Well, I’m in still on my trip here to Wrangell St. Elias National Park. This is really my first time taking a solo venture into the park in the winter time, and I’ve learned a lot. So far, the things I’ve learned include:
* If your van breaks down on the McCarthy Rd, it helps a lot to have a satellite phone with you.
* If your van breaks down on the middle of an ice-covered bridge, and you have to push it across the bridge, it really helps to have a set of crampons with you.
* It costs an awful lot of money to have your van towed to Glennallen.
* A fuel pump going bad is very expensive.
* On your photo trip, you will see the most impressive sunrise of your life whilst you sit at the mechanics repair place.
* When you walk through the forest in Alaska in the winter, sometimes what looks good to walk on is not.
* Having extra socks with you is good.
* Eggs in a cooler will freeze.
* Frozen eggs are hard to shell.
* When you sit and wait for the light, sit and wait. Do not try to climb to the highest point on the glacier to fill inn your time.
* When you pull a calf muscle and you’re on a glacier, it’s a very long, slow clamber back to camp.
* Always bring a flashlight with you when hiking in Alaska in the winter, just in case you get injured and have to hike back to camp in the dark.
* When you really don’t want your lenses to fog up, your lenses will fog up.
* It’s cold here.
* There’s a reason why everyone here has a snow machine.
* Yellow snow is not lemon flavored.
* Your tongue can actually stick to the hood of your van.
* Bunnies in Alaska do not wear bunny boots.
* The light on the mountains here in the winter is sublime.
* Boots rated to “MInus 65˚ F might not keep your toes warm at minus 5˚ F.
* There is nobody in McCarthy in the winter.
* Don’t try to take a 4 hour exposure with a camera whose battery power, at full charge, will only keep the shutter open 2 hrs at best.
* When every person you actually see in the area is checking their trap line, there’s a good chance your wildlife photography trip might not be very successful.
* Sitting in a blind at minus 5˚ F is less fun than sitting on a couch watching the Daily Show.
* It gets much darker here in the winter.
* No matter what time you wake up, it’s REALLY hard to get out of a warm sleeping bag when the temperature is minus 12˚F.
* Regardless of what time you crawl out of your sleeping bag, you’ll miss the dawn, and the alpenglow on the mountains is just fading.
* The creeks and rivers here may run all year long, but the water you want to use for cooking dinner will be frozen.
* It’s really cold up here.
* It’s beautiful here.
* When you park your van for the night, park it facing OUT onto the road, not in, away from the road. If you get a dumping of snow overnight, it will be easier to back on to the road.
* It can easily snow over a foot during the nighttime.
* Unlike rain, snow is stealthy, and you won’t hear it, so you won’t actually know you’re being snowed in until, lo and behold, you’re snowed in.
* Just because you had your van fixed on friday doesn’t mean it’s “fixed”. It can break down again the following wednesday.
* If the PCM board on your van goes bad, your van won’t run.
* It can take over a week to get a part for your van to Glennallen.
* You can see all of what Glennallen has to see in much less than a week.
* While your vehicle is not working, the weather will be incredible, the light squelching, and your internet access very bad.
* None of this will happen, of course, when your parents are around. Their vacation will run smoothly, hassle free.
* Cell phones don’t power up when the temperature drops down too cold.
* If there’s a national holiday on the coming thursday, that will be the day the part for your van is predicted to arrive.
* Having an iPod with 40 gig of great music and comedy on it can go a long way to helping maintain your sanity when you’re stuck in Glennallen.
* Even Chris Rock, Steve Earle, Peter Gabriel, Miles Davis and Stevie Ray Vaughan on your iPod can only go so far to helping maintain your sanity if you’re stuck in Glennallen.
* It’s really cold up here.
* What internet?