Taking a look outside of my bedroom window today, I was struck by two thoughts. Firstly, that at one point, I could see just a couple of rooftops followed by a beautiful green and red carpet of tundra before my eyes reached the stoic White Alice Towers atop Anvil Mountain. Now it takes a moment for me to adjust to the sight of blankets of snow on top of homes and on the land to find the towers still standing guard over the city. The thought that immediately followed after staring at the snow covered pathway that I once hiked up was that, my goodness, I’ve been here half a year now. While that may sound like a fairly small amount of time to those who have found themselves living here long after they originally intended to move on, it feels like a big deal to me seeing as how I am now halfway through the KNOM Volunteer year. Granted, there is always the option to stick around for more than a year, I feel like I’ve reached a big milestone in my time here.
I have to really think hard to remember a time when I could walk to the Post Office without slipping on a smooth patch of ice, or having to dodge the giant ice scraping machines that maintain the roadways. Though some part of me knows that when I arrived, there were seagulls in the air, spongey tundra on which to pick berries, and miles of trail to explore with just a water bottle, some snacks, and a light jacket. For now however, life means snow, ice, and more snow. It’s not a bad thing at all, we volunteers have had our fair share of winter wonderland moments, but I must admit that I’ll be a pretty happy guy when I feel my feet bounce on the green tundra again.
Until that time however, I’ve been looking back on photos from my first week in Nome. The blog post below was written after I went on a hike with KNOM Volunteers Matt and Rebekah. My, my how green everything looks in photos!
August 5th, 2012
Overlooking Nome like some alien colony who never took any lessons in subtlety, the White Alice telecommunication settlement of wartimes passed had been the premise of many of my google searches before reaching Nome. I don’t know why exactly but I have always had a fascination with both: A. Space-esque futuristic things and B. Abandoned buildings. Short of finding a defunct planetarium, the White Alice site is paradise for someone like me. While most FUDS (Formerly Used Defense Sites) such as the White Alice in Nome are being completely dismantled, this particular site has been chosen for preservation by city officials due to public demand. While the Nome site is nothing like what it apparently used to be, I think it is fantastic that at the very least the ominous towers on the horizon will be a sight to see for years to come.
It is thanks to my fellow KNOM-ers that I got a chance to visit this awesome place today. We drove just a few miles out of town to see where folks live who wish to apparently escape the crowd of Nome if you will. How the population even just a few miles outside of the city manages to get supplies in the winter is something I don’t quite understand, but hey, more power to them. Perhaps the chance to get to look at the rolling hills over the Bering Sea is reason enough to live away from town. I know I certainly felt a calling to this particular area.
The fog covering the distant comm towers gave everything an almost Prypiat feeling to it. Every once and a while you would here the sound of metal scraping against itself as a worker on the top of the mountain was dismantling part of the White Alice framework out of eyesight. Aside from that, the hike was eerily quiet. Short of playing a few hours of Skyrim, I don’t think I’ve ever had a hiking experience quite like this before.
All in all it was a great, surreal kind of day. I can’t wait to get back up there again. Until then White Alice will have her eye on me and mine on her.