Uncomfortable Adventures? Be Careful What You Ask For.

It’s true. Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it. Just over a year ago I decided that we needed some uncomfortable adventures in Alaska. Chasing the sun and 70-degree winter weather in our RV for the last 16 years was just too easy, I said. We needed a challenge, to push our ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

Well uncomfortable adventures are what I wanted, and that’s what we got. Silly me, what was I thinking?

The first couple of months were easier than I imagined.

February Full moon on Lakeshore Drive Willow Alaska
Full moons are spectacular here!

Jim always says to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. I did. And everything was so new and fascinating in November and December, it really wasn’t too awful. I felt energized every time I stepped outside to watch us slide deeper into the arctic abyss.

I’ve never seen so much snow, or the way it sparkles when it falls from the sky when temperatures hover at zero Fahrenheit. Even shoveling was kinda fun.

The darkness hasn’t been an issue either. And thankfully, my personal challenge against Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is practically over. The sun is gifting us with just over 10 hours of daylight as of today (a difference from 6:43 hours of daylight one month ago. In just one month, we’ll be at 13:12 of daylight!

One huge help in coping with darkness was an indispensable Alaska living gift I received last year, a Suxio desktop sunlamp. I use it every day. Thanks Cija!

As an adult, I always thought I had a tendency toward SAD. After a decade of foggy coastal living in Northern California, it hit me like a sack of concrete. That’s one reason why I convinced Jim to hit the road in 2007.

But Alaska has taught me that I don’t get SAD. It was just living in Eureka that made me sad! Sorry Humboldt County.

But life hasn’t been totally easy peasy up here.

Snowmachine stuck on Willow Trail
“If everything goes according to plan … ,” my crazy musher friend said.

Everything is just harder when you’re dealing with such extreme cold and snow. Life. Is. Harder. Here! For everything. The most mundane task often turns into a challenge.

Taking the dog for a morning potty walk requires 15 minutes of getting dressed in proper gear, only to go out for a 5 minute stroll.

Want to go to the post office? If you didn’t remember to plug in your vehicle at least a few hours before, you probably won’t get there today.

And once you do get inside the car, you better turn on your defroster and be prepared to wait another 20 minutes to get the ice off the outside and inside of your windows. And whatever you do, DO NOT pour lukewarm water on your car windshield in a feeble attempt to de-ice.

“That’s a California move!” my crazy musher friend said while shaking her head and looking at this Cheechako with pity after I confessed we tried that rookie maneuver.

The best of winter is yet to come, so we hear

Willow Alaska February 27 sunrise
Sunrise is just after 8:15 am right now.

This gorgeous snow that makes life look like a Christmas card will soon turn on us. That’s when Breakup Season sets in, usually around April. It’s when snow starts to melt, and life gets really, really fun. It’s the cruelest, messiest, most agonizing experience of winter in Alaska.

Imagine: when all this snow melts, it has to go somewhere. But it doesn’t go out gently. The 100+ inches of snow that’s built up around here will get more slippery, then slowly turn to ice, and eventually, mud. It morphs into a gooey, swampy soup full of steamy muck that seeps everywhere.

We’ve been warned by everyone. Any Alaskan who speaks of it has a disgusted tone in their voice when describing what to expect.

Meanwhile, Mother Nature is taunting us with occasional warmth and sunlight.

We had lovely “warm” temperatures in the high 20s recently. It was beautiful! The downside was that trails started to melt and got sketchy. It sucked for trail running, and especially for our musher friends. Roads grew especially slick, and our poor Nellie was ice skating all over the place just trying to go for a pee.

But oh, Alaska decided she has much more winter in store for us. This week we are back to the minus temps in the morning, and highs of 15 or so at the peak of the afternoon. Roads are still icy and treacherous. And just when I thought it was safe to only wear two layers of clothing, the third layer becomes necessary again, adding to the bulk of my ridiculous running atire.

Despite it all, this winter in Alaska move has been the best decision ever.

Three-up snowmachine riding in Alaska
Three’s not a crowd when one machine gets stuck in a frozen swamp!

I’m proud that one year ago, I started kicking off this process, and actually made it happen. It hasn’t been easy, or cheap. I’ll get into the cost of temporarily moving to Alaska when this is all over.

But I can’t think of a better way than one year of uncomfortable adventures to show us how to adapt to changing circumstances and extreme temperatures (especially in our climate change reality). It’s great knowing that we could live in a place like this again if we had to. But do we want to? Nope!

Four months into winter, and I’m confident that long-term living in Alaska is a one-and-done for us. We have met some super cool people here, had unreal adventures, and love the scenery. But this is a hard way to live! I have the highest respect for the rugged rural residents of the Mat-Su Valley* who happily do this year after year. They put so much value on the freedom that Alaska offers, at least to those willing to live in one of the harshest climates on earth.

I love freedom. And I love nature. But my personal truth is that the more temperate climate we enjoyed in the Lower 48 is a greater priority.

For now, I’m doing my best to soak up the wild and free experience of being here. I don’t want to miss any of it! But honestly, I’m starting to browse travel trailers while dreaming of the day we are back to hot tubs, flip flops, and watching the winter sun rise in the desert.

*side note: The Mat-Su Valley where we live is always about 10 to 20 degrees colder than big city Anchorage, or even 30 miles south in Wasilla. Winter is a heckuva lot more challenging up here.

10 thoughts on “Uncomfortable Adventures? Be Careful What You Ask For.”

  1. This was the best description of winter I have ever read! I was wondering how you would feel about it all once you had been through it. Glad you are having many good times and adventures.

    • You saw it coming didn’t you Kim? Yes it’s a wild ride and no regrets at all but I’m just not that tough to do it permanently. I will truly miss this insanely beautiful place though, it really is like no other.


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