Snowed In

That term “snowed in” means so many things in so many other places.  It is kind of relative term.  In Alaska it means cut off, completely out of touch with the outside world.  Thank goodness for today satellite phones so we can at least get a message to someone.  Just think, not so many years ago you couldn’t even do that.

My time at Yentna was an extended look into life in the bush.  There were so many of us stuck out there – nine Iditarod volunteers, snow machiners, the Gabryszak family of five and as the days went on scores of Iditasport competitors checking in, having a meal, drying out and heading on.  Many of these Iditasport competitors were from Europe so that some language issues came up a couple times and my Spartan Spanish became useful.

The snow came in buckets.  Someone said 37 inches in 36 hours and that was on top of the already 136 inches of snow.  I had never seen anything so beautiful and so powerful as to change our lives completely.  But everyone slipped into what I can only call a special mode.  Voices were mostly calm and soft and personal space was observed which was kind of interesting as we were all in such close proximity.  If there was something that needed to be done, everyone pitched in and the traditional ways of doing things were not always observed.  When avalanches started sliding from the roof the son of the family and one of the doctors sent by the Junior Iditarod climbed to the roof, crawled across the gable then body surfed arms out down the roof taking the snow with them.  It was fun to watch them fall into the soft mountains of snow under the eaves.

Dan Gabryszak

Jean and Dan Gabryszak that run Yentna Roadhouse are the perfect picture of warmth and hospitality.  There was absolutely nothing that we needed that was over looked (other than getting home) and on our last night there Dan even broke out the 12 string guitar and entertained us with some of the best songs ever.  I think my favorite and probably most appropriate was “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

The world is certainly beautiful all covered in white fur, but tremendously powerful in its ability to control your life.  You just have to go with the flow and know the end will come some day.

On Tuesday when we finally saw a plane land on the river again, we thought everything was solved.  Well that was just the beginning of another adventure, which I think might be the theme of my trip.  We got into the plane and started to turn around at the end of the runway where the snow was a little softer and deeper and you guessed it – we got stuck.  The pilot got out his snow shoes and started digging and packing, then the vet and doc volunteers came out with a snow shovel and work began.  Finally it was decided that they had done enough and the pilot said all he needed was for the doc and vet to hang onto the wing to give it al little traction until he got onto the runway, then they could let go.  I think I had begun to believe anything was possible, because we took off a minute later and I was enchanted once again with the beauty of nature.

Arriving in Willow to a car buried in snow is a whole new story that I will save.

Feeling like a rookie myself and barking at the trail, I can’t wait to get going.