Today was filled with childlike wonder and excitement. I walked out of Sophie Station this morning rubbing sleep from my tired eyes only to find the most beautiful white flakes falling daintily from the sky. I raced outside to see my first snow fall, completely forgetting to put on my hat and gloves and not even caring when the cold air bit at my face and hands. It was absolutely breathtaking.
I sheepishly jumped in the car with the rest of the PolarTREC team, but was immediately greeted with support for my first time experiencing snow. Jennifer Bault, Jennifer Baldacci, and Rebecca Harris even joined me during the lunch break to make my first snow angel. I set about trying to make a snowman for my students as requested, but was met with some disappointing news. Because it is so dry in this part of Alaska, the snow doesn't stick together, even with lots of pressure. So unfortunately there was no successful creation of a snowman or a snowball fight.
Lesley Anderson skypes with her students at High Tech High. She is wearing a typical ECW (extreme cold weather gear) jacket.
High Tech High students, staff, and friends of Lesley Anderson signed a California state flag that will travel to the south pole research station. Lesley stands under the sign to the South Pole, located 17,198km to the south.
As one of our alumni pointed out, this experience is very much like drinking from a fire hose. Between journalism lessons, science talks, and wilderness safety, I am trying to take it all in. But at times today my gaze was lost outside as I was mesmerized by the carefree flutter of snowflakes making their way aimlessly to settle on the ground below. I am just trying to take it all in.
During the snow shower, ice crystals formed on the window at the NOAA National Weather Service conference room.
We finished off the day with a trek along a dangerous icy stretch of road out toward Chena Hot Springs, a natural hot spring east of Fairbanks. We were even fortunate enough to see a pair of moose crossing the road on our way out!
We arrived in the middle of nowhere and checked in. The 50 foot walk from the changing area to the hot springs leads you down a dark covered walkway that gives you a feeling that you're walking down into a coal mine, complete with cold blasts of air coming from the outside. The tunnel emerged into a ramp leading down to the hot springs. I took off my parka and waded into the hot water in my bathing suit. It is a strange feeling having your body feel both extreme hot and cold at the same time. Such an amazing experience soaking in the warmth and feeling my hair freeze above the water. Today was an amazing opportunity to experience a true Alaskan winter!
Snow covers the arrows that point the way to the Chena Hot Springs just east of Fairbanks.
The almost full moon rises above the snowcapped trees above the Chena Hot Springs.