When the thermometer hit 80 degrees, I started taking screen shots to send home to my sister back in Virginia, where an 80-degree day in the middle of summer is considered mild. When it climbed just a tad higher, I broke my moratorium on tank tops, and swapped out my T-shirt for the skimpier version, jiggly upper arms be damned. And when I saw the email from my husband that it was 96 degrees in Eagle River, I finally admitted I’d died and gone to “weird summer in Alaska” heaven.
Now, by the time these words actually show up in print, we may be back to a more normal version of an Alaska summer – 70 degrees tops, on a good day, and cloudy and cool muc
h of the rest. There are probably those who are looking forward to that latter kind of weather, but I have a perverse affinity to the former. To me, when early June’s heat spell arrived, there was nowhere I’d rather be than right here at home.
But it comes at a price – doesn’t everything in Alaska? We have spectacular scenery – but accessing much of it is pricy and challenging; we have gorgeous coastline, but with that ruggedness comes unpredictable, hypothermia-inducing risks; and on the average sunny day, when we just want to sit on our deck and read a book, there are mosquitoes everywhere interrupting our every thought. The dichotomy that is Alaska is what makes it such an incredible place and, sometimes, such a frustrating one.
So having a warm spell – like the apparent heat wave Alaska is predicted to experience this entire summer – is like a vacation from toughness. For one small period of time, we Alaskans can relax. We can sit on our decks and read – because it will be too hot even for the mosquitoes. We can flip our kayaks, and the cold water might just be a bit refreshing. We can wear flip-flops and it will actually make sense.
For me, this mental vacation will be relished in every way. But with it will come other, more worrisome thoughts: wildfires burning down forests and homes, global warming melting more and more icepack, animals suffering the effects of an ever-changing ecosystem. It almost makes me feel guilty for taking any pleasure in the heat if I think about it too long.
So I won’t. This month, we invite Coast readers to enjoy all things summer: When it’s sunny, don’t worry yourself too much; just get out and enjoy it. Big Wild Life Runs is gearing up for its big August races, which include a 49K ultra-marathon, marathon, half-marathon, 5K and 1-mile (plus a 2K for kids!). Even if you’re not a runner, it’s worth checking out, because special guests will be on hand to introduce newbies to the sport as well. Check out the Big Wild Life Runs official guide in these pages, beginning on Page 27.
Also an event to celebrate is The Alaska Challenge, dubbed “the toughest handcycle race in the world” and covering some 240 miles from Anchorage to Fairbanks and back toward Palmer for an epic finish at Hatcher Pass. Watch some of the country’s best handcyclists compete for top honors, including local Alaskans. Read more at Page 11.
Early August is time to celebrate one of Alaska’s most treasured natural resources, the Alaska salmon. Salmonfest 2015 kicks off the first weekend in August in Ninilchik, at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds, and features some of the country’s top musicians, all there to celebrate salmon. Dance the weekend away with such musicians as Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, The Motet, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and the Marchfourth Marching Band. Kachemak Bay Conservation Society hosts this year’s shindig. See the official guide, beginning on Page 19.
And if all this isn’t enough fun, go to our columnists, who share their summer favorites as well. The summer goes by fast, and let’s hope every second of it is filled with sunshine and happiness.