Sometimes you just can't get over how awesome it is living here. Today was one of those times.
Here's the deal: A remote village of a few hundred inhabitants; maybe 300 miles away from the nearest asphalt (well, that's not true; there's a paved runway in a larger "hub" village about 50 miles away; it's about 300 to the nearest paved road). Communities are connected by a river rather than highways, and boats and snowmachines are the seasonal "cars" we use to travel.
Today I was driving on the river to my woodyard. As it is winter, the river lies quietly beneath a two foot layer of ice. Atop the ice is another 2-3 feet of snow. This constitutes our "highway"; a layered salad (from bottom to top) of very cold water, ice and snow. Interesting how this "highway" is made entirely of water, in different states, but all three are essential, especially in that order.
Zipping over the highway is a man. Instead of cruising down to the local market, I'm cruising down river to pick up a load of firewood. And the wind is blowing...hard...down river. I'm going down river; the wind is going down river. We're traveling together.
This wind carries with it a load of drifting snow. I'm going about 25mph, the wind is going about 25mph, so the drifting snow is also speeding along at 25. We're all going exactly the same direction at the same speed.
The river is 1-2 miles wide and all of it covered with drifting snow. Not piling up into drifts; it's a thin, semi-transparent veil, flowing right along with me. And it's weird!
I feel as though I'm Aladdin floating along on a magic carpet. The snow weaves and braids like thousands of tiny rivers; in some places joining together and in others, separating and thinning out, but everywhere moving, flowing, going with me. I bet in a radius of 100 yards around me there must be a ton or more of snow rushing along down the river. You wonder where it all goes. It must be piling up somewhere.
I feel as though I'm being swept along in the current, as if carried along atop a rushing, liquid flow. It's a strange sensation. I don't seem to be driving a machine; more like sailing, drifting, floating. The snowmachine, the rider, the snow and the wind. All traveling along in perfect unison and harmony.
I reach my destination and I'm swept right up the bank and into the woods, on the trail to the woodyard. Once in the trees, the wind and drifting snow are gone. I turn off the machine. All is calm and peaceful; only the soft sound of wind in the tree tops. I load the sled with firewood logs, start up the snowmachine and head back out to the river. At the edge of the timber I drive down the bank and out onto the ice...into the wind and snow...
...and WHAM!!!...the honeymoon is over. Right smack dab into the fury of the wind, head-on! The machine labors with the load, fighting the onslaught of air and ice. I don't remember the engine making so much noise. In fact, I realize I never even heard it coming down, but now it's screaming at me.
What was floating has now become a major struggle; a fight, bucking the system, clawing my way back upstream. Funny how it's only air and yet I feel as if I'm trying to swim against the current in a fast flowing river.
The snow is swirling around my windshield in front of my face. I have to push the throttle hard, wondering how much more gas I'm using going in this direction. I hope the machine doesn't quit on me. A breakdown here would not be good; possibly even life threatening. Amazing, the difference. A pleasant, serene experience has become harsh, laborious, frightening.
A few miles later and it's over. I'm off the river and back out of the wind. Two experiences so completely different, at the same time, in the same place. But then, that's Alaska for you.
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