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On July 4, 2001 AKDT we, my husband, Tom cat, and I, boarded a plane in Leipzig, Germany to fly the first leg of our journey to Alaska. North to the future, like Alaska’s state motto, Condor flew from Frankfurt am Main over Norway, the Arctic Ocean, passed about 800 km south of the Earth’s North Pole, to turn south down into Whitehorse, Canada. Whitehorse is a small city in a steep mountain valley of the Yukon River that has built a big lake due to a huge dam upstream of the city.
Due to the mountains a plane cannot fly the usual descend, but must slip over one of its wings to loose the altitude it needed to pass the mountains that surround Whitehorse. Such a descend is pretty noisy, a bit rocky, and feels a little odd when you have never experienced this before. The cabin was silent, when the plane touched down, made a U-turn on the runway, and taxied to the terminal.
The plane had just docked to the skywalk when we saw a Swiss Air plane slipping in over its wing to land where we had just taxied. My husband looked at me and said “did you see this?” “What?” “This town is three houses, one church, a fuel station, a dam, and a landing stripe, but has at least two international flight connections. Is Fairbanks like that?”
I didn’t need to see his face, he looked out of the window again watching the ground crew unloading baggage. The sound of his voice told me that he was worried. He was moving to a town he had never set a foot in before. He had only seen bits and pieces of it on the internet. When I was interviewing he was engaged in various fire experiments for a research project at work. He and his colleagues were burning identical apartment settings to study the time to flash-over, i.e. when a room gets all on fire due to the heat of the initial fire.
Meanwhile the Swiss Air plane had landed and taxied to the terminal the same way as Condor did before. “No,” I responded “it has more skywalks than Leipzig’s airport and a higher church density than Köln (Cologne).” “I wonder whether any of our dishes will survive their stop in Whitehorse next Thursday” he replied. “Don’t worry, you packed the dishes” I replied.
Meanwhile the Swiss Air plane had reached the terminal. It was waiting for Condor to leave. A little car pushed the Condor backwards. The stewardesses made their safety minute for the passengers who had boarded in Whitehorse for their flight back to Germany. The plane speeded up, took off into the nimbostratus of a low pressure system that covered the Yukon Territory and Interior Alaska. You could feel that the plane flew a circle to gain height to be able to fly over the mountains heading northwest with destination Fairbanks. My husband looked out of the window starring into the white of the clouds. He was silent for the entire about 60 minutes to Fairbanks. The clouds got thicker. Water run along the windows looking like stripes.
You could feel the plane descending again in the sea of gray thick nimbostratus clouds. The ground was blinded out since we had left Whitehorse. No sight for what seemed an eternity despite the last leg was just about an hour of the total trip.
Then the Condor broke thru the cloud base and gave view to the West Ridge of the UAF campus and the West Valley High School. A big smile showed up on my husband’s face. His smile told me that he was happy to finally see something he had expected. A small college town in a Provence-like hilly landscape opening to a wide glacier-carved valley, that is the central commercial point somewhere in the middle of nowhere strategically placed at the joining of two contributors to the Yukon, the Chena and Tanana rivers.
July 5 marked 19 years living in Alaska.
Can you imagine to move to a place you had never seen before? Would you move to Alaska? What’s your moving story? Let me know by email. I am curious.
You may also like to read these other Focus Alaska stories on our first Christmas in Alaska with a frozen Christmas tree and the house hunt after the above described arrival.
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Photos: G. Kramm
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