Most visitors to Alaska must share the same travel agents as our sandhill cranes and snow geese. They tend to come after the snow melts and head back just before it returns. While here, they are a welcome treat. But even before their flights have disappeared over southern horizons, our eyes are on the approach of winter.
For human residents of Interior Alaska, that means getting our cars and trucks “winterized.” Studded tires are dragged out of the weeds and stuffed into trunks for the annual exchange with their summer counterparts. Tangled extension cords for engine heaters are relocated to the increasingly crowded back seat floor. And “long-life” batteries are replaced in their adolescence. Finally ready to go, most Interior Alaskans settle down to the real business of winter: watching far too much TV and eating a commensurate amount of ice cream while we wait for April.
But in our defense, getting outside in winter can be tough. Things that life usually depends on are often in short supply, things like light, warmth, and unfrozen beer. The spectacular southern alpine horizon of the Alaska Range doesn’t beckon so much as it dares. So most forays out into the wildness of an Interior Alaskan winter are invigorating but necessarily short-lived … after all, that’s not how any of us want our lifespan to be! We invite long distance dog mushers to race outside for two weeks in the dead of winter and are happy to reward winners with reality TV contracts and rare “Outside” fame.
Still … even for the hard-baked couch potato, Alaskan winter nights have a way of whispering, “Jack London,” and asking that question that secretly haunts us all, “Could you have made that fire?”
We built our cozy, four-season timber and stone Lodge at Black Rapids, deep in the heart of the Eastern Alaska Range for that inner Jack London in all of us. We trust the northern lights backlighting icy peaks, the extreme backcountry ski adventures, and the bracing Nordic skating on frozen creeks and lakes will keep him coming back winter after winter.
Come and enjoy the sparks!
Story by Mike Hopper, owner of The Lodge at Black Rapids