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Its that time of year in Alaska. Fall is officially here!
The weather has changed here in Alaska. 2 weeks ago, half the city was walking around like dehydrated red lobsters, trying to tell ourselves that we LOVE 90-degree weather.
We don’t love 90-degree weather!
We don’t move to Alaska to bake in the rays of the golden sun. We move to Alaska because after one winter- 65-degrees is a comfortable afternoon. 70-degrees, we are fanning ourselves with ice cubes and cold packs. 75-degrees, and we have all moved inside and are standing in front of the freezer. Anything above 78-degrees, and there is a mad rush to the local Lowes to buy every fan, air-conditioner, and water spray bottles that we can find. Walmart sells out of kiddy swimming pools quicker than toilet paper two months into COVID. An emergency actions plan is set out on Facebook Gardening groups. Neighborhood watch parties are set up to report on the latest home to put in a family-size swimming pool. Ice cream shops in Alaska make a profit for two weeks.
These days, I wonder if Alaskans are as tough as we want ourselves to be portrayed.
But that was two weeks ago. We have quickly switched modes and dropped back down to the ’50s/ low 60-degree mark. So, Alaska is back to sweatshirts, heated car seats, and the long fingers of winter are stretching out in preparation for their eight months of devious work.
What happened? After careful consideration, hours of research on weather patterns, plotting the sun’s movement versus the ability actually to see Denali Mountain- I have come up with a fundamental theory. Hunting season opened this week.
My friends- I have been tracking this for over three years now. I can tell you I have been tracking it for three years and two months- because that is how long the State of Alaska Department of Fish and Game has me listed as a resident. Three years and two months? That’s it? I swear it has been at least five winters! Maybe it was the winter of 2020 that has me confused? That particular winter lasted two years.
Nevertheless, I am standing by that I have lived here for three years and two months and/or five winters.
Back to the research. Research shows that regardless of outside temperature, solar warming, global warming, or prayers to various God-like entities…. the opening day of the 40-mile Caribou hunt in Interior Alaska will change the overall temperature of all of Alaska. It will get cold, wet, and miserable. Don’t believe me? Look it up! Facebook, Twitter, Instagram….. everyone’s profile picture 2 weeks ago? Looking like an overdone chocolate chip cookie. Now, look at their photos from the last three/four days! They are Looking like a soggy saltine cracker that has been sitting in soup too long.
Hunting season is a thing for my family. It is planned at least 2-3 weeks in advance, and with our schedule- that is hard to coordinate. This year it just so happened that we had only one day to get in, take the shot, and get out. That is a lot of pressure.
Especially since the morning of our one-day hunt did not start the best. Most hunters will tell you that you need to be out to your hunt site by daybreak. In Alaska- the dawn is at 4:30 a.m. this time of year, and it takes two hours to get to our site. So that is not going to happen!
But we did have every intention of being at my favorite gas station by at least 6:30 a.m. so that I could get a good cup of coffee.
At 6:37 a.m., we were still looking for jackets, gloves, and the G.P.S. Many arguments! Insults were flying. Polar, the Puppy, was hiding underneath the bed. Nothing was going right. By 7:00 a.m., we were on the road- pretending to be looking forward to spending the day together hunting in the Alaskan tundra with a 100% chance of rain that was predicted to start at 9:00 a.m. and last until 8:00 p.m.
Nothing brings a family together like repressed anger!
We got to the site by 8:30 a.m. If we look at distance vs. travel time- you will note that we were flying at Warp Speed 10 over a road that is 50% paved and 50% gravel, boasting 90 degree turns along a majority of its length. Unfortunately, there is no cell service about a quarter of a way in, so there is nothing for me to do but help my husband drive from the passenger seat.
I am telling you- that went over well! He was very appreciative of my comments, my ability to see upcoming downgrades and turns, and my commentary of how many people have died on that road due to speeding. But, by the time we got to our spot- I was not sure who would make it home.
Since he had the keys- I decided to keep my mouth shut.
We got everything unloaded from the truck, suited up, and I was comfortably seated on the back of the 4-wheeler sitting on the rack. Now, this doesn’t sound safe- so let me clarify for you. I have gained not only the retirement 20 but also the COVID 15 since March of 2020- so when I tucked my ass into the rack spacing- I was locked in like an astronaut heading for outer space. I was not going anywhere!
Off we went- bouncing over the Alaskan tundra, mud flying into my mouth, gun stalk digging into my back, tingling of my legs slowly crept as my nerves were squashed between the metal bars and my ass fat. I was having a ball! And then 10 minutes later, as I am recovering from the most recent jolt of a precarious dip that I swear my husband took on purpose- there they were. A small side herd was standing 400 yards in front of us. My husband was in the midst of still trying to buck me off the 4-wheeler “on accident,” so he didn’t see them. However, my trained eye of being able to spot dust on the bookshelves from a mile away has me prepared for this moment. I slapped him over the head because you have to be quiet in these situations, and pointed.
All of a sudden, he liked me again.
Now, I won’t go into details of the rest of the day. I understand that some people would prefer not to know where their dinner comes from. Some people don’t have the stomach for it, or it is a preference of what they feel comfortable eating. To each their own. However, meat is expensive in Alaska and not always of the best quality when it reaches Wal-Mart- so I am grateful that I have one less worry during the upcoming winter months.
It took 24 hours- but we processed all the meat, and I had an exciting taste of Caribou and mud lingering in my mouth. My feet were still cold, I had bruises from the 4-wheeler bars on my backside, and suddenly, I was getting text messages about bringing over meat to my ‘friends’ who haven’t talked to me in months. But, don’t worry- as my mother will tell you, I don’t share too well with others.
How is my family relationship? It was excellent all the way home! Very rarely do you have a perfect hunt where in 2 hours, you are heading back home with your tag filled! That feeling of kinder spirits and gratefulness lasted until it was time to process the meat. Then it was back to the boxing ring for us- punches being thrown left and right as we silently judged each other on who was putting the most amount of effort into getting the job done.
It is now 4:30 a.m., 48 hours post-hunt. The job is done, and the freezer is filled. I am exhausted and cold but munching on a fantastic caribou snack stick while drinking my morning coffee. I think the moral of the story is that Starbucks needs to hurry up with the Pumpkin Spice Lattes because obviously, it is fall in Alaska.