Sunday, April 15, 2007

Stepping Out

I decided that this weekend I was going to get my work finished early so that I may enjoy some other more time consuming endeavors. Therefore, I packed up my backpack and headed out for just an overnight. The first trick I had to figure out was how to sneak out of the village without being seen. That proved easier than anticipated. Even the group of kids playing basketball as I passed the outside court, didn't even acknowledge my presence. I just didn't want any kids trying to track me down with snow machines or 4 wheelers to play late night pranks.

I hiked around our back yard mountain ridge to be shielded from the bitter North wind already starting to pick up. My goal was to get away from the village view point, so that I truly felt alone and away from things. Finally I found a camping spot, that wasn't too windy, in the bottom of a huge bowl of mountains that surround me from the north. My second, more challenging obstacle, was trying to get my tent stakes into the frozen tundra. After about 2 - 3 attempts, I quickly revised my plan and moved to a patch of packed snow.

After my tent stabilized as much as possible, using multiple stakes in some corners, I hiked up towards the north ridge to get a better view of the landscape before the slowly approaching darkness overtook the day. The 20 - 30 mile per hour winds brought the overall temperature to about 12 - 15 degrees F. During the night, as the wind picked up, I thought that my tent might blow away with me inside it. With this a forboding possibility, another thought struck my mind. Surviving a storm! Storms out here are no joke. Winds of 50 - 70 miles an hour that could be driving snow, bring the temps down incredibly fast. You can find yourself in -20 degree temps or colder in no time at all. With this thought in mind, I considered peeing into a bottle so that I could drink my urine to stay warm if necessary. In the end, I opted not to.

Morning came and I only lost about 1 hour of sleep to my troubled thoughts of having to chase all my gear across the tundra in the strong winds. Packing up and not losing any gear in the morning wind required much focus and planning. Gear caught by the wind would likely never be seen again. Eventually I got packed up and started my journey back to the village, this time, up and over some of the hills to visit one of my favorite places...the thumb. Climbing the steep back sides of the hills, still covered with much snow, made me wish I had a snow board...and a chair lift of course.

I eventually made it back to my humble abode, unpacked my gear to dry, and fixed myself a hot breakfast. I hope you enjoyed my little outing as much as I did. It felt good to get out of town and away from phones and the rest of village life. Like disappearing for a short time.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Winter basketball

Well, the temperatures have finally cleared 0 degrees farenheit for more than a week and the kids are really getting shifty in their seats. To add to the high ampage of energy building in the early teenage bodies, they had to sit still and quiet for most of this week and take their SBA's (student based assessment tests). Therefore, when the idea of going outside to play basketball entered my mind, there was really no question. "All right kids, grab your coats!"

The outside basketball court isn't your traditional court to begin with. It is basically a giant deck with a basketball hoop at either end and a low wooden bench on one side. Now add about 2 feet of snow and you have yourself a real interesting basketball game.

Basically, it is just shoot around for about 20 minutes, but the kids come up with interesting games and rules that give the game an additional twist and make it more fun.

I like these activities, because it allows the kids to get rid of a little energy before I have to make them sit and listen for another two hours through Geography and Science.

The snow is starting to melt quickly, but I'm told that there will still be snow around in late May when I leave to fly home. I'm also told that the snow machines stay out until then as well. I've already seen people driving snow machines around on the dirt and mud. "We don't need no stinkin' snow"

On a different note, I'm looking forward to getting a short, nearby camping experience in before I fly home. Getting away from this developing country we call Toksook Bay and getting back to the wild Alaska that people say still exists. That may be my next blog entry. Stay tuned!