Attitude has to do with everything in life. Sometimes I forget that and let my apprehension stand in the way, such as moving to foreign places. I always try to have an open mind and a good attitude about things, but I’m not sure what it is about moving to the unknown that makes this good quality go out the window. I guess the concept of living in a foreign place doesn’t set well with me at my age. It’s too bad this didn’t come up forty years ago when I was gung-ho to go anywhere and do about anything.
Back then, my sense of adventure led me to Alaska to spend the summer, not knowing it would be five long years before I got out of there. I’m not saying it was all bad, but we have no idea what a place will actually be like until we move there and can immerse ourselves in what it has to offer.
Denali National Park - Alaska
Downtown Anchorage Alaska in Summer
The Alaska experience was one that exposed me to things I would have never seen, or been a part of, had I not gone there. It is the “last frontier” here in the US. Many things about the state live up to this name. The biggest adjustment, besides all the cold weather, was the short seasons, and unusual differences between days versus nights. It is also amazing that you can drive no more than two or three minutes out of any settlement and be totally out in the wilderness. You can literally leave a large city like Anchorage with its skyscrapers, restaurants, and shopping centers and find yourself surrounded by woods and mountains thinking you are the only one there, not even knowing a large city is a couple of miles down the road.
Whittier/Portage Glacier - Not far from where I lived in Anchorage, Alaska
It is a very different country. The fur and pine trees grow stunted because of the cold weather temperatures, and on the mountains, there is a “tree line” where it is actually too high and too cold to grow any trees. Yet, because of the short growing season, the veggies are gigantic, growing to several feet long or diameters across. One can picture sitting there and watching them as they grow before your eyes because overnight they seem to pick up several inches. This same phenomenon happens when the trees leaf out in the spring. They go from bud to full leaf in a week’s time.
This broccoli weighs 35 pounds and was grown by John Evans in Palmer, Alaska
The state is like a picture postcard. Almost everywhere you look is some magnificent untouched landscape to photograph. I would love to share some of these with you, but I didn’t have a digital camera in those days. The pictures I do have are from an old 110 camera and not very good. The ones I’m posting on here I Googled and found on the internet.
Aside from the extreme cold, it was always dark in the winter and always light in the summer. I worked in a mall, went to work in the dark, and came home in the dark in the wintertime. The sun was up from about 11am to 2 pm, but was still dusky and you needed headlights to drive. The opposite was true in summer when you had to have dark shades on the window to sleep. The sun was still up at midnight. All of this stuff can really throw you off mentally. The summers never get warm either, unless you call the two days in July when it is 70 degrees warm.
There are as many bars as gas stations. It seems like there is one on every corner. This is because there is nothing to do in the wintertime except drink and party. It even gets too cold to ski or walk around in snowshoes. Depression is a big factor in the wintertime. They call it “cabin fever.”
Everyone has a foyer in the house, which is in essence a small compartment about three by four that sits between two front doors to the house. This is where everyone leaves all the cold weather gear you have to put on just to go outside anywhere, even if it’s just down the block. This space also acts as a barrier to trap most of the cold air before you enter the house. It takes about 15-20 minutes to get all this stuff on, or get it off after you’ve arrived somewhere. People go to dinner in fancy restaurants in snow boots in the winter.
Every house is also equipped with plug-ins to warm your car engine, so it will start and you can go somewhere. All the cars have engine heaters installed and a small plug sticking out of the grill in front.
I never saw so many wrecked vehicles either. Almost everyone up there owns a car with at least a couple of dents because the roads get slick in the winters. There are numerous fender benders daily. It isn’t unusual to see cars sitting off in vacant fields or stuck in the snow banks. Sometimes it is like driving past the carnage from the night before on your way to work. You definitely need to watch out for “sliding vehicles.”
Bull Moose in Chugach State Park - Alaska
Aside from all this, there are some amazing sights as well. Among those are moose grazing in the ponds, standing knee deep in the water, and picking wild blueberries with the black bears on berry-covered knolls in the summers. In addition, the glaciers are amazing with their enormous chunks of blue ice immersed in large, cold pools with the main glacier in the background that is several stories high. If I hadn’t gone there, I would have never witnessed all these things, or have been part of a moose butchering team. Let me note here that this was an experience and not necessarily a highlight of my life up there. Butchering animals is not my thing, but moose is definitely better than beef.
Fireweed and Clover grows wild everywhere on Alaska
This is fireweed on the Kenai River
Where else can you gather fireweed and clover to make your own honey? Or walk among squash and other veggies growing that are as big as wheelbarrows? Or view the Northern Lights in winter?
The Northern Lights - Alaska
So I wonder what became of my great attitude as I embark on this new adventure in Central America, if that is in fact where I end up. Maybe I should call upon my younger self to get me through this transition.
All landscape photos courtesy of Niebrugge Images
Broccoli from John Evans in Palmer AK