Category Archives: Alaska

Is it September yet?

Summer in Alaska is a singular experience.

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For starters, Alaskan summers are visually stunning. You don’t even want to blink let alone close your eyes for 8 of every 24 hours. There is too much to miss. This is nature donning her Sunday best every day for 3 months, and there is a wealth of activity! The fishing, hiking, boating, wildlife spotting…When the outdoors screams at you like that, you run to her.

Which means, June through August, you stay the F#$% awake.

Ironically, as luck (and biology) would have it, Alaskan summers are also treacherous.

Alaska is bursting with life, the more deadly of which (just like you) wakes up for summer. (Another reason to keep your eyes open ALL THE TIME). There are 3 types of bear, large unpredictable moose and big cats but there are also some pretty scary little guys.

As my son reminded me yesterday:

“Mom I think I saw a wasp. It was about 2 inches long with a HUGE stinger and red stripes…”

(FYI that was not a wasp)

Even some of the botanicals are out to get you. Digging in the garden last week I brushed up against a plant know to scar human flesh before remembering,

“oh right, poisonous…”

(I’m fine by the way.)

The offensive green was removed immediately as I can’t be expected to stay out of the garden…all summer…in Alaska…

Like I said, singular.

Severely singular…thrilling, intense, ubiquitously exhausting…

(No I’m pretty sure that’s a thing)

All of the above.

And the effect this has on those who live here is curious. About the end of July a strange sensation begins to take hold and suddenly, shockingly, bizarrely (for an inhabitant of a place with such a short summer)…

Winter starts to seem like a pretty cool concept.

(Eagle River with bear and Eagle River without. You decide)

Yeah winter, it’s dark, people sleep, there’s no bear, the poisonous plants are gone and the life cycle of the 2 inch red stripped ‘wasp’ has ended.

Winter…there’s an idea…

Is it September yet?

 

Alaskan check list

 

Well here we are, rounding off our first full week back in the 49th.

First week, that is, plus a couple days. But since those days were little more than a blur of boxes, cleaning supplies and the occasional “look, a new road” I’m not counting them.

Anyway it’s more interesting to count other things. Like these curiosities of local life:

The number of times I begrudged Walmart for being the closest department store to my house: 

10. Ten times, in seven days.

Walmart is not only the closest store it’s the only store. The next option is 3 miles beyond.

We have nothing. I have spent the week trapped in a vortex of little time and much need. Enter, Walmart.

Of all the gin joint neighborhoods in all the world, they had to build a store in mine…

Despite this…

The number of times I went to Walmart:

10. Ten times.

One trip was actually to visit the bank inside Walmart. However after finishing my business there I stepped left to shop for chest waders.

So, I have to count it.

On a related note:

The number of time I’ve used the word “waders” in casual conversation this week:

9

Alaska. July. It’s a bit like visiting Germany without saying “strudel”. Yeah no.

On a slightly more frightening note…

The number of conversations I’ve had since arrival that ultimately turned to a bear rant:

All of them

This summer’s bear population is extremely “healthy” (as one woman euphemistically phrased it. Healthy/deadly Potato/potaato). The bears are so prolific that if you leave food out, your neighbors are likely to maul you. 

Which begs the questions – wasn’t that one of the reasons we left?

Final count for the week (and if you didn’t see this coming, you don’t know me AT ALL)

The number of times I’ve said, either audibly or mentally, “Hawaii”.

25

That’s 3.5 times a day though I believe the bulk were said last Saturday shortly before this photo was taken.

rain
By Mowgli. Because I looked fierce.

(Beautiful Friday, stunning Sunday…Saturday, WTF?)

Alaska is great. The Mountains, the opportunity, the lifestyle…

And thanks to Hawaii, I just might survive it.

 

 

The Anarchist twitch

So, here’s a side effect of leaving Alaska that I did not see coming, I am suffering ordnance withdrawals.

That’s right, I’m desperate to blow something up.

Calm down. I can say things like this. Thanks to previous employment I’m already in a government database somewhere. Homeland security knows I’m not a terrorist, just an Alaskan feeling a little homesick.

(Now there’s a fine line…).

What’s brought this on? Who knows but I’m inclined to say the weather. It’s wet, I want fire and making one here isn’t easy without a serious catalyst.

(No matter what the fire department would have you believe. Funny story, on last week’s hike we found a CAUTION FIRE DANGER sign in what – after weeks of relentless rain – was less “trail” and more “raging river”. Honestly someone should design such posts to be invisible until the weather’s sufficiently dry enough for the danger to be believable. Otherwise it’s just one more reason for people like me to distrust authority.)

(Again, not a terrorist, just a girl from Eagle River.)

But, back to my need for pyrotechnics, it would be unfair to place all the blame on rain. Without a doubt, living with boys, creatures who are functionally deaf unless the conversation turns to explosives, is not helping me. Check our computer’s search history and you’ll find “C4” popping up with alarming regularity. Also, “Nuclear reaction” is mentioned so often around here I’m thinking of turning it into a drinking game.

(Dear NSA, CIA, SIS… lighten up…)

Anyway, it doesn’t matter how I got to this mental place, the point is to get out. How? There are no fireworks here and Mowgli, God bless him, is only a fraction of the way through this countries legal maze to gun ownership. What are our options after that? Fertilizer? Molotov cocktail? Call me chicken, but the risk to entertainment ratio with both those is beyond even my unorthodox senses…so far.

Maybe I just need to relax and this will pass. Yeah that’s it, maybe I just need to drink a beer, put on some Ted Nugent and eat a cow. Maybe then I’ll be sated…

Until that time though, to the bottle rocket!

6 Things about Ireland only Alaskans would find weird

 

1) Garages are superfluous structures.

Fair enough. It snows very little here. So little that 1 inch will put the entire country in lockdown. And that, for  Alaskans (and many Canadians I know), is a head scratching concept.

We are what we live though, so I wont go as far as to call that weird. Remember that summer it hit 75 F in Alaska and everyone moved into their campers because it was too warms indoors? That was weird.

Speaking of weather…

2) Irish rivers are widest (most flooded) in winter. What??

The Shannon feeling a little bloat, poor girl. Meanwhile, I'm dreaming of a dry Christmas...
The Shannon feeling a little bloat, poor girl. Meanwhile, I’m dreaming of a dry Christmas…

 

That thing about no snow plays a part. Still, though, weird.

3) You can drive from one side of the country to the other in under 3 hours, but you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone doing it much. An hour in a car is considered arduous. Get with it. Mass doesn’t even last that long.

And this situation may or may not be tied to our next item…

4) It is not common for kids under 16 years to operate motorized vehicles. Forget about boats, 4wheelers and snow machines here it’s not weird if a 20 year old doesn’t know how to drive a car. Ireland is home, however, to a large percentage of skilled horsemen and people who don’t screw up catching a train as often as I do. (Abilities I might trade my CDL for…) 

5) In conversation a “chicken” is always, always a chicken and never a halibut. Also, no one ever expects the word “salmon” to be preceded with “silver, red, king, humpy…” Not even in restaurants.

(Not that you’d ever see humpys on a menu… but….oh dear I’m letting my Alaskan show, aren’t I?)

6) Christmas lights up and lit before December 1st or after January 8th are an evil on par with assassinating an Archduke.

And for this social misstep I wish to seek forgiveness in advance, lest I forget and start world war 3.

I am sorry but it’s very dark in February in Alaska and old habits die hard.

 

Merry Christmas everyone!