Play Every Day (But Hunker Down), Alaska

This Alaska family is glad to be back home after a quiet yet stressful journey from Colorado on Saturday. Now that we’re here, and settling in for a 14-day quarantine that hopefully won’t result in anyone getting sick, I can focus on what’s going on in the Last Frontier; and the incredible efforts of statewide agencies to make sure residents stay healthy (and sane). 

Winter along Lake Hood. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Anchorage, and many other Alaska communities, have moved beyond the concept of “social distancing” and into “hunker down” mode, meaning if we don’t need to be out for infrequent shopping trips, visits to medical professionals, or outside participating in a spread-out recreational activity, we should be home. Schools statewide recently announced closures through May 1, which probably means the remainder of the year, since Anchorage kids get out May 22. Right now I’m fighting with my teenager to rally around the flagpole and read, run, chop firewood, ANYTHING. His preference is to stay in sweats and no shirt, in bed. This is no joke, folks. We’ve got a long road ahead of us, and no map to get there. 

The Alaska State Department of Health and Social Services’ “Play Every Day” campaign is more important now than EVER. The website is full of great ideas to get outside (after you’ve opened the front door and scanned for other humans, of course). Check out their Facebook page as well, for daily updates, ideas, and support for parents of kids at any age. 

A few updates, given this new order mandating that we hunker on down: 

  • The Alaska Zoo has closed its doors, but you can hang out on their FB page for cute videos and news/updates as things change. ALSO — if you need to purchase a zoo pass for 2020, be aware that they have a special right now that extends the value to 14 months instead of 12. Win! 
  • The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is still open, but at reduced hours. If you’re planning to go, get out of your car and walk away from other folks. 
  • Alaska State Parks public use cabins are still OPEN, but be aware that they are not sanitized or cleaned prior to your arrival. Suggestion: Bring all the cleaning supplies and be sure to wipe down all surfaces, door knobs, bannisters, bunks, and stove handles. Please. Do it again when you are leaving. 
  • Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) has had several confirmed cases of COVID-19, and as such, will close the access gate to Arctic Valley Road on weekends. 
  • Hilltop Ski Area is CLOSED. That means you should NOT be taking your kids there and uphilling it. No. 

**How CAN you get outdoors without compromising yours’ or others’ health and safety?** 

This cool scavenger hunt brought to you by my pal, Kay Shoemaker, former 4-H queen.

  • Walk the neighborhood, where you have no reason to drive and where you can see others coming in your general direction. Try this COOL neighborhood scavenger hunt I found from a friend of mine. It is fabulous. 
  • Go later, or earlier, in the day. Have littles who get up super early? Pour ’em a hot cocoa to go and get out for a walk, kicksled, or ski, first thing. If your household are night owls (ahem, parents of teens), get them outside later in the evening, or even after dark. Put on a headlamp and reflective gear and get out there. Why not? It’s novel in a good way. 
  • IF you choose to drive to a trailhead or public land area where people might be congregating in larger numbers, and you see more than five cars there, GO HOME. Do not get out, do not say “Ah, we’ll be fine.” STOP. The only way this is going to work is if we present grown-up decision-making to our kids. Model the right behavior. I know you can do it. 

Stay well, and I’ll check in again soon. 

~ EK 

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