"Wait, They Don't Salt the Roads Here?" Unique Things I Miss About Winter Living in Alaska
|On the way back from Seward, stopping to take in the view |
along the Turnagin Arm in February.
I spent two summers working in Denali National Park after college and a full winter living in Anchorage exploring nearby. Alaska is an incredible place to live, and there are a few unique things that remain fresh in my mind about the winter season four years later.
You can't tear yourself away from windows, particularly around sunset. From the moment I flew in to Anchorage, I couldn't stop staring out the window. Of the places I spent the most time in Alaska - Seward, Anchorage, Girdwood, Denali National Park and surrounding towns - each provided one stunning view after another. Anchorage isn't the most attractive city, but glimpses of the Chugach Mountains from all around town made for wonderful morale boosts regardless of where I was. If I wasn't headed to Alyeska to ski or somewhere in the Chugach to hike, I consider driving to Girdwood from Anchorage just for views of the Turnagin Arm. I never tired of how Alaska took my breath away every time I stopped to look around.
|On the chairlift at Alyeska Resort |
on a beautiful bluebird day.
No salt on the roads in winter. Anchorage road crews put down gravel and sand rather than salt on the roads in the winter months. This means your car is perpetually dirty, but at least the salt isn't eating away at the body of your vehicle like it does here on the east coast. It means you won't be able to stop at lights, or at all, without studded or serious winter tires. It also means everyone in Anchorage has a cracked windshield. When my windshield met an unfriendly piece of gravel kicked up by a passing truck, I panicked. But friends assured me it wasn't a big deal unless it spread from one side of the car to the other, and even then I could likely wait a few weeks before replacing it.
The presence of espresso huts. I've loved coffee for as long as I can remember, but didn't realize there might be an entire population thousands of miles from my hometown that loved it as much, or more. Across Anchorage an some of the neighboring towns, enterprising folks plopped sheds and shacks in the most unlikely places to sell drive-thru coffee to anyone in need of a fix. I couldn't believe it; there were more espresso huts than fast food restaurants within my reach. I found them again up in the Pacific Northwest; another testament to how amazing that area of the country is.
|An abandoned car along the Nenana River |
outside of Cantwell. It sat there for months.
What's a block heater? I bought my little Toyota Corolla from a friend after my first summer working in Denali National Park. I needed a car for the winter and he needed to get rid of everything he owned before moving to Texas. It was perfect. I saw people driving around with plugs hanging out of the grills of their cars, and finally learned that those plugs belonged to engine block heaters. The block heater's purpose is essentially to keep the engine oil warm and prevent condensation when the car is off. If you don't have a block heater in consistently sub-zero wather, leaving the car cold for too long and trying to turn it on can be disastrous for the engine. The apartment building I lived in had an attached heated garage and it (arguably) didn't get cold enough for long enough in Anchorage to need a block heater anyway. But not having a one presented issues on a week-long trip up to Healy outside of Denali in January. The one night I had my car up in Denali in January, my boyfriend and I would alternate getting up every three hours in the middle of the night to warm the engine up.
|On a snowy drive up to Denali from Anchorage in January.|
I could go on for days about what made living in Alaska unique. If you live there now, have lived there, or live in another particularly unique winter spot, leave a comment!