I am forever amazed how things can be so different in different
locations. You would expect a snow drift in Valdez to be much
the same as a snow drift at Prudhoe Bay. Not so!
The Southern drifts are nice and fluffy and you can roll and play
in them and have a bunch of fun.
The Northern drifts, where the wind has blasted them much the
way a sand-blaster works, are like sand. The drifts,
instead of being fun, are a great pain in the North end
of a South bound caribou.
These Northern Drifts happen every where an obstruction of any
size sticks up that causes the wind to be turned .A blade of grass
can cause a drift. A marble can cause a drift. A delineator post
that is only 6 inches wide and a half inch thick causes some of
the finest drifts known to man kind. There are at least 10 million
delineator posts along the road up here in the Drift Capital of
the World. They even build large buildings in stilts so the wind
can blow under them to help cut down on the drifts. Then the local
grizzly bears hibernate under them. I came down the stairs in
one building only to see a bunch of scraggly hair sleeping under
the edge of the building. One of the locals said, Not to
worry, he was asleep. I wasnt, and it didnt
take me long to vacate the place.
The Prudhoe Bay Earth Station is a special place. The little generator
building in back is small by any standards, but the drift that
gathers on the front door side of the station stretches
for 200 yards and gets to mountain size. Last hitch I had to dig
down to get to the 5 foot high steps going into the building.
Some nice grader operator has pushed it but soon, like tomorrow,
it will be back. The unrelenting wind will see to that. It was
a small, 2 feet tall drift that caused me to trip backwards and
slide under the front of my truck. It must have looked Kool, because
I could hear the Guard in the Gate House laughing over the 50
yards, with high wind. He may have just
been happy. Drifts make driving so much more fun. They jump up
everywhere, and right where you would least expect one. Last Feb.
I was on a trip back up the haul road and the wind was getting
it. I made it all the way to the Kanute Creek Bridge. The
road was blown clean all the way across the valley, but that bridge
caused a drift 3 feet deep and 40 yards across the bridge. I managed
to hit the thing doing at least 50 mph, which caused me to be
buried, with snow all the way over the top of my truck. I will
never forget Kanute Creek as long as I shall live.
Another bad thing about the Northern snow is it will build a 100
pound drift in your front seat if you happen to leave the window
down a tenth of an inch. Personally Ive never done that,
but I have heard the horror stories.
If I live to be 100, I will never figure out how snow, as frozen
as this stuff is, can stick to everything.
Every morning I have to scrape the hard-packed stuff off my truck.
Its not just laying there kind of perched on the
out-side, it is glued on!! It is set-up like cement. It looks
like we are out there trying to wail our poor trucks into
submission, when all we are trying to do is get that caked-on,
foot thick slab of snow off so we can see to drive the frozen
critter. The un-learned eye would think we are all a bunch of
Another thing that always amazes me is when Ive had to go
into the RGV Huts. Theres always a couple of hundred pounds
of the stuff hanging out over the door at the entrance. My partner
stood there, with a silly grin on his face, while I slammed the
door on a Hut. The entire avalanche went down the back of my neck.
He got a way bigger kick out of it than I did. He also got a few
different names that he hadnt heard of before.
A question that comes to mind is how do we cope with it on a daily
basis? I guess the answer is you dont cope with it. You
simply ignore it like the little biting dog that lives next door.
Yeah, you do have to kick the little critter in the teeth to maintain
your sanity, but it soon becomes routine just like the snow that
gets in your way. Itll be nice to see the green fields of
the Arctic this summer with all those hungry little skeeters.
George Bubba Hunt, author of The Wilderness