March marks that special time of year where most Fairbanksians would do just about anything to see some earnest snow melt and some warmer days. We’re all glad the -50F temperatures have come and gone, but the weather is still flirting with 0F and we’re all dreaming of sunny bike rides and farmers markets and not having to start our cars ten minutes before going anywhere. I want to stand out on my icy porch and yell, “Goodbye Winter! We’ve had enough! See you next year!”, but I also don’t want my neighbors to think I’ve completely lost it. There is simply something so much free-er about summer! Maybe it’s not having to wear six layers everywhere I go, or maybe cabin fever is finally setting in; either way, I’m very excited for spring to be steadily marching this way.
In the meantime, I’ve been trying to enjoy the last of our wintery days by getting out into our longer days (we’ve been steadily gaining light since December, and now we still have some twilight around 9pm!) and enjoying some of the peculiarities of arctic living.
|Tom baits the hooks|
Alaskans have just enjoyed two major sled dog races, The Iditarod and the Yukon Quest (the former of which my room mate’s brothers both mushed in), and just yesterday I had to stop on my way to the bank to let some sprint mushers cross the road during a race. Dogs are a major part of many Alaskan’s lives, and as in the case of my room mate and her fiance, they are like additional family members. Some people feel that running dogs is a crime against animals and should be stopped immediately, but I think it’s important to realize that mushers don’t run dogs just to get carried around at five miles per hour on a sled. They run dogs because, well, dogs love to run. And mushers love their animals! Yes, occasional there is a bad egg who should be banned from owning dogs for a lifetime, but most mushers are compassionate, adoring dog owners who take incredible care of their animals. Anyway, it’s been fun to watch the races and cheer for Alaskans as they compete in some of the world’s toughest races.
Tom has also finally gotten me to try an Interior Alaska winter past time that I have, up until now, scoffed at. Ice fishing. Yes, it does sound incredibly lame, and I certainly anticipated being very bored by the whole thing. But, Tom somehow managed to make it sort of fun and I actually really enjoyed participating in such an old subsistence activity. I could see living in a remote place and eating fish several times per week since it’s such a low-energy way to harvest food!
So far we’ve only managed to hook one burbot which is currently filleted and in my freezer awaiting our next neighborhood dinner gathering. Their flesh is white and firm, so I’m expecting something a little like halibut (now there’s a real fish!). Tom is an excellent cook when it comes to fish – my expectations are high!
|My snowy ski-jour trail|
Skiing has also become more fun since the weather warmed up from -20F. I take my room mate’s dog out ski-jouring from time to time and hope that she’s in the mood to “jour” so I don’t have to do too much “ski”. For those of you unfamiliar with this sport, it’s really just the lazy and fast way to ski. I simply harness the dog, clip the harness to a belt strapped to my waist, clip into my ski bindings, and off we go! I push on the skis and the dog pulls and hopefully we all stay upright and moving in a forward direction. Sometimes on the downhills the pooch will get distracted by some tantalizing scent and I’ll find myself zipping by her as she stops in her tracks to investigate. Inevitably the last thing I’ll see is her furry behind hauling off into the woods as I crash to the ground in a pile of tangled ski poles and harness. Usually, though, it goes pretty smoothly and is a great workout for myself and the dog. I’m heavily debating adopting a dog of my own so I can have a skiing and hiking partner year ’round.
Looking at these photos, I guess I have to conclude that I actually love winter and all the wonderful activities it brings to my arctic world. Maybe if it could just be a little shorter…and less chilly….
Until next time, thanks for reading!