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My First Alaska Winter: what I am expecting to be the good, the bad and the ugly

Peak the termination dust on the mountains behind me aka the first sign winter is upon us. Also my exact thought while taking this photo was "fuck I am cold."

Hi y’all (to quote Red)! This year is going to be my first winter so I thought I would share some of my hopes, fears and random thoughts as I go into this Alaska experience (and hopefully come out on the other end alive).

So when I was looking at moving up here, the one topic that came up a lot was winter. The cold, the dark and the snow were all topics that came up regularly via phone calls and texts as I got my shit together to get here. Now being the stubborn person I am and thinking eh, that’s a whole eight months from now, I was unconcerned with winter initially. Yes, I did get an engine block heater for my car and a power cord to plug it in eventually, but it seemed like a distant future that would not actually happen.

But, it is the year of the ‘rona and shit that we did not think would ever happen actually happening so shocker, winter is upon me. Now for me, the wake up call was this morning when I Snapchatted my friends and realized it was a balmy six degrees Fahrenheit outside (negative 14 for my Celsius fans).

I grew up in Seattle so freezing temperatures are not a new experience for me per say. We have had our 20 degree days too. But, seeing an actual single digit was quite the shocker for me considering the coldest I have ever experienced at home was a record low of 14 degrees at some point in my childhood.

So, seeing that temperature I did what any sane person decides to do and conquer my fear and go outside. I had errands I wanted to run anyways so used it as an excuse to bundle up in my coat, snow boots (there’s no snow on the ground but they still keep toes toasty), ear muffs, gloves and a dual purpose accessory: a trusty cloth face mask (take that corona).

I was expecting the worst. I psyched myself up, considered call my mom, turned around a couple times, looked into grocery delivery apps, texted some friends, and then womanned up and stepped out the door.

Turns out, not as scary as I thought.

I actually may have overdressed for what I thought it was going to be. Now I am not saying it wasn’t cold cause it definitely was but I did have a #realizingthings moment: if I keep my nose and ears warm, I am actually okay.

So, my next learning experience has been ice on my car. Again, not new to the concept and I even had to scrape my windshield when in California. But, turns out if it reaches a certain level of cold, no amount of will power and scraping will make a dent in the layer of frost on a windshield. Instead, you just have to wait ten minutes while your car does its thing and THEN scrape it.

TMI moment: I also learned that this winter I am going to be dealing with a lot of blood. Nosebleeds, lip cracks, skin cracks. You name it, it has happened to me already and its only November. So, increasing my water consumption and investing in boxes of tissues to combat this one.

And tomorrow is the (dreaded) fall back. This is when the clocks fall back and it is still (shockingly) very dark in the mornings when you think it should be light.

I have to say, the lack of light is what I have gotten the most warnings about. People keep telling me what it is like to only have five hours of daylight by the time the solstice hits. And I got to say, of all the things that really scare me about winter (namely copious amounts of snow), the daylight isn’t one of them.

I think growing up in a place with over 300 days of cloudy skies a year makes me somewhat meh towards the lack of daylight part.

I know it is different in the sense that it will still be actually dark here versus Seattle is dim, but to me the real thing to pay attention to is the toll on your body when it lacks sunlight. So I preemptively bought a huge container of Vitamin D from Costco and happy lights for home and the office (some people call them sad lights but I like to be positive about it. Here’s an article from the Mayo Clinic about why people use them).

And I started using both over a month ago. I am hoping that being proactive and not letting it get bad before I try coping mechanisms, that I will be okay with the daylight situation here.

Now I will say, the thing I am absolutely terrified about going into winter is the snow situation. I am the type of person that appreciates maybe an inch of snow that then melts and goes away. I have been told that is not the situation here.

The average snowfall is 74.5 inches. That is a whole 73.5 inches more than I would like.

I know it is going to be a lot considering they keep kitty litter at the entrances of buildings in case your car gets stuck in a parking spot. And everyone keeps telling me a winter kit so I can survive two weeks in my car if need be. So that is fun sounding.

However, I have womanned up (yet again) and purchased a snow shovel to (hopefully) be able to dig myself out of any particularly snowy situations.

So there you have it. My current thoughts going into this winter. I know what you are going to say: “dude run.” And boy, I have thought of that. But, I am not a quitter and I am too stubborn for my own good (ask anyone who has ever met me) so I am barreling headfirst into my first winter and hoping to not get trapped in the snow anytime soon. What else is a girl to do?

Wish me luck.

- Rachel

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