I lived in a small clutter box AND had no means to really deep clean anything.

When we move to a new place, hopefully closer to town AND with running water (though who really knows what will happen…), I look forward to giving all of my dishes and clothes a good hot, soapy wash. Always be thankful for what you have, even if it’s simply the means to be clean. 🙂

 

 

 

 

marsh land

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.

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such art…IMG_1315IMG_0483

frozen everything.

ski love

What a wonderful state! I’m on an Alaskan high with all this sunshine lately. It’s light out when I go to sleep and when I wake up, so it seems like the midnight sun is already here. But the topic of this post is about WINTER!

During the winter, I was fortunate enough to have a lovely, crazy pup who needs constant exercise and interaction. I was able to spend a lot of time outside in the cold, learned how to dress properly for cold winter weather, and got really into downhill SKIING!

I started skiing last winter, but I honestly only went a couple times and it was cross country skiing, not downhill. I went skate skiing with a friend this past winter and when she told me I’d be a natural at downhill skiing, I began to nurture the idea. I was pretty against the idea initially because downhill skiing is an expensive hobby. You have to first buy lift tickets to use the lifts (a necessity unless you have skins for your skis), rent all the equipment (skis, boots, poles, helmet, etc), and have super warm layers that keep you warm when you’re shooting down a mountain through the wind and then sitting still on the long lift back up the mountain. Lift tickets are expensive, and so is renting! And I didn’t really want to get involved with such a pricey hobby. Blame my frugal roots.

However, curiosity killed the cat. And peer pressure made me go all in with skiing. Logan, and some of our friends all bought backcountry skis and began going downhill a lot. I abstained from skiing until mid winter, which now I regret. I wish I had started sooner, I could have gotten a lot better this winter.

I started off at a baby hill called Birch Hill. Even the black diamond routes on this hill are ridiculously easy, and I started on the bunny hill of the bunny hills. I had very little experience on actual skis, so just learning how to maneuver myself and how to move with long sticks attached to your feet was challenging. I also have a very hard time learning from my husband.

I’m not sure if anyone else has this issue, but for some reason, I’m not the best listener when it comes to learning new things, and he’s not the best at explaining things to me in the best way for me to understand. Needless to say, there were a few trips that were miserable. I couldn’t get it, and I got frustrated because I felt I was holding him up, and he got frustrated when I wouldn’t listen or understand, and I got frustrated because he got frustrated. Instead of learning the traditional ‘pizza turn and stop’ method where you turn both front ends of the skis together to slow down, I wanted to jump straight to learning alpine turns, where you use your hips more, and just turn the skis up or downhill to carve turns down the mountain. And after maybe three trips to Birch Hill, I GOT IT! That is, I got one turn down. I was able to flawlessly execute left turns down the mountain, and it was smooth and natural. As soon as I started to turn right, I couldn’t do it! For some reason I still don’t know, I just couldn’t turn right. This doesn’t do much good because you have to turn left and right to make it down the mountain…ya can’t just make flawless left turns the whole time.

The cool part about downhill skiing, for me at least, is that every time I went skiing, I got immensely better. I had my fair share of rough falls, but luckily I never got any serious injuries. When I was younger, this may have been a different story, but I’ve had enough broken bones for one lifetime, hopefully. The best day came when I gained enough courage and confidence to try a new ski hill, (a real mountain). A group of us went to a place called Skiland, the farthest north ski slope in the US! After skiing behind three guys who knew a lot more about skiing than me, I was able to observe my way to a better level. At the end of the day, I was skiing flawlessly down blue routes! (There’s green, blue, then black diamond, so blue is average-ish).

My ski season culminated with two days of solo skiing at the tail end of the winter season (in early April) where I had probably 15+ runs in two days. Repetition is key for me in gaining knowledge and experience. The last weekend the ski trails were open happened to be a weekend Logan was out of town for work and same with our friends I skied with this year. This was kind of a big deal for me to go alone. I’m new at skiing, and not that confident with my skills yet. I am infinitely more confident than I was at the beginning of the ski season, but I still have a long way to go.

A side note, to cut down on costs of downhill skiing, after my first ever trip to Birch Hill, I went to a used sporting equipment store and bought a decent used pair of skis with bindings and boots. After skiing a few times, they paid for themselves in the cost of renting! Plus, I got good use out of the skis and didn’t have to spend hundreds on a brand new set up. Although, at the end of the ski season, I wanted to buy a better ski setup…haha but that’s the best time to buy brand new! At the end of the season when everything goes on sale! Can’t wait until next winter!

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This is me at the top of the bunny hill of the bunny hills.

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Filled with excitement and anxiety on my ski day alone.IMG_1763IMG_1764

winter..

So as I get back into this blog thing, I realized that for pretty much the duration of winter, I was offline (or at least not actively going out to find decent Internet connection). I find that ironic because during the dark, cold winter months, a lot of Alaskans become more hermit-like. And I was no different. When the sun is going down at 3 in the afternoon and rising at 10 in the morning, you feel kind of lethargic and droopy a lot. At least I did…

This winter was rough in some ways for me, but really great in other ways. And the next few posts will be about how we spent our winter months in Alaska. I definitely got out a lot more than I did last winter, thanks to Zander (my pup). Being a high energy, high maintenance dog, my life began revolving around him–when to take him out, trying to coordinate our trips to town with whenever the sun would be out (I think this was a psychological thing). My schedule during the winter (and even now) is something like the following: get up at 4am, be at work by 5am, get off work at 10:30am, be home by 11am, walk Zander around this mile loop in the woods behind our house, prepare a mental list of what to do that day in town, what I need to bring, where I need to go, etc., be home in time to make dinner and relax a little.

In the winter, I always felt the need to be home before it got too dark. I don’t really know why we’re wired this way, but once it gets dark outside, I don’t typically want to be going out a whole lot. Obviously, sometimes we would go out for dinner and it would be long dark, but for the most part, I just wanted to be in comfy clothes in the cozy cabin from like 4 or 5 on. Now it isn’t as much of an issue since it is light for 16+ hours a day.

My schedule is completely limited to the fact that I live 25 minutes from town. And to whoever voluntarily lives 20-30 minutes away from their town/job, I applaud you. I don’t know how you do it. My trips to town often include things like going to the gym (to work out or to shower), going to the laundry place, going to the grocery store, going to get water, taking the trash, going to the dog park. And all of these things don’t seem like huge major time consuming tasks. But factoring in the travel time, and having a high maintenance pup, these trips take several hours a day. I can’t just go to the laundry place and sit there for 2 hours, I have to go to the laundry place, wash the clothes, walk Zander for a while, come back, switch the laundry, walk Zander a little more, or go check the mail at a separate location on base (since we don’t have a mailbox), come back, fold the laundry, take Zander to the dog park on the way home so he runs out a bit more of his energy, run by the grocery store to pick up the one ingredient I need for dinner (there’s always something missing in my kitchen it seems…), then go home. Before I know it, a trip to town to do laundry has consumed 4 or 5 hours of my day. It’s INSANE!

I’m planning sometime to take some time to write about my dog. That doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with dry cabins, but he’s a major part of my life, and a majorly different dog experience than I’ve ever had.

So I think this will be it for now. My plan was to talk about my winter hobbies that I’ve fallen in love with, but I’ll save that for next time. Sneak peak though: I learned to downhill ski (which I’m now obsessed with), I learned to ice climb, I overcame my many irrational fears of being alone in the dark woods of interior Alaska. That last one is huge to me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been so terrified of the dark…mainly being outside when it’s dark. And a few years ago, I would have never imagined going outside in the dark, let alone in the woods of Alaska where huge animals run amuck. 😛

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back for a bit.

ok, ok. I know it’s been several months since my last blog post.
I could go on a rant about how busy I’ve been and all the things I’ve been doing with my spare time, but the honest truth is this…I haven’t been blogging much because I haven’t been going out to get Internet at all!
A few posts back I wrote about how we aren’t able to receive Internet at our cabin…mainly because it’s too far out. And how that was a huge struggle and challenge for a time, but it’s really gotten a lot easier. Obviously. We do have data on our phones so we’re able to post pictures and updates and check emails and do internet that way. But doing much more than picture posting can be a bit of a hassle on a phone screen. So I just haven’t been using it as much. (which I think is great).

I spend my days outside as much as possible, enjoying my now ten month old pup Zander, running errands to town, reading a lot, doing music stuff, and just keeping house. To say I am a spoiled girl is an understatement. I am so grateful that I’m able to work just part time, have ample free time to spend volunteering or with friends or running errands.

Our time in the dry cabin is quickly coming to an end. Our lease is up in July and while I’ve enjoyed our time living in the Goldstream Valley, we’re looking forward to living closer to town and having the incredible luxuries of hot running water and an indoor bathroom again. Oh how sweet it will be to be able to shower in my own house. 😛

A quick update on life in Alaska: it’s officially spring break-up season. Alaskans refer to this season as ‘breakup’ since the rivers and lakes are starting to thaw and thus, ‘break up’. A quirky tradition in Alaska is betting on when the Nenana River will breakup. It’s sort of like a lottery, since Alaska doesn’t have a lottery. People buy $2.50 breakup tickets and guess an exact date and time the river will break. In a little town called Nenana, they set up a tripod looking contraption in the middle of the river and attached to it is a timer that records the exact date and time it falls through. It’s something Alaskans statewide participate in, which I find funny since Nenana is such a small town between Fairbanks and Denali National Park. It’s famous this time of year though. They’re expecting it to break early this year since we’ve had such a mild winter.

The sun rises around 6am and sets around 9:30pm, and it’s only getting lighter! I’ll admit, this is the reason I love Alaska so much. Winter sports are great, but the anticipation of warm weather is only enhanced when the sun is out longer. It makes you want to stay out and stay up late…which I’ve definitely noticed affecting my daily performance. I work the early morning shift at a coffee shop, so I’m up at 4am every day, and when I’m staying up later and later due to the glorious sunshine, that starts taking a toll. (good thing I work in a coffee shop). 🙂

I’m hoping to keep this blog going for a while. I just get so caught up in life here that I find it hard to commit to consistency. I know there are some people who enjoy reading about life here, and if anything, it’ll be nice to have a record of my time here. However, summer is coming, which means I try to make the most of every moment. In other words, going out to get Internet will become less and less a priority. In fact, the only reason I’m out right now was to update my computer and phone software since they are so out of date. 😛

Stick with me…more adventures to come. 🙂