The Summer Solstice in Alaska

Many years back, I had the opportunity to visit Alaska, as my husband’s former boss took a position in Anchorage. Suddenly, my husband and brother in law recognized a chance to live out one of their fishing fantasies, so off we went after an invitation to stay with them. I don’t remember my preconceived ideas about Alaska, but they probably centered a lot on wilderness. It turned out that there were areas that looked exactly like the suburb in which I reside. New housing plans resembled those anywhere; the only difference was that, being high up on a hill, everyone had to get their mail from a row of boxes down on the main highway. Yet, the elevation afforded our friends a wonderful view-of wilderness, just as I expected.

That “main drag” had similar establishments to those in the lower 48, as well as vistas of snow-capped mountains in June. The weather ended up being comparable to April here in the Northeast. I wore a sweatshirt every day, and long pants or jeans. On a few occasions when we went out to eat, our hosts wore sweaters of the type we wear throughout January and February. (As long as I forgot that it was June, it really didn’t bother me.) What was pretty annoying, however, is that it never really got dark at night, since the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, was approaching quickly. Adjusting to that phenomenom throughout the summer months would probably take me years. As it was, I don’t feel that I ever slept well or enough during the entire week. At some point, I bought those little eye covers, but they didn’t help. I’d toss and turn all night; no matter what time it was, it always looked like dusk to me-I guess the room must not have had room darkening window shades. One night, when I got up and went into the kitchen for a glass of water, I took a picture containing the clock over the kitchen window, which pointed at 2:00. I wanted to show it to people and tell them that the pretty view outside the window was what I saw at 2 AM instead of 2 PM…

Asking our friends about their first winter there, we found that they had problems adjusting to only a few hours of daylight, and that the woman of the house, who didn’t work outside the home, only went out for groceries. They spent a quiet Christmas inside with their two young sons, not having yet made neighborhood friends. It was probably a difficult time, and sadly, the future did not bode well for the lady, who passed away a few years later from breast cancer. They were long gone from Alaska by that time, as it proved to be too hard for them to be so far away from family.

I have memories-and photographs-of bear displays, native American totem poles, and recollections of a mixture of asssumingly old-west and Eskimo culture. I remember eating in log-cabin style restaurants, viewing huge outdoor murals, and spying moose around Denali National Park. This was a few years before the television show “Northern Exposure” was filmed, and if you watched it, you probably have an idea of what I mean. I panned for gold, took some tourist side trips, and even saw a live reindeer, too.

The flight to Alaska is quite lengthy, especially from the East Coast of the United States, and prices are higher for just about everything that’s not produced there. It probably is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for anyone, and those who visit on cruises usually rave about the voyage. Therefore, although different than from most of us are used to, Alaska can be a wonderful place to visit. In downtown Anchorage, around and on the summer solstice, there are countless festivities and events which take place all night long. (Think midnight marathons, bike races, music concerts, baseball games, boat regattas, and air shows, with nary an electric light or starry sky to be seen.)

Check them out for yourself; even if you don’t get there for the summer solstice, you will probably still have a wonderful time!

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