Land of No Midnight Sun

Cooper Creek Campground Winterized

We’re back in Alaska! Yes, we are. And no, we did not drive our trailer, we flew on Alaska Airlines from Las Vegas to Anchorage on Thanksgiving Day.

Goodbye to the Crusader

Taking the Crusader to Storage until Trade-in Day

Oh, the woes of owning a Forest River Crusader. Though they did the best they could to make all of the structural issues right last April, they failed yet again because their standards are just ‘okay.’ As a floor plan, the Crusader was perfect for our lifestyle and we are going to miss what has become ‘home.’ Unfortunately, the quality of the frame was just not up to par for our nomad lifestyle. So, yes, we are buying a new trailer. It is on order and will be ready for pick up early in February when we return to Las Vegas.

It is a 2020 Grand Design Solitude and will include some upgrades that we are excited to have: built-in solar so we don’t have to haul our own, a back-up camera so my husband doesn’t need me any more (his words not mine), and a small toy-hauler type drawer in the rear for our bikes and maybe even a kayak. The living area will be bigger and we will have a residential-sized refrigerator, but inside storage cabinets will disappear and we wonder where everything we use will go. We’re just happy at the moment that our Crusader is in storage and we are in the land of the midnight sun even though the sun really isn’t seen very much.

A Different Thanksgiving

We left Vegas in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning and said ‘goodbye’ to our son. Though the airport was rather empty, going through security was rough. First, we somehow lost our TSApre√. I believe it was because quite a few years ago, I became a ‘prototype’ and as long as we flew several times a year, we continued to have it. We had forgotten how much we HATE going through security! Second, my son got us there with no real time to spare. As we entered the line and put our stuff in the bins (I had not taken off my shoes or coat in years), something held up the line and the conveyor belt stopped. I do not go through the scanners. I never have and as long as I have a choice, I will not. It’s the principle. As people began lining up due to the stuck conveyor belt, they started pushing people through the metal detector. I thought ‘yay’ I won’t have to opt out this time. WRONG. They stopped at me. I opted out. And, as always, they take their good ol’ time to get to me. I knew the clock was ticking and our plane was boarding.

Eventually a very nice woman began my pat down. She also told me that my backpack had been chosen to be inspected. Can this process get any longer? While I’m putting on my shoes, my husband, feeling the pressure of the ticking clock, decides to go through the scanner. Because he had put the little papers from our checked baggage in his pocket, he was pulled out to be patted down. Apparently these high-tech scanners can’t differentiate between paper and metal?

I pass the personal inspection, but the woman finds my iPad in my back pack. My bad, I took out my computer, but forgot the iPad. The whole thing has to be sent back through the conveyor belt. I hear over the intercom that it’s last call for boarding our plane to Seattle.

My husband is fuming at the TSA official who is taking his good ol’ time too. Eventually my husband’s second inspection is done and he goes to grab his belongings from the bins. There is only ONE shoe in his bin; the other had disappeared!

I decided to run to the gate and tell them he would be on his way. Of course, it’s the last one on the concourse and I get there with no time left. I explain the lost shoe and they said they would wait 5 minutes. My husband finds his shoe only to be told his backpack and shoes had to go back through the conveyor belt. What is it with being a US citizen and being treated like some sort of criminal? How many terrorists have they actually caught doing all this nonsense? How many illegals come by the borders every stinkin’ day?

With one minute left before closing the doors to the plane, my husband is running down the concourse out of breath to the gate. I can’t even remember if he was wearing his shoes! We hustle down the gateway, enter the plane, find a place to hoist our carry-ons in the overhead, sit in our seats, buckle our seatbelts and the plane backs out. Breathing heavily, we’re heading toward Seattle with an empty seat between us. Thank God for small blessings.

We arrive in Seattle and that airport is nuts. And, I hate that airport. I just absolutely hate its chaos. We grab a bite to eat while waiting for our plane to board for our flight to Anchorage. This plane is full and again, we are last to board because we couldn’t hear the intercom with 10 planes boarding from the same gate area and probably 500 people! We sit down and again, the plane begins to back out from the gate. Oh my gosh, this was the most hectic experience flying I have ever had.

In the third seat was a very nice gentleman who we find out knows our son-in-law in Cooper Landing. He also knows the man from whom he is buying the fly-fishing company. He was also on the Cabela’s photo op fishing trip 5 years ago and wondered if my husband had any photos! Alaskans know that Alaska is a large state, but a small town.

We arrived in Anchorage on Thanksgiving Day about 1 p.m. We decided to take our time getting our luggage. We left the plane last. We bought some coffee and just wandered down the empty walkway as few places were open. By the time we arrived at the luggage area, ours were the only bags going round and round. We called the valet service where our daughter left her car and loaded our six bags on a cart which took another 15 minutes to locate. Six bags. Yes. One for nothing but winter outerwear: down coats, ski pants, winter boots, rubber boots, hats, scarves, gloves. One for clothing and one for everything else solid, liquid and gas! When we finally got on the shuttle to the car, we were the only people in the entire airport.

As always the drive down the Seward Highway along the Turnagain Arm is windy; however we were also receiving warnings of rain, rocks that had fallen on the road, and slush on the mountain passes. Yep. Pretty much that describes the conditions. Still the two-hour trek to Cooper Landing was quick, easy and passing familiar sights felt like going home, but home was never in winter. We greeted our daughter and son-in-law in their cozy log home and spent the end of Thanksgiving with them and our not-so-little grandson.

Can Thanksgiving dessert be any better?

Frontier Circle

View of Kenai River and Mount Cecil

Our ‘home’ for the next two months is at Kahtnu Lodging. In summer the suite is rented out nightly. We received an amazing deal and couldn’t resist the proximity to our daughter’s house. It has two bedrooms (and a futon couch) with a small furnished kitchen, dining table and huge beautifully designed bathroom. French doors lead outside to a small porch. As we sit on a hill, we can look down on the Kenai River and up to Mount Cecil.

Our ‘landlord’ is Lorraine Temple. She raises huskies and trains sled dogs for glacier touring and the Iditerod. In the winter, she travels to the Lower 48 to teach about her dogs and sleds. Anyone in Colorado want her to give a talk at a school? Let me know. At one time she had 80 huskies, but now only has three older, sweet dogs named Buddy, Willow and Cabo who greet us every time we get out of the car or stand at our door in the morning and cry to come in. They are not allowed. The first morning when Lorraine and Mike left for a short time, they stood at the door to the upstairs (where Lorraine and Mike live) and howled. It sounded so … Alaskan!

The once-Nebraskan Suburban

My daughter lives less than ¾ of a mile from our little abode so I can walk to her house whenever I want or need to. We do have a vehicle … our old Suburban that we sold to my son-in-law for transporting his company’s fishing clients. It is strange driving it around again, but it is good to have a familiar vehicle especially when driving in ice and snow.

Alyeska Resort Ski Runs

My husband has become an official ski bum this winter and will be working at Alyeska Ski Resort as a ski instructor. He’s a beginner instructor, but will be teaching children nonetheless. He spent the first few days here getting all new equipment for this new venture – something he set out to do 40 years ago in Breckenridge, Colorado. He’s also excited to be able to ski whenever he wants even though Girdwood is an hour and a half away.

My ‘day’ job for two months

Apart from being my daughter’s help when our second grandchild arrives sometime mid-December, I will be taking over her little job of cleaning the Cooper Landing Post Office. She ‘trained’ me once and I know for a fact that I won’t be cleaning as fast as she does because I can’t move that fast any more. I also hope I remember to accomplish all that I need to accomplish and then some.

Kenai Lake from Bean Creek Road

According to Lorraine, we have become official Cooper Landiers! And, you know that’s true when you’re in Anchorage shopping at the grocery store and meet someone you know from Cooper Landing.

The Days are Short

The sun rose this morning, December 2, about 9:40 a.m. and set about 3.56 p.m. though there is light earlier than 9:40 a.m. and later than 3:56 p.m. Today, however, it snowed about 4-6 inches and there was minimal light. There are only 20 days until the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, when winter actually begins. After the solstice, the time between sunrise and sunset lengthens while before, each day becomes shorter. The first few days we were here, it was light outside in the morning through the afternoon. Yes, I am taking lots of Vitamin D and trying to be outside as much as possible. It’s a good thing that I love winter and snow because in the winter Alaska is quintessential winter.

My hope is still to see the Aurora Borealis. With all the darkness, there needs to be one clear night when those northern lights fill the sky. When it’s clear, however, the temperatures drop. It has been hovering between 25 and 35 the past few days, but tomorrow brings clear skies, sunshine and 7 degrees. Apart from the length of days, it still reminds me of Colorado – without the snow melt after every storm.

The snow by the road, on the trees and blanketing the mountain sides makes everything seem brighter or lighter. Today we left Cooper Landing in a snowstorm to shop two hours north in Anchorage. Around the Turnagain Arm, there was low fog and not much sight distance. It reminded me a little of the smoke this past summer though it was possible to breathe.

Seward Highway Anchorage 9:00 a.m.

What is the Turnagain Arm? The Turnagain Arm is the ocean where rivers coming from the mountains drain. According to wikipedia, Turnagain Arm is a waterway into the northwestern part of the Gulf of Alaska. It is one of two narrow branches at the north end of Cook Inlet, the other being Knik Arm. Turnagain is subject to climate extremes and large tide ranges. It received its name from Captain Cook who kept trying to take his ship into the Arm only to continue to get stuck and having to ‘turn around’ repeatedly.

The large tide ranges include the Bore Tide which is a rush of seawater that returns to a shallow and narrowing inlet from a broad bay. A bore tides happens after extreme minus low tides created by the full or new moon.  There are unique individuals who dress in cold water gear and wait for the bore tide to ‘ride the wave.’

There are also Beluga whales in the Turnagain Arm. Last fall we saw quite a few breaking in the waves. Apparently, they stay in the Arm area all winter so we will keep our eyes open for them whenever we head north to Girdwood or Anchorage.

Anchorage is like a real city as is Soldotna and Seward which are both one hour south of Cooper Landing. We’re just stuck in the middle with a small grocery store that charges $6.00 for a package of Oreos and $3.50 for a gallon of drinking water. They also don’t allow charges of less than $10. There’s also Wildman’s that has just about everything from ice cream to showers to a liquor store. Their prices are more reasonable, but it was time to stock up with essentials for two months.

We did other errands in Anchorage including a doctor’s visit where my grandson listens to his sibling’s heartbeat. When asked what the baby says, he responds, “Wha wha wha wha wha.” Anyone who has ever heard a baby’s heartbeat on a doppler knows that’s what babies say in their mommy’s womb.

It is different here in the winter, but it’s a good different. There are fewer tourists and only about 200 locals who remain for the winter. The traffic is non-existent and it’s so quiet it’s possible to hear the snowflakes gently falling and collecting on the ground making this land without a midnight sun fluffy white.

Kenai River from our summer ‘home’

Well, with the bluer skies today and the inches of powdery snow, I’m off to use my daughter’s snow machine. Never did that before so, here goes ….

©2019 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.

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