Friday, January 17, 2014

Six Month Rundown

Gotta watch for planes before you cross!
I thought I'd do a little six month re-cap of our still relatively new Alaskan life.  I'm better about a few things.  For one, I'm not freaked out when I have to drive across the runway on the base anymore.  Took a little getting used to.  It's kind of a long stretch of pavement, & it just felt weird to be driving on a runway, looking for planes before crossing over.  Who does that? 

I'm also much more confident driving in less than stellar weather.  I don't like it, but I'm better at it.  I own my very first set of studded snow tires these days, which have certainly helped in the "confidence in crappy road conditions" mind set I've got going on.  It also helps to drive granny-slow when the roads are sketchy.  That's my strategy and I'm stickin' to it!

C-130 crossing the runway
I'm also happy to say I've finally acclimated to the extreme difference in temperatures from our last duty station.  Key West to Kodiak is quite the climate change.  Forty degrees doesn't feel like the dead of winter anymore.  It actually feels pretty nice at forty degrees.  (still with a coat on, of course)  Never thought I'd get there!  And I'm pretty sure I'll think it's extra hot when I visit Tampa this May.  Thicker blood, for sure.

There are so many remarkable and unique things about living here.  As I've talked about over and over, it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.  But there's no doubt about it, Mother Nature rules all up here.  From the spectacular natural landscapes, to the tremendous weather fluctuations, it truly is a wild environment.  Not to mention extremely remote and far from pretty much everything. 

But with that comes some one-of-a-kind experiences.  Like seeing red foxes trotting about, and seals and sea otters tooling around in the water. - And that's just on a trip to the grocery store.  Bald Eagles soar through the sky pretty much everywhere you go, and the potential for wild encounters is all around.  I haven't seen any yet, but I'm just waiting to spot the migrating whales that pass by Kodiak certain times of year, sea lions sunning themselves on the docks, and the ever present Kodiak brown bears that live here.  I think it's just a matter of time before I have the privilege of glimpsing at least a few of those rare animals while we're here.  (well, not so rare in these parts!)

There's significantly less light pollution here, so when it's clear, you can count on seeing magnificent night skies.  Which of course makes me think of the elusive Aurora Borealis -  which as I know I've mentioned, I've yet to see in person.  I'm also convinced that's another "just a matter of time" experience to look forward to during our tour here.

I've already set up Aurora alerts so I get a notification if the probability of activity is high.  Yet another thing I've learned living here:  what the hell a Kp number means.  It's basically an index that measures magnetic activity and helps to predict whether the Aurora will be visible.  A Kp level of 6 or higher means good news for Kodiak.  I'll keep hoping for a 6!

Wish this was my photo!  This was captured in Fairbanks, AK.  Give it time, I'll get my shot eventually!
Photo credit:  Unites States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Strang, via Wikimedia Commons

And then there are those things we haven't experienced yet that are on the Alaska bucket list.  Hopefully this summer, we'll be able to knock out a few of those have-to-do's:  a little kayaking in the bays, a bear viewing tour on a seaplane, and trying our hand at some salmon fishing.  I want to learn how to fly fish a la A River Runs Through It style. 

Of course, along with all of these special things comes the inevitable not so great things as far as living in Kodiak.  I prefer not to fixate on the parts I'm not crazy about because why focus on what you don't like and can't change when you can enjoy, appreciate, and marvel at all of the exceptional things that come along with this somewhat loony experience.

Snowy Pugbull prints.  How cute?!
I'll pick just a few, but the weather is probably at the top of the list.  It's all over the place.  The rainy, rainy summers and the relentless freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw routine that's pretty standard throughout the winter isn't exactly ideal.  It makes me laugh because we'll have a storm blow through, and the wind speeds are almost hurricane force.

We're talking just shy of 70mph, but it's just a run of the mill storm, and nothing is said about it other than not exactly dire "wind warnings."  One of the hubby's co-workers who's been in Kodiak for a while said that he once saw a dumpster - yes, a DUMPSTER - roll past his window during one of the windier storms.  Like I said, Mother Nature calls the shots around here.

Along with the weather, I'd say my other not favorite part about living here is how far away it is from all of our friends and family.  We've always been able to hop on a flight to go visit without too much trouble, but that's just not the case here.  It's super expensive and takes a really long time to get to the places we used to visit regularly.  I have to psych myself up for my first trip back to Florida because it's going to be an almost 24 hour ordeal.  It's bananas. 

It goes without saying that there's the good and the bad no matter where you live.  We can all say that about whatever place we call home.  And the reasonable fact is that our time here is temporary.  It's not like we've been exiled to forever live in Kodiak.  Then I'd be singing a different tune!  It's been exciting and different, with a whole lot of new experiences, and I'm thankful to have the opportunity to experience it - but I wouldn't say I'd choose to live here if the Coast Guard didn't send us. 

It's funny though, because I've read and heard of so many people saying things like, "I took one look at the island and fell in love immediately."  To those I think, wow - you need to see some other islands!  Just kidding - everyone has their version of paradise.  And it is remarkably beautiful here.  Not fall in love and never leave beautiful, but that's just my take on it.  Maybe fall in love while you're here to visit (or live for a few years) and then go settle somewhere a little less extreme!

And hey, I get to share all the kooky things we get to see and do up here with all of you guys - which makes me happy.  I love having a reason to sit down and write every week, and Alaska makes for some pretty good stories! 

Ta-ta for now.

St. Paul Harbor in downtown Kodiak


  1. Now don't laugh but we're freezing down here in your former island home. All of us have been sporting our Ugg Mocasins for the past week. Highs only in low 60's - lots of socks, cashmere, scarves and jackets. I remember all over again why Atlanta was too cold for me during the winter. You have such a great attitud about the cold. The. Again, the beauty is astonishing. Keep your camera ready for those elusive critters. The pic you took of the Bald Eagle was magnificent. Last week was KWLS and opening cocktail party for 100 at Judy's. Joanne was in awe as she met Lee Child, Elizabeth George and oh so many more. We took to drinking wine as the guests trickled in. Miss you and thank goodness for your blogs to keep us connected with your adventures.

  2. Oh, I'm laughing! As I mentioned, I'm almost fully acclimated to the temperatures here, so I bet I would be hot if I was in KW now! I just emailed you. - Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it. Comments here are few and far between, sometimes feels like I have a megaphone in an empty room. xoxo