On Monday I returned to my regular schedule and flew out once again to a village. While waiting for my ride back to the air strip, I saw four men on snow mobiles with .22’s across their laps heading out for hunting. I couldn’t help but think that was a sight I would have never seen back home.
As if winter weren’t bad enough, springtime in Bethel became a soggy mess.
The entire town became a quagmire as the snow melted creating ponds where there should be no standing water. The layers of snow and ice melted revealing an amazing collection everywhere of cigarette butts, chewing gum, dog feces, plastic wrappers, and just plain trash. This array of debris settled on top of the muddy silt I had been introduced to in the fall. It would have been an archeologist’s dream, layers and layers of trash and grit suddenly surfaced and the remaining piles of snow, even as late as May, were dirty and barely identifiable as snow.
Throughout the year, there had been several natural phenomena I had found myself dealing with. There had been a series of earthquakes, however, on the tundra, it is like being on a big sheet of Jello. It didn’t appear to affect Bethel much. But the earthquakes were a signal for volcanic activity. Mt. Redoubt had several eruptions. Volcanoes in Alaska aren’t like what you would think. They do not ooze molten lava, but instead spew a fine powdery dust into the air that does nothing but create problems. People with breathing problems have severe reactions. The airport shuts down because it causes the jets to stall in the air (not a good thing). Air travel, which is the most typical way of getting around in Alaska, was halted off and on for nearly a month.
There was a week in the spring that was Alaska’s tsunami awareness week. That realization stopped me in my tracks for a bit.