It all starts with a hole.
We step right over it for weeks without any consequences… the snow has already blanketed the ground, but through this little hole, we can see that what we’re walking is a creek running casually underneath the surface. Slow and steady. That’s the thing about water — it’s designed to move.
Then as the temperatures freeze and thaw, and freeze, and deep freeze, and warm up a tiny bit (and on and on), that water rises and freezes in ways we never dreamed possible. The little hole we were able to easily walk over is now unrecognizable — it has become layers (and layers) of widespread ice, making a once decent dog mushing trail a veritable ice-skating track. The ice will literally creep up hillsides! And this is no mistake of Nature. Nothing is wrong. Water is simply doing what water is was designed to do.
She can either be your friend, or your enemy. She forces you to re-think your trails, reconsider where you fill up your water supply, and at times, re-do your entire winter plan completely. If you only focus on her negative qualities, she’s sure to drive you nuts.
But there’s some deep wisdom in Overflow. First off, she is a total renegade. As cold winter air meets cold water reaching the Earth’s surface, the result is the result is a dynamic, changing field of ice and/or open water. It seems crazy, really: OPEN WATER even in the coldest conditions of -40°F+!
At Arctic Hive, our Overflow originates in the mountain headwaters of Mollie Creek. The creek runs all year round, and the overflow grows and grows as the months go on. We keep hoping things will get blanketed in more snow to make for better mushing, but her route (like the weather forecast) is different every year, keeping us on our toes. More snow also causes more stress and pressure on the flowing water and creates more overflow hazards further down creek — so the cycle never ends!
Oh, you don’t feel like paying attention to Her? She doesn’t care. She’s doesn't need you.
Too lazy to put on your crampons when it gets real bad? She’ll throw you down.
Want someone to come and move her out of your way so you can get on with your life? Nope. Not going to happen. This is the bush, and this is Alaska. You change your routines to accommodate her thankyouverymuch.
We learn to co-exist with Nature in all her madness. Through that process, we get creative because complaining is futile. We are attentive to her every move. We come to appreciate the fact that we learn over and over (and over!) again:
Nothing out here is in our control. Literally nothing.
Sometimes we get a glimpse of the method to her madness. Overflow, with her widespread cloak, can create a buffer from the harsh climate in Alaska. Scientists tracking Overflow, a.k.a. Aufeis, as they call her (it's a German word that sounds like "off-ice") just a few hours north of us at Toolik Field Research Station have actually found up to 30 feet of unfrozen habitat underneath her.
Like I said: Total renegade.
This unique natural feature of life here is another reminder to Sean and I that we might have a deed in our hands, and we might have built some stuff. But at the end of the day, we are visitors. Visitors lucky enough to see what we see. And — because we’ve done this a time or two before — lucky enough to know to anticipate Overflow’s springtime twins: Flood and Mud!
(More stories coming about those two hooligans in May, ha!)
So, as we learn from Overflow, the wisdom is clear as a sheet of ice: Let it flow. Instead of fighting against the grain, move with the season, give up complaining (because #winteriscoming no matter what!), and if you really want to get wild, come see our Overflow for yourself on retreat at Arctic Hive!
Sending gratitude to you and yours,
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