My unplanned Alaskan experience

Stuck in Limbo


Limbo is a place I have always associated with the afterlife. If you were not quite good enough to make the cut to go up, but were not nearly bad enough to go down, you get placed in a realm with no end.

I did not expect to find myself stuck in limbo at the prime of my life. I am far too young to have died of natural causes, and I am far too cautious to have died any other way. 

If by some chance I did get myself stuck I certainly did not expect my limbo to be the desolate but picturesque Alaska. White coatings on every imaginable object made for a beautiful scene, just a very inconvenient one.

My trip to Alaska in the middle of winter was meant to be a short one, a swift two days on my way from Arizona to Iwakuni, Japan. The weather, however, had different ideas. Before I knew it, two weeks had gone by, with each day being the day that I might leave, but the result being less than encouraging.

Whoever had the idea to make a quick stopover in Alaska forgot a vital fact: Alaska can get very cold, with freezing mists that cause icicles on pretty much everything. Not only is it far below freezing, it snows – often. This is not the best of circumstances for flying through swiftly.

In fact it is basically the opposite; with even the simplest of tasks being made vastly harder with the frosty weather that folks from Yuma are eminently unaccustomed to living in.

Every short trip to a car can lead to tripping as people slip and slide all over the place. Bruised bottoms become an everyday occurrence, and watching people struggle to walk a few hundred feet, though comical, becomes commonplace.

Driving is a trying of one’s patience. The brakes on vehicles do not work the way one thinks they should. To stop in time for a red light a foot should be on the brake at least a block before; otherwise the driver might find herself stopped in the middle of the intersection.

The temperature would be the most difficult thing for us desert dwellers, however. In Yuma it was common to have temperatures into the 120 F range. Subtract 140 degrees and you have the typical temperature of Alaska midwinter.

I forgot to put on gloves walking from the car to my work place, and got frostbite on my fingers. Although a minor case, it was still frostbite.

Having said all that, though, if you’re looking for winter haven, look no further than Alaska. It is a wonderland, covered in snow and never a day above freezing. Just be sure you have a solid plan to get out and you bring a lot of layers. Oh, and please remember to bring your gloves.

Photos by Kimberly Riegelhaupt-Herzig

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