Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I've said before that Adak is a black hole of time, and this trip was no exception. I typically fly to Adak on Sunday and return on Thursday. Those are the only two days the plane goes to Adak.

I've joked many a time that gosh, if the plane doesn't come Thursday I'll be stuck here until Sunday! Never really thinking that would happen. How naive. This time it happened. Not only did the plane not come Thursday, it didn't come the following Sunday. A Monday flight was scheduled and that didn't come either.Three times I packed, washed sheets and towels, and taped up my cooler only to unpack, remake my bed and put my food back in the refrigerator.

Only the first miss was due to weather. Thursday's weather was hurricane force winds and all sorts of barometric fun. Sunday and Monday flights though were cancelled due to "communication problems" between Anchorage and Adak airports. What that means exactly, is unclear. On Tuesday, someone from the FAA flew down to Adak to sort things out. And, on Wednesday I saw a fighter jet leave Adak. Planes were coming in and out. Just not to take me off the island.

Fortunately I was traveling this trip with my co-worker, Gail. And we always have fun hanging out with Tim, one of the teachers at the school. All things considered, getting stuck wasn't the worst thing that could have happened.

I arrived in Adak so several feet of snow. Apparently this is a rarity. The van got stuck going into the driveway and a neighbor had to pull it out.
Tim and neighbor Mike getting the van unstuck.

Gail unloading the van.

Gail and Tim did a great job shoveling the driveway.

This got me through the first week.
So what does one do while stuck on Adak? Well, there is of course a plethora of Caribou hunting to be had. A guy I work with at the school got himself one.
Zack and his Caribou hide in my front yard.
The building in the background is the school.
Hunting isn't my thing. I don't have a problem with hunting for food, but I've never understood the desire to kill, or gratuitous hunting. Does one really need to kill 12 Caribou in one day?

There are hiking opportunities on the island, but for the most part the weather was so horrible we were confined to the house. There was one nice day though.

I did manage to do a few crossfit workouts at the school, running up and down the hallways. I recruited Gail to work out with me. The high school has an old gym and weight room so I've been piecing together some Crossfit workouts. It's a bit creepy though. The weight room is in an area of the school that is off-limits. Many of the carpeted floors are sopping wet from leaks and you hear the squish, squish of wet carpet as you walk across the room.

With all the free time I crocheted a baby blanket, watched the entire series of Six Feet Under, wrote 35 reports, and reorganized the pantry cabinet. Gail and I spent countless hours rearranging future trips only to rearrange them again.

This was a daily scene. Gail texting with her grandkids and Tim sleeping.

The skeins of yarn I was using for crocheting were full of knots. Tim was the official knot "undoer". Truly, there was nothing else to do.

There were many weather discussions and constant consulting of weather apps on our phones. We'd compare what the different ones said and what that might mean about the probability of a plane landing. The NOAA website used the terms "hurricane force winds" yet The Weather Channel only said, "locally damaging winds".

There was a lot silliness. A lot of "sharing" about ourselves. When you have nothing else to do but talk you learn a lot about people. I think I've now spent as many hours with Tim and Gail as some of my closest friends. It's only after spending that much time in close quarters with others can someone say, "you're so controlling!" and you don't punch them.

In addition to not being able to leave the island, there were also water and electricity problems. Almost everyday the water was turned off at some point for an indefinite amount of time. The town asked the state to send water down on the combi plane. The city didn't want to declare an emergency but they did want assistance. I have no idea what the problem was. Most of the time we had either water or electricity. But one day, for awhile, we were without both. This put a severe wrench in our Six Feet Under watching schedule. We had to play a card game and talk to each other! We went for walks when we could.

Many eagle sightings!
Getting information on Adak is like playing telephone. The one person who might know what is going on says to someone at the store that the water will be off for a few hours and the next thing you know, the story is the town is without water for a week.

Going to the store felt like an anthropological study. Everything is horridly expensive and the store reeks of cigarette smoke. The folks who work the store sit in one corner smoking and talking until a customer comes in. I stood in line next to who worked at the fish processing plant. No one needed to tell me where he worked.
Should you find yourself in the Adak store, check the expiration dates carefully. I saw "exp 9/2007" often. Here are a few of the fine selections you can buy at the store.

We did a lot of baking. Stress eating, you know. One night I made Russian Tea Cakes (also known as Mexican Wedding Cakes). There was butter in the freezer in a mayonnaise jar. I thought that was odd, but didn't think much of it as I was chipping butter out of the jar with a knife. The cookies came out of the oven looking marvelous! But smelling vaguely of garlic.

Gail took a bite of cookie and immediately spit it out, almost gagging on it. Apparently the butter in the freezer was garlic butter. Zach (of Caribou hunting fame) though, loved the cookies and polished them off.

By the end of the 12 days, most of the snow was gone. And when the plane finally did come, Gail and I were treated to the usual airport shuttle front door parking treatment.

I felt giddy leaving the island but also bittersweet. Being there for 12 days certainly wasn't my first choice. But the time spent with Gail and Tim was irreplaceable. No one else will understand the importance of my yelling, "Level up!" when playing Falling Gems on my phone.

Finally leaving.