Another Day in Heaven

I am forever amazed how things can be so different in different locations. You would expect a snow drift in Valdez to be much the same as a snow drift at Prudhoe Bay. Not so!
The Southern drifts are nice and fluffy and you can roll and play in them and have a bunch of fun.
The Northern drifts, where the wind has blasted them much the way a sand-blaster works, are like sand. The “drifts,”
instead of being fun, are a great pain in the “North end of a South bound caribou”.
These Northern Drifts happen every where an obstruction of any size sticks up that causes the wind to be turned .A blade of grass can cause a drift. A marble can cause a drift. A delineator post that is only 6 inches wide and a half inch thick causes some of the finest drifts known to man kind. There are at least 10 million delineator posts along the road up here in the Drift Capital of the World. They even build large buildings in stilts so the wind can blow under them to help cut down on the drifts. Then the local grizzly bears hibernate under them. I came down the stairs in one building only to see a bunch of scraggly hair sleeping under the edge of the building. One of the locals said, “Not to worry, he was asleep”. I wasn’t, and it didn’t take me long to vacate the place.

The Prudhoe Bay Earth Station is a special place. The little generator building in back is small by any standards, but the drift that gathers on the “front door” side of the station stretches for 200 yards and gets to mountain size. Last hitch I had to dig down to get to the 5 foot high steps going into the building. Some nice grader operator has pushed it but soon, like tomorrow, it will be back. The unrelenting wind will see to that. It was a small, 2 feet tall drift that caused me to trip backwards and slide under the front of my truck. It must have looked Kool, because I could hear the Guard in the Gate House laughing over the 50 yards, with high wind. He may have just
been happy. Drifts make driving so much more fun. They jump up everywhere, and right where you would least expect one. Last Feb. I was on a trip back up the haul road and the wind was “getting it”. I made it all the way to the Kanute Creek Bridge. The road was blown clean all the way across the valley, but that bridge caused a drift 3 feet deep and 40 yards across the bridge. I managed to hit the thing doing at least 50 mph, which caused me to be buried, with snow all the way over the top of my truck. I will never forget Kanute Creek as long as I shall live.
Another bad thing about the Northern snow is it will build a 100 pound drift in your front seat if you happen to leave the window down a tenth of an inch. Personally I’ve never done that, but I have heard the horror stories.
If I live to be 100, I will never figure out how snow, as frozen as this stuff is, can “stick” to everything.
Every morning I have to scrape the hard-packed stuff off my truck. It’s not just laying there kind of perched on the
out-side, it is glued on!! It is set-up like cement. It looks like we are out there trying to wail our poor trucks into
submission, when all we are trying to do is get that caked-on, foot thick slab of snow off so we can see to drive the frozen critter. The un-learned eye would think we are all a bunch of nuts.

Another thing that always amazes me is when I’ve had to go into the RGV Huts. There’s always a couple of hundred pounds of the stuff hanging out over the door at the entrance. My partner stood there, with a silly grin on his face, while I slammed the door on a Hut. The entire avalanche went down the back of my neck. He got a way bigger kick out of it than I did. He also got a few different names that he hadn’t heard of before.
A question that comes to mind is how do we cope with it on a daily basis? I guess the answer is you don’t cope with it. You simply ignore it like the little biting dog that lives next door. Yeah, you do have to kick the little critter in the teeth to maintain your sanity, but it soon becomes routine just like the snow that gets in your way. It’ll be nice to see the green fields of the Arctic this summer with all those hungry little skeeters.

George “Bubba” Hunt, author of “The Wilderness Trail”.