Posted by: stacylynn12 | July 30, 2011

Arctic Time

Since I last posted we have taken the ferry from Juneau to Haines, spent several lovely days in Haines where we celebrated Bodhi’s 6th birthday with giant ice cream sundaes, fished in lakes and rivers, caught fish and been disappointed when we didn’t. Some of us more than others.

We’ve seen eagles, sandhill cranes, moose, black and brown bears, trumpeter swans, caribou, a lynx, a fox, a wolf, Dall sheep and a host of other lesser creatures – though I highly doubt they would appreciate that classification. Come to think of it, the porcupine might have been more memorable than anything else thus far.

Well, except for the grizzly bear we encountered on our hike yesterday. That was pretty memorable. But I’m not going to talk about that just yet. I’m way behind and I’ve got to catch up before getting to Denali which is where we have been for the past week.

You’re hooked though eh? You’ll check back because you want to hear about that grizzly. 🙂

We’ve soaked in the Chena Hot Springs, froze our butts in a yurt and watched the kids ride bikes around towns and campgrounds. We’ve hiked a little, paddled a canoe, rowed a boat and of course we have packed and unpacked the van a lot. Setting up camp, cooking meals, cleaning up and taking care of personal hygiene take up a considerable portion of each day. We’ve established a bit of a daily rhythm and it’s still evolving.

Ahhhh… rhythm.

As I write it seems like we’ve been doing a lot but I often feel like we really DO not much of anything at all. My friend Tracy recently wrote a post about DOING vs. BEING… (… which got me thinking…

On past adventures, (pre – children) there has always been a goal in mind and usually one that involved a physical endeavor. We went to Nepal to trek for 3 weeks. We went to Thailand to rock climb. Even when there wasn’t an athletic pursuit, there was at least some semblance of an agenda, or at least places we had in mind that we wanted to visit.

This time around due in equal parts to the fact that we have 2 small children and I have relinquished the planning to Randy, I have absolutely nothing to “DO”. Randy is a master at living in the moment, capitalizing on opportunities and whims to decide our next move. It is quite freeing really.

After leaving Haines we drove through Kluane National Park in Yukon which, combined with the adjacent Wrangell-St Elias, Glacier Bay and Tatshenshini-Alsek parks, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 and is a whopping 32 million acres. That’s freakin big. About as big as Greece actually.

All of Kluane and much of the rest of the park land is completely inaccessible by car. You don’t even get a glimpse of the spectacular glaciers and ice fields that dominate the landscape. Unless you are an accomplished mountaineer or you can shell out big bucks for a flight seeing tour then it is difficult to enjoy the park. In our human centric world, I found this annoying, perhaps even more so because I do have the requisite mountaineering skills but alas my children do not. (Yet!)

Now this begs the question… Is it enough to know it is there? To know that the grizzlies, caribou and Dall sheep are benefiting from the preservation of this land? Or must I have access in order to find value in it?

But I digress….

Our days of simply being rather than doing have a rhythm all their own. This rhythm is emerging as much from the complete lack of having anything that we must do as it is from the larger rhythm of the natural world. The long hours of daylight here in subarctic Alaska have wreaked havoc on our work and school driven schedules. We go about our business in the evening and all of a sudden we look at the clock expecting it to be about 7pm and lo and behold, it’s midnight. Thankfully the kids then sleep until 11am which leaves us having breakfast at noon, lunch at dinner time and dinner at bedtime.

Of course not everyone in Alaska lives on Arctic Time. There are people here who have jobs and are expected to be somewhere at a certain hour. They are not afforded the luxury of keeping whatever schedule they would like any more than I would be back in Seattle. I keep imagining the Native Athabascan People who did and to a certain extent, still do, practice a subsistence life style. I imagine their lives following the cyclical rhythms of nature, driven more by the salmon, the snow, the daylight and darkness… than by the clock.

All around us there are already signs of fall. Tiny patches of tundra turning golden, ripening berries, the long days that are rapidly shortening. Today the sun rose at 4:38am and will set at 11:16pm (compared with 2:57am and 12:47am on summer solstice). At the end of the month (as in 2 days from now) the day will be 14 minutes shorter. The march toward darkness accelerates as Alaska creeps toward winter solstice. Life will begin to slow down. Folks will either hibernate or migrate.

I don’t know how one incorporates this rhythm of the natural world into their schedule driven lives but it sure seems preferable to the unnatural waking by blaring alarms, dragging ones self out of bed, stumbling to the coffee pot to try to drink life into the day. I know I won’t be able to live on Arctic Time forever but I sure am enjoying it for now.

Note: Arctic Time is not an official time zone. All of Alaska is on Alaska Time, one hour behind Pacific Time. The term Arctic Time is a phrase I learned from a local friend at a BBQ here in Denali to describe our wacky daylight driven schedule.

If you are interested in the details of our route, our website is updated through Fairbanks. Click on the “Road Less Traveled” tab to find a google map and calendar showing all the places we have visited…and send us a note!



  1. Stacy,
    I read your new blog. Wanted to hear about the grizzlies and you didn’t tell us! Let us know will you :))
    Love MOM

  2. Comment from Randy;
    I am enjoying your posts and our trip! I guess the grizzly bear story will be in your next post. Nice hook. :).

  3. Stacy,
    We miss you here! Your blog posts are a joy to read… invigorating, thought-provoking, and giggle-inducing. I’m jealous of your adventures and your perspective on it all, but mostly joyous for you and inspired to try to make something similar happen in my own life someday.
    Thanks for keeping us posted… now tell us about the grizzly!!
    Tía Kelly

    • Gracias Kelly! ( and everyone else too! )
      Grizzly story coming soon… 🙂

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