I think maybe I should have titled this day "The Longest Day" because it certainly was that! Our tour day began at 4 am and didn't end until nearly 1 am the next day. Our schedule read as follows: 4am Depart for airport, 5:30am Depart Fairbanks for Anchorage, 7:30am Depart Anchorage for Barrow (with a stopover in Prudhoe Bay), 10:55am Arrive in Barrow, 11am Lunch at Top of the World Hotel, 12pm Summer Day Tour of Barrow, 5pm Dinner, 6pm Depart for airport, 7pm Depart for Anchorage, 11pm Depart for Fairbanks, 12:10am Depart for Bear Lodge.
Are you tired yet?????
This was originally scheduled as a 2-day trip but because of a reservations mixup with no room for us at Barrow's only hotel, we had to do it all in one day. In spite of the brutal schedule, it was one of the highlights of the trip for me, maybe even a tie for first place with the spectacular scenery of Denali National Park. Why?.... I'm not sure...I'm still trying to figure it out.
It certainly wasn't because of what we usually think of as beauty. Barrow is rather desolate looking... No trees, little vegetation of any kind, muddy roads, dirty cars & trucks. The roads are unpaved because of the permafrost. Any pavement would be destroyed each year with the freezing and thawing. All kinds of housing..... small wooden houses on pilings, quonset huts from WWII, trailers, houses that look like they're built with whatever junk they could find to make a shelter. Much of it seems like a very temporary pioneer settlement that's been thrown together. Yet it's one of the oldest permanent settlements in the United States. People have been living there for more than 1500 years.
It isn't because of the weather! We experienced a typical summer day with a temperature of 34 degrees, cloudy, misty and windy. It's above freezing only 120 days per year with 160 days below zero! Since there are no wind barriers, winds of 40 to 60 miles an hour are common. We were told that the snow comes in sideways rather than down. The sun sets on Nov 18 and isn't seen again for 65 days!
Perhaps the reason it was such a highlight for me is that it is so far removed from my normal way of life. It certainly isn't sunny, green & tropical Florida where the temperature that same day was in the high 90s. We don't always remember just how diverse our country is, culturally and geographically. Maybe it was the novelty of knowing how far north we were, at the top of the world and in the northernmost place we could be and still be in the U.S. Or maybe it's my fascination with learning how other people live, how they feel, what it would be like to be them. As long as I can remember I would go by a house and think "What would it feel like to live there?"
(To be continued)