I’ve been getting a lot of calls and texts from friends and family all over the Midwest and East Coast this week. Here’s the general drift: “OMG It’s like negative 35 degrees here!!! How cold is it in Alaska??” Honestly, it’s a lot warmer up here. We haven’t even come close to 35 below, even with the wind chill, which I’m sure the Lower 48ers are using as the “real” temperature. This little weather switcheroo has got me thinking about how I would have approached those temperatures had I been in my hometown of Chicago verses how I anticipate winter weather now.
Basically, I would have been terribly, terribly ignorant about how to handle a cold winter in the Lower 48. It would never have occurred to me to wear snow pants or long underwear. No WAY would I EVER have considered Bunny Boots, even though they’re the greatest thing in the world (for those of you not in Alaska, they keep your feet super warm and super dry, and are a lot lighter than my Sorels). I would have grabbed my non-waterproof, non-wind-resistant North Face coat, pulled on a stupid pair of boots I’d gotten at Foot Locker, and then complained about how cold I was for the brief moment it took me to get from the back door of my house to the car, which I wouldn’t have thought to warm up beforehand. It’s probably pretty cloudy there, too, and I’d be spending a lot of time inside, but would I take Vitamin D? Nah. I would’ve felt like a wimp.
Tara and I, even though we’ve lived in Alaska for almost six months, maintain some of our Lower 48 disdain for weather. Last week we added “Climb Anvil Mountain” to our List of Weekend Activities, and drove out to the trail on Saturday afternoon. We took a quick glance at the path and we decided to leave our snowshoes in the car. Because we’re tough. And ignorant. Sweat poured down our backs as every step sank us three feet into a new snowdrift. Thigh-deep in close-packed snow would not be somewhere we would want to have been if, say, we ran into a maternally inclined moose. Next time, we’ll bring the snowshoes.
Bowing to the weather has made me give up some of my pride: Bunny Boots are kind of ugly, snow pants add 10 pounds to my frame, and taking a handful of vitamins every day makes me feel older than my years. But life would be so, so much less pleasant without those things. Alaska has made me tougher in some ways, but it’s also made me realize that there are some things you don’t need to be tough about. The extent to which Alaskans bundle up when it’s still above zero degrees may seem unnecessary to someone in the Lower 48, but in Alaska it would be considered stupid not to be as prepared as possible. Because if you run into a mama moose out on the tundra, the last thing you want to worry about is the weather.