I was not let down. The day I arrived,
Anchorage and most of southern Alaska had just received a fresh
coating of that precious (if you're in Hawai‘i) white,
fluffy stuff they call snow, which made the city look like
a winter wonderland. The wonderland thoughts evaporated as
soon as my right foot exited the warmth of a heated airport
and I headed out to a balmy 12-degree day in Anchorage.
After experiencing a small case of what
seemed to be frostbite on my legs due to the fact that I had
worn shorts on the flight
from Seattle to Anchorage, I eagerly climbed into my cousin’s
car. I had plenty of time to get thawed as we headed off on an
hour-long ride to Wasilla, an up-and-coming town 40 miles southwest
of Anchorage, that I would call home for the tenure of my stay.
The first few days, I ventured out in brief
five-minute periods trying to get used to weather that was
so foreign to me now.
Soon, though, I remembered what my mom once said to me: “You’re
not a true Alaskan until you walk around in the snow in your
bare feet.” So I tried it. While my grandma was yelling
at me to get back in the house before my feet became ice cubes,
I was trying not to reveal to her just how cold the snow on my
feet really felt. After romping around in the snow, for all but
10 seconds, I once again considered myself a true Alaskan. At
least I wasn’t going to do it again.
With this new-found glory running through
my blood, I thought it was time for a full day of playing in
the snow, which in Alaska
during the winter is only from 10 a.m. till about 3:30 p.m. So
my cousins and I headed to the Talkeetna Mountains to a place
called Hatcher Pass, located 60 miles north of Anchorage. Once
a gold mine, it is now home to the Independence Mine State Historical
Park, which is closed during the winter. So we set out to entertain
The people at Hatcher Pass that day were
in for a treat, as they played spectators to a redneck country
first time, to keep himself balanced on a slick contraption called
a snowboard. For my first attempt I tried to conquer one of the
smaller hills, but it had other plans. I made it a couple feet
before I felt my rear end headed for the ground, and before I
knew it I had wiped out, tumbling over and over until I came
to rest with my face firmly planted in the powder snow.
I wasn’t about to let this little
hill get the best of me, so I hiked back up and tried again.
This time I managed to
hang on just a little bit longer, but the run ended with the
same results, my face planted in the snow. Meanwhile my cousins,
who are half my age, are running circles around me doing things
on snowboards that I could only dream of.
With the bittersweet taste of failure lingering
in my mouth, I was beginning to believe that my first snowboarding
would be a washout. Then that magical run happened, and before
my face hit the snow I had gone about 15 feet, a triumphant victory
for a Washington country boy who’d spent his last four
years in Hawai‘i.
After my shenanigans atop Hatcher Pass,
I spent the rest of my time in Alaska just taking in all the
and cold weather
that I could, not knowing when I would see all this again.
And in the three weeks that I was there, I proved to myself
I am and always will be a true Alaskan at heart.