Friday, January 4, 2008

Big Lake

On December 30, we drove west out of Wasilla up the Parks Highway for an afternoon tour of Big Lake. The Parks highway is #3 in Alaska. I think there are only 11 highways in Alaska, so the highest highway number is 11. Most often they are referred to by their name, rather than their number.

Big Lake is the name of a town and of a lake. It has been a summer and winter resort destination for Alaskans since the 1940s. As we approached the lake we could see dozens of people on the lake. There were pickups, four wheelers and snow machines. There were roads cleared across the lake itself so you could drive out on the ice. We decided that since there were so many people out there with heavy vehicles who apparently knew what they were doing, that it would be safe for us to drive our Suburban right out on the ice too. We drove for over three miles until we drove into fog. It really gave us the idea of what a white-out was like. So we turned around and went back. We did not see the end of the lake. What we did see were several small islands in the middle of the lake with house built on them. There were pickups pushing snow to make more roads from their respective homes on the lake to the main center road. We decided that this is where we want to go snowmobiling. We have less of a chance to get lost in the wilderness if we are surrounded by other snow machiners and home all along the bank!

When we stopped at the gas station near the lake, we saw a large map of the lake on a billboard. It actually had the "winter road" across the lake marked on the map. So it is not just a road for recreation in the winter. It is the way folks get back and forth to their houses in the winter too. We also saw three snow machiners who had just picked up a pizza at the convenience store and were sitting on their snow machines having a winter picnic. There was a side-by-side four wheeler getting gas also. Dad was putting gas in the tank as a little guy waited patiently in the four wheeler. He appeared to be about 2 1/2 years old. He had on his snowsuit and boots and helmet with the face shield pulled down over his face. He was strapped in his car seat just wiggling his feet as he waited for dad to finish so they could go four-wheeling.

On the way to and from the lake, we passed several fireworks stands. New Years Eve is celebrated with lots of fireworks here. Not so much on the 4th of July because it never really gets dark here in July. Anyway, the was something incongruous about this picture: the stands were packed with customers in their Carhartt bib overalls and parkas waiting to buy fireworks. Up to this point, the only weather I have ever associated with fireworks is HOT and HUMID!

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