Monday, June 19, 2006

Yukon, Birthdays, and Frozen Snot

It's very strange to write about the drive through the Yukon in November of 1996 while sitting in the heat of June 2006. Different world indeed.

About the third day or so it got to me. It was still beautiful, still wild with blowing snow, still the chance of ghosts of caribou drifting across the road ahead. But each day's drive was losing us more and more daylight, and the miles of snowy fields took on a terrible sameness. The kids were extremely good in the back seat, but it wasn't interesting driving all the time, and they were stuffed in with comforter wadded around their feet to keep them warm so they could hardly move. I read to them while it was light enough, with my best diaphragm supported stage voice, and earned myself a sore throat, a crick in the neck, and a lasting dislike of L. Frank Baum.

When we got to the only stopping place possible Kirk quietly took the kids and left me to recover sanity in the small hotel room. They came back in a couple of hours, the kids beaming and full of joy. Turned out a local guy was having a birthday, and the entire town (all 60 or so of them) had turned out to celebrate. Kirk and the kids were enthusiastically included and they had stuffed themselves on cake, sang songs (the only one they knew the words to was 'Happy Birthday' but that didn't stop them from singing) and decided that Canadians are the friendliest, most welcoming people on the planet. I was glad they had a good time, but happier that tomorrow's stop, Tok, was the last before Anchorage.

If you follow that Tok link you'll see the proud declaration: The Coldest Inhabited Community in North America. I don't know what the exact details are, and if they can back up the claim, but it's certainly what it feels like. When we stepped out of the car in Tok I took one breath and realized that I was going to die in Alaska. That simple, no drama, just death by unbelievable cold. After we had lived there a winter I found out that feeling is actually just the mucus in your nose freezing solid. Still it was our last night before Anchorage which meant only one more day in that tiny car. Life might just be worth living, assuming you could thaw out your snot.


Anonymous said...

And I thought a winter in Vermont was cold. Yikes!

I can still remember one spring day when it reached a huge high of 0 degrees fahrenheit. Balmy it was. All of the kids gleefully took off winter jackets to bask in the warm glow of the sun.

Funny how cold is always relative.

If I ever make it to Alaska, much to the chagrin of Tok, it'll have to be during the summer months.

For Kirk said...

Worth it in the summer! And it's only fair to say that the interior is far colder than the gorgeous areas around the coastline - Anchorage, Juneau, Ketchikan - all beautiful and 'warm.' But that's a bit later in the story!