The Petersen Herd

The Petersen Herd

Friday, December 2, 2016

Barrow Alaska

Tyler had the opportunity to go to Barrow for a few days to work in the clinic there.  Since I work for the same clinic I decided I really wanted to go with him.  I've always been curious about this place that's so far off the beaten path so I talked him into taking me along for a business trip. 
Talk about WILD!  This place is incredible.  The wind hit my face as I got off the plane and holy cow- there is NOTHING to slow that wind down.  There are no trees or mountains or even hills, but just ice as far as you can see in every direction.  The whole town feels like it's black and white because the frost is so think that you can't really see color underneath it.  Here's Tyler in front of the clinic there.  Metal buildings are all over and they're all on stilts because of the frozen ground.

I talked Tyler into a "night on the town" which really just consisted of driving around and stopping at the local grocery store.  It was like stepping into another world.  The people that live here are nothing short of brave and strong but there was certainly a peace about the place - it was really quiet.

One thing I loved was how people had carved Christmas decorations into the frost on the buildings.  I didn't get a great picture but there were holly garlands carved into the frost and I thought that was so very creative.  Talk about blooming where you're planted.  

This was the park.  I was really tempted to go down the slide or swing on the swings but it seemed a shame to disturb something so completely untouched.  Also it was cold - REALLY cold.  With the wind we're talking -30 or colder and that just kind of took the play out of me.  

Looking out on the Arctic ocean was surreal - it was like I was actually inside a National Geographic documentary.  

You can see our shadows in this picture.  I wanted to walk out on the ice but Tyler drew the line there.  As much as he would have liked to see a polar bear, he said I wouldn't be his choice of bait.  Such a charmer that guy.  

Of course we had to go check out the prices at the grocery store.  Yep - that's per can people, per CAN.  No wonder the people of Barrow eat a lot of whale meat - this is nuts.  I'll not complain about prices in Palmer for at least a month :)

Bottled water.  Seriously - this one I didn't get.  Couldn't you just buy a purifier and you know, melt the acres of ice?  Just sayin'  - there's got to be a better way than $10/gallon.  

I loved driving down the old runway and seeing all the whale bones.  What an incredible culture.  I wish I had more time to learn about the Native people there and get a more "insider" look.  Playing tourist left a lot for me to wonder about and some serious research to do.  

These are some seriously huge bones though - that's my 6'5" husband and they're up to his shoulders.  I had no idea but Barrow is one of the oldest settlements in Alaska - and if I remember right Tyler told me it's one of the oldest in the United States.  

This was the most sunlight we got the whole trip - and it happened right when we arrived.  Of course we'd choose to visit when the days are at their shortest.  

Looking down on the Arctic ocean from the plane was a little unnerving.  "please don't crash" may have gone through my mind once or twice.  The landing when we got to Prudoe Bay was so rough we actually jumped back up off the runway.  All the passengers agreed that it was whip-lash worthy which proved to be a little true for me later in our adventure.  

This was insane - we stopped here right after arriving and my goodness it was cold.  We stood here for about a half a minute and our smiles were frozen in place as we ran back to the car.  Yes, those are whale bones - no kidding.

There were a lot of cool artifacts to be seen in the hotel where we ate lunch.  

This model ship is actually made of baleen - they use whale parts for all kinds of creative things.  

I wish I had gotten a better picture of this but on the front of that big huge tractor there is actually a giant sized chainsaw blade used for digging into the dirt.  It's frozen so solid that they actually have to saw into it.  I've never seen such a huge piece of machinery and I couldn't help but wonder, "how'd they get that up here?"  

Even the hotel had plug-ins for your cars and most people leave their cars running when they are in the store or somewhere.  After all, with a population of 4000 and a town that is pretty much ice-locked, it's not like someone's going to steal your car.  

Here we are in the hotel restaurant.  My date was pretty handsome.  

This is where you can actually see the mounds that were the first settler's to Barrow's homes.  Insane amount of history for a place so remote.  I cannot fathom living here without electricity and running water.  

We had a lot of down time in the apartment while we were there.  Selfies seemed in order.  

The airport was kind of crazy too - people stop by, check their bags and then leave again only to arrive when it's boarding time.  Needless to say, security wasn't that tricky.  

And here's my souvenir.  The morning that we flew home I woke up thinking, "I've definitely got a kidney infection!"  It was getting worse by the minute and about the time I thought I was going to need to see the Dr. there I passed these beauties.  Yes I fished them right out of the toilet.  I'm sorry people but if you don't have evidence then no-one believes you (it's like fishing - take a picture or it didn't happen).  I think this may be the biggest kidney stone I've passed yet and it came with two little sisters (I lost one).  After that I felt just fine and thankfully only passed a couple more small ones in the days that followed.  I attribute it to the hard landing.  

Tyler was such a good sport, trucking around with me and following my whims.  He even drove me out to Point Barrow - my ultimate favorite part of the trip.  It was dark (obviously) and the northern lights decided to comply with the "black and white" theme of our trip.  They were completely colorless in the sky and so beautiful dancing  like white fire.  We got out of the truck to watch them and within just a few minutes we both had a very strong feeling like we were in danger - like we were being watched.  Now I spook pretty easily but Tyler never spooks so when he said, "we need to get back in the truck" boy did I listen.  It was really hard to see anything out on the ice as everything in every direction was white and it was a very dark night.  We had driven out past the lights of civilization so there was no light except from the aurora.  I didn't think much of it, we watched for a while and then drove on back.  The next day he was telling some of his patients about the experience and they asked, "Did you see the family of polar bears?  They've been seen out there a lot lately!"  I am convinced we were almost Polar Bear Dinner!  Ok, probably not dinner - but if I'd had night vision goggles I could probably have seen a polar bear!  

Another one on my bucket list - visit Barrow.  What an incredible life!

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