Winter, Alaska-Style: Family Fun and Holiday Highjinks

Oh, dear AKontheGO’ers, I have been pondering this post all day. Is it right to talk about smiling faces, bright shiny places, and beautiful moments of holiday joy in the midst of darkness and incomprehensible tragedy? While parents far across the country grieve their empty arms tonight, dare I share that all is calm, and all is bright?

Yes. But it took a while, a good pile of tissues, and a harvest of hugging.

I watched AK Kid carefully this afternoon when I picked him up from school; watched him wiggle into snow pants and boots, and carefully place an art project into his backpack. I savored the way he interacted with friends, and smiled across the room when he noticed my presence. Sashaying to the door after giving the “magic word” to his teacher, he jumped into my open arms and stayed there a moment longer than usual, while I took in his scent of markers and leftover lunch, the softness of his cheek against mine, and the grip of 8 year-old arms.

Tonight, he and AK Dad are outside in the front yard, tossing snowballs at one another in between construction of a sledding hill. There is joy, here, in the midst of mid-winter Alaska darkness, and laughter through hours of tears. It is as it should be. Life will go on through simple, beautiful things that will override big ones that try and snatch it away.

So here I am, wiping away even more tears as I type, hoping you will allow me grace as a parent, and love for the outdoors as a balm for this  incredibly tragic day. Take our suggestions for the weekend as healing moments within the grand cathedral of Mother Nature, and be glad. Be unabashedly, joyfully glad.

FAIRBANKS: Creamer’s Field  has a wealth of fresh snow, perfect for little feet to snowshoe or Nordic ski on the groomed trails. Try the wide open fields or boreal forest, where little birds spend their winter. Once you’ve explored the area, stop into the Farmhouse Visitor Center and make an ornament (Saturday, noon-4 p.m.), enjoy some hot chocolate and visit in the company of friends.

Wander Lake, located just down the road from Creamer’s Field, offers another opportunity to snowshoe in a boreal forest, but also to enjoy the frozen expanse of this little lake where beavers live. If you park near the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, and it’s a weekend, you’ll be able to take an indoor time-out and experience this fantastic facility and their collection of cars, trucks, and vintage clothing.

ANCHORAGE: Big kids will enjoy creating beautiful candle holders out of ice at the Alaska Botanical Garden’s Ice Candles and Luminarias Saturday afternoon. As of this afternoon a few spots were still left, so hop on the organization’s website and register, right now. The garden is a fantastic place to snowshoe or ski, especially in the late afternoon hours when light is lower, and a hush comes over the land. Donation of $5 suggested for entrance.

Eagle River Nature Center is hosting their annual Lantern Making (two sessions, 3 and 4 p.m.) and Lantern Walk events. Bring your own lantern, or learn to make one, but be sure and show up at 5 p.m. to walk through the wintery forest to the classroom yurt for a bonfire and singing. Celebrate Winter Solstice in a most peaceful way. Free, but $5 parking for non-members.

Thanks for the photo, CACS.

HOMER: Our friends at the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies are once again offering the grounds of Wynn Nature Center for family snowshoe adventures, and weekly snowshoe walks. On clear days, the views of Homer Spit and Kachemak Bay are spectacular, and the snowshoeing is accessible for most ages and abilities. Look for snowshoe hares, too! Snowshoe walks are free, some rentals available for reasonable rates.

Photo via Juneau CVB, by Kenneth J. Gill

JUNEAU: Southeast Alaska has had some nice snowfall this year, and if conditions permit, Mendenhall Lake is a great place to venture close to Mendenhall Glacier, itself. The Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area is open all winter long for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, so strap on the boards and head outside until you see that glacier’s face! Free access.


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