Sunday, February 3

I did it!!

"Ice Road"
Aniak, Alaska
January 2008

Yesterday I did what I thought would take me months to do (or years, perhaps). I was able to gather all my courage and cross the frozen river without freaking out completely. It may not sound that scary, but when I think that under that frozen layer of ice, that may be a few feet thick run the cold waters of the Kuskokwim river, the longest free-flowing river in the US, things get a little scary. I was scared to death! I will admit that when I realized we were on ice, not land, for a few seconds I thought my heart had stopped, but I was able to relax and enjoy the ride pretty quickly.

At this time of the year, the water is sufficiently frozen so that a large part of the river is used as an Ice Road. It is the only time of the year that you can leave town and go anywhere on wheels. In the summer you can only travel by boat, since we are fully surrounded by water on all sides. And during freeze-up and break-up, there is just no moving around anywhere unless you are flying.

Snow machines, four-wheelers, pick-ups, and even bigger trucks go on the river when the Ice Road officially opens. And even though this information should offer some sense of security to a total Alaska newbie like me, it is also true that here and there you can run into open water or overflow, and you need to recognize them easily in order to avoid them. Everyone in town seems to have a scary story about when they traveled on the river, fell through open water, and miraculously saved their lives. So the security that the first sentence could offer gets brutally destroyed by the second one. It's also true that a great number of the accidents that occur in the river are accompanied by darkness and alcoholism, but it was still scary for me, even in bright daylight.

I am very proud of having conquered one of my biggest fears in this little corner of the world. Once more, I see that we do gain in strength and courage after we do something that we were afraid of doing. It becomes important to reduce the mental space that the incessant chatter of our fears occupies in our brains, so our energy can be transformed into action. Giving in to our fears only increases them, and this usually has a paralyzing effect. With this cold, being paralyzed in not such a good idea.

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