Currently living/working: I think it’s adequate to say Justin and I have established 2 distinct work arrangements according to the season. In summer, our hours of operation are pretty much 6am-8pm with a mix of guiding, airbnbing and a few writing projects squeezed in. We move slower through the winter, but leverage the freer schedule to take on more writing projects. One of us still likes to be ultra busy and takes on 17 projects at once, while the other one likes to tackle one thing at a time … In any case, it’s been a very full winter, and we are grateful.
Current mood: A friend taught us a new word: apricity, which means the warmth of the winter sun. Feeling the bask of its beams is a true love story. We are up to nearly 10 hours of daylight in these parts, and it never gets old to watch the arc of the sun’s golden face rise higher and higher in the sky every day. Add to it more snow in February than January, and the incredible aurora displays we’ve been catching (but not photographing). Bliss!!!
Currently excited for: Last year, Justin convinced me we should volunteer on the Iditarod. Everything about the experience—the cold, the wind, the sleep deprivation, the dogs, the chaos—should have been a deterrent and I wrote extensively about it for Adventure.com. But the volunteer experience inexplicably lures people to return year after year, so it’s not surprise we are going back for round 2 next week. We are headed to a new checkpoint (Shageluk), which is still stationed in the middle of a vast quilt of undeveloped land in the Great North. We have inside accommodations versus an arctic tent again (phew). Stay tuned for the full report!
Currently regretting: We had a super scary moose encounter earlier this month! Pictures below to help you visualize, but we were walking from our cabin to the yurt, and saw a moose in the woods. We gave it space and it moved off further into the woods. So we kept walking down the unplowed road to the yurt. Unbeknownst to us, the mom was behind us, and came barreling out of the woods. She was about 25 yards away and stopped (they often bluff charge). But then she started running toward us again, so Justin yelled “run!” I did, but quickly realized the moose was gaining on me, and Justin was ahead oh me. So my instinct was to get behind a tree in the woods (they have bad eyesight & it helps to put something between you and the moose—again it is typically a bluff charge). I didn’t account for the DEEP snowbanks we have and immediately sunk in the snow. The moose stopped about 5 feet from me, but I couldn’t really get to the tree I wanted for protection. So Justin did the only thing he could: he started yelling at the moose and running toward it. Thank goodness that worked! She backed up and just watched us keep running down the road. Honestly, my heart rate just elevated writing that story out! I am now jumpy even just walking out of the cabin the use the bathroom … It was a good reminder to not get complacent in this wilderness we live. We always say moose are more dangerous than bear, and are particularly ornery during the winter when there is less greenery to eat and snow making travel harder.
Currently amazed by: I know I had a guardian angel watching over me for my moose encounter. Speaking of which, it’s been 4 years since my Dad died. How did we get here so quickly? Acknowledging how long he’s been gone is like a highway mileage sign telling me distances from A to B. Four years without him after 40 years with him—that’s just tough.
I feel so lucky to see him in my dreams, even when it’s goofy. A couple of weeks ago, I dreamed I was on an island vacation with my family, and my dad showed up to dinner with a button-down svelte shirt. My dad was always a snazzy dresser, but this one had pineapples embroidered on, not something he would have worn. I said, “dad, I love your new shirt!” He said, “well Pay, I had to buy a new wardrobe because you donated all my clothes after I died!” Insert teary-faced emoji half laughing. It was just a reminder of his humor, but more prominently, his absence. Keep visiting us in our dreams, dad.
Currently proud of: I’m working on an article for AK Magazine about the history of the gateway cluster of businesses outside of Denali National Park. I’m always pretty obsessed with learning about the history of the area I’m living in, so Healy has been no different. The article has been a big challenge in a good way, like doing a very complicated puzzle. There are so many “rumors” about how/who/what happened in the last 50 years for this specific area, so I’ve really been diving down some rabbit holes to dig up the truth. Honestly, the article is only 600 words, and all this research I’m doing won’t really make the actual article, so it’s more of a passion project. There’s a day when the people involved first won’t be around, so need to preserve that history!
Currently worried about: The head librarian for our town left just after I got the sub job. It seems I’m the only sub, so I’ve been working a lot more at the library to keep it open in the interim. I have a soft spot for libraries (naturally), so I sure wish there was more passion and engagement with ours. Fingers crossed we can find a head librarian soon to breath life back into it (no, I don’t want that job).
Currently not excited for: My last mundane task of the winter is doing our taxes. I am majorly procrastinating because I know we will owe a boatload.
Current guilty pleasure: I have loved Danielle Walker’s recipes since a friend sent me a few in 2016 when we went dairy-free. I’ve been debating buying one of her 4 cookbooks, but ultimately restrained because who needs another cookbook??? But Justin surprised me with “Healthy in a Hurry” and promised me I could buy whatever expensive ingredients I needed. I cook way more in the winter, so it’s been fun thinking out of the box and trying new recipes from the book, all of which have been delicious and tolerated well by Justin’s precarious stomach.
Currently thankful for: Right now, our area becomes a ghost town of seasonal restaurants and businesses. Over the years, there have been a few restaurants that give winter a whirl or do pop-ups, and this month, Panorama Pizza decided to open up for weekends! It is such a treat to not only have delicious food out of someone else’s kitchen, but to run into everyone who’s have been hibernating.
Current confession: Since last year, Justin has been playing weekly poker pretty with a group of folks (more peeps in the summer with seasonals)! He keeps track of his betting, and is in the +, which of course makes it more fun. Anyway, I love my unapologetic solo nights!!! Especially with a cat to cuddle.
Currently reading: I tried reading The Firecracker Boys by Dan O’Neill, which was the selection for a local Denali book club (which I have yet to attend). I thought maybe I could attend this month, but didn’t. In any case, this nonfiction book was one of those LOOOOOONG and tedious types—meticulously researched would be the euphemism. I don’t do well with that. It was about Project Chariot, the proposal to detonate an area of Alaska’s northern coast in the 1950s with six thermonuclear bombs as a test for the H-bomb. This idea is absurd to me, but alas it is true. I didn’t need to know all the details and conversations. It could have been summed up like this: outsiders propose ridiculous idea because they think AK is a barren wasteland. Actions would profoundly impact Alaska negatively, especially the Inupiat Eskimos. Thankfully, environmentalists helped stop it.
I did finish The Last of His Kind: The Life and Adventures of Bradford Washburn, America’s Boldest Mountaineer by David Roberts. I previously read and loved his wife’s autobiography The Accidental Adventurer: Memoir of the First Woman to Climb Mt. McKinley. I liked Brad’s biography, but not as much—maybe because it was a biography versus an autobiography? Before reading it, I associated Brad with mountaineering and map-making. But of course there is more to the story, and I appreciate how he exploded into mountaineering in his 1930s seemingly out of nowhere. If you like reading about the early days of mountaineering, this would appeal to you.
Currently watching on Netflix/Hulu/HBO Max/Starz/AMC: We are still shamelessly streaming Below Deck on Peacock, the super cheesy reality TV series about deck hands and stews (housekeeping) on private yachts. We apparently are binging it this month since we’re already through nearly 5 seasons!