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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Spring Time at the Gates of the Arctic.....

The moment that I realized it was spring?

I was sipping my first morning cup of coffee, doing that weird blank just-got-out-of-bed stare out the window.  You know the type; unfocused, heavy lidded, that morning limbo gaze that is almost as comfortable as the cup of coffee.  After a minute or two I noticed something odd.  There was something sitting on the pristine snow right outside the window.  It had a weird texture.  An unrecognizable shape.  I stared at it for about five minutes, my mind was having trouble trying to name it.  To tell you the truth I was a tiny bit scared.  It was like seeing an alien, or a mermaid on a distant rock in the ocean, or maybe even odd mole on your foot.  It did not belong.  I stared at it till the coffee was gone and the last sip at the bottom of the cup was ice cold.  My husband came in the kitchen and I glanced away for a moment to greet him...and when I turned back to resume my puzzled stare I instantly recognized it.  A laughed a bit nervously.  A flood of actual relief crested over me.  It was gravel.  Plain old stones peeking through melting snow.

Ah. Spring.  

Spring here in the arctic is not what you would call pretty.  If Winter is a vain, beautiful, mean woman, then spring is an awkward teenager boy covered in acne and all gangly and squeaky.  The snow melts and freezes in quick bursts leaving the ground randomly wet and crunchy at the same time.  Layers of debris and animal poo and things you didn't realize you left in the snow emerge in ugly glory from what was once white and clean.  The willow bushes shed the heavy snow and sit on the horizon looking like a bald mans brand new hair plugs...or maybe barbie hair.  Even the dogs scratch miserably at their shedding fur as it falls off in heavy smelly clumps.  Early spring is uncomfortable and wonderful at the same time.

The weather gets warm enough for me to emerge from my winter hibernation, and I disappear from the modern world at least every other day.  Ice fishing for lake trout and arctic char, trips to the tree line to gather alder bark and cotton tree buds, and general driving around in the melting arctic watching what the animals may be doing.  The sound of chittering squirrels and singing snow birds always makes one smile and laugh. 

It's also when our 'adventure times' begin.  We usually use this term to describe any situation in which we are in the boonies and we will face some type of hardship or we are doing something with a smidgeon of danger.  Just a smidgeon mind you.  Like if a snow machine breaks down and we have to load it on a sled and drag it home.  Or on the way home we encounter a heavy snow blizzard and whiteout conditions.  But sometimes we try something new and these are also 'adventure times'.    Personally I think it's our way of completely refusing to become a complete adult.  As long as I don't get frostbite or end up in water (which has happened once or twice) then it's always said with a grin and high five. 

Some spring time photos.....

Lake Tulugaq has spots that never freeze at all during winter.  My husband and his older brother got a caribou over the hill while I sat at the edge of the lake and tried my luck at fishing. 

At Lake Chandler about 30 miles away, you can see how thick the ice is.

A big danger in the spring is snow blindness.  Northern Alaska natives have physically adapted to combat this, with slanted eyes and brown pigmented eyes.  We still wear sunglasses or eye protection though. 

My husband butchering a caribou in the 'hot' spring weather.  At this time of year the caribou are gathering together in larger herds and are slowly making there way north for the summer.  In our area they will pretty much be gone all summer long.

Adventure Time.  My husband convinced me to take a 'shortcut' over the mountains to lake chandler.  It was crazy, and I decided never to do that again!  It was a series of steep climbs and drops and narrow crooked ravines.  My ears popped at least 8 times because of the quick elevation changes. 
There were several times I had to get off the snowmachine so he could do maneuver the snowmachine better (sometimes my squealing was a distraction).  Here I am posing next to the snowmachine in what I call my 'sleeping bag' outfit, head to toe fluffy down. 

Aunty enjoying the view at the trees.

Bens family has finished building a spring cabin on their property at the trees. 

Niece Josie tells me about hows the weather and temperature has been while they were there.

Josie took a photo of me.  I think she did pretty good.

Josie again with a lake trout that a cousin caught at Lake Chandler.  In the background is a Swedish family friend that has been visiting Ben's family every year for about 17 years.  He has no idea what 'swedish fish' is.  Yes I asked.
Garden update picture!  Some pepper/tomato and echinacea plants. Today they are being put into larger pots that finally got here in the mail! 


  1. I love your blog.

  2. wow...look at how big those plants got! glad Spring finally found you. :)

    1. Spring is here! in an arctic fashion......i hope my plants will survive!

  3. Superb writing and good pictures. Rainey, you make me want to spend a year in AKP. Life is just too short, goes by too quick. Do you know how many places I would like to spend a full year in?

    1. Hey Bill! I have a feeling AKP will be here longer than we are! :) Thank you for reading my blog!

  4. It reminds me of spring here in northern New York. It's certainly not an arctic climate of course, but for us spring is slow and still a little snowy and muddy and cold and a big in-between of a season, not a pretty pile of green and flowers and birds.
    I love the descriptions you use and the pictures you share!

  5. I love your blog, Rainey. I don't come every day, but I always come back. I don't always comment, but I come back. :)