I have a love-hate relationship with May in Alaska. Here is the time of year when summer should be pretty much guaranteed – but never say ‘never’. Twice in the 23-plus years that I have lived in Alaska it has snowed the first week of May, and once I even saw – what by this time of year I consider an evil form of precipitation – snow falling past May 10. There’s something unusu- ally cruel about those days, and even when you know the sun will melt it all away soon, it just doesn’t seem fair.
But then there are the days when the temperatures soar beyond expectations and the chill that came on the breeze just a day before is replaced with a lingering warmth that promises a true sum- mer ahead. The air even smells different, and usually within 12 hours of this very subtle change, the trees take on a minutely more colorful tinge of green, the buds daring to peek, not to be fooled yet again.
True, summer is ahead, make no mistake. But Alaskans who’ve lived here long enough also know that we are not promised all sunshine and warmth – so when the sun is shining, we get out and play. No joke. My husband used to live in Kodiak and he said that the sun was such a rare visitor there in the sum- mer that when the clouds did lift and a bluebird day descended, shops closed their doors and headed out with their crab pots, or laced up their running shoes, or pumped their bike tires for a ride out the road.
Those days are truly intoxicating and just enough to keep us hanging on for more. Like Pavlov’s dogs, we are conditioned to hold out just a little bit longer, because when that crystal clear day visits, and the mosquitoes settle down, and the mountains beckon – well, pardon the cliché, but it’s truly heaven on earth.
This month, we share some of our favorite places with our Coast readers. Our annual Adventure Un- limited feature includes points north, south, east and west of Alaska’s largest city. These destinations include breathtaking sights (have you ever been to Polychrome Pass in the middle of a Midnight Sun? Wow), way-off-the-beaten-path activities (bird- ing in Dutch Harbor, anyone?) and plenty of variety to keep the experience lively.
Our columnists, too, have a few favorites. Katie Pesznecker, Chris Batin and Sarah Zerkel all make a point of getting out to explore the world around them, and no matter where they end up, they al- ways seem to have fun stories to tell. As for me, I’m putting Denali National Park and Preserve back on my to-do list. After looking at the photos and reminiscing about past trips there, I did a mental check and realized it’s been nearly 10 years – 10 years! – since I last roamed this magical place with only wilderness on my mind. That is far too long to be away from such perfection. Find your perfec- tion and put it on your to-do list. Summer’s short, and time even shorter.
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