ALASKA IN THE SPRING Well…it was supposed to be…

I went off to Anchorage to work for three weeks and to find out what spring was like in Alaska. I had been there twice before in August and September and had seen late summer and early fall and had watched the snowline gradually move down the Chugach Mountains. Yes, break-up is over and spring will be getting going, they assured me. Well…

The last 20-30 minutes of the late afternoon flight into Anchorage were past range on range of rugged snow-covered mountains. There was still lots of snow around on the ground, including those dirty late season heaps piled along the roads and at the edges of parking lots. The woman who let me into my apartment, when I made some comment about it looked like a lot of winter was still around, said, “At least the light is back…”

As the days went by things gradually got warmer. The first nights were nearly in the teens but some of the days were getting well into the 50’s. I am still amazed how quickly the days lengthen – more than 5 min. 30 seconds each day. You can notice from day to day. I am also amazed how warm 40-50 can feel. I never would think of walking around here when it is in the 40s with my jacket unzipped. And locals would be appearing in T-shirts and shorts exposing very white legs. Last Thursday I thought I saw the first sprigs of green along the road as I drove home after work.

Then Friday, April 25th dawned. There were a few flakes of snow beginning to come down as I drove to work. It was hovering just about at freezing. They were those big, fat, sloppy flakes we are all familiar with from western Washington. And they kept falling and they kept falling and they kept falling …They stuck to the bushes and the trees and the cars and everything. The parking lot looked like a lot of overstuffed marshmallows when I went out to drive home. I’m not used to driving in snow and ice. We don’t go off to the mountains in the winter here. It was 40+ years ago we moved to California. And, in fact, I had never driven in that much snow. I was scared – even for the 3 or so miles I had to drive to get home. It still was not freezing so there was not any ice down on the road surface. Lots of slush. All seemed to be driving slower and I did get home uneventfully.

Turns out that all this snow is not at all the Anchorage-rule. It kept snowing until there was 15-16 inches in the bowl where most of the city of Anchorage is located It was the most snow ever to fall in an April day and the third most snow to fall in Anchorage in a single day ever in the nearly 100 years they have been keeping track of such things. And it was late. The snow plows had been put in the yard for the summer. They got them out and went to work. Not surprisingly my week-end plans were cancelled. I got my exercise by leaping over ankle deep and more slushy curbside puddles. The days and nights kept warming, most of the snow is now melted and I think that I saw those blades of grass again as I drove home my last afternoon…

And, so it went for another short stay working in Alaska. Thought you might be interested. I certainly find it interesting. Alaska is a different place. They say the rest of us live Outside. We do.