Walking Through Ice Alaska
It started as soon as I left the warm cozy embrace of the cab of my white pickup truck that was parked in the crowded parking lot. The first thing I noticed was the cold—the absolute bitterness of the cold that seemed to attach itself to you as if it had been there all along.
Once the cold felt normal, I realized I was walking toward the entrance. I was going straight toward a huge brightly colored, green brick-gated entrance. As I got closer, I realized the bricks were not just any ordinary bricks, but were almost crystal clear, and they would have been, if not for the bright florescent green lights shining through. These bricks that seemed to reach the skyline were made of pure, invisibly translucent, carved ice blocks. once I regained my thought process to enter the brightly colored gated entrance, I was amazed to see all the different colors of illuminating lights coming from the vast array of delicately sculptured ice statues.
As we continued to walk down the park’s pathway, I could see that the other people who were in attendance were also in amazement of how beautiful it was to be there. I decided I would step off to the side of the remarkably busy pathway just to take a moment. I wanted to observe. As I stood there, my fingers and toes grew colder and began to turn numb, I could tell by the pins and needles that I was starting to feel. As I stood there for just a minute, even with not being able to feel my fingers or my toes anymore, I was completely content watching as people walked past me.
There were so many people around, it was almost overwhelming at times. There were teenagers, elders, parents, and young children. There was one common thing about every person who was in attendance—everyone was dressed head to toe in warm winter gear. A few children were even lucky enough for their parents to pull them behind in a little red snow sled. It seemed as if everyone had been hypnotized by the ice sculptures.
As I continued to walk down the pathway, I came across so many different intricately carved ice sculptures. There were wolves, dolphins, eagles, and even one of King Kong. Each was so unique and different and had so many details that you could miss if you were not looking close enough. Everything was so picturesque, I noticed that the snow looked even more beautiful as the lights from the ice sculptures reflected off the tiny specks that had gathered together to form the snowbanks that lined the pathway. The snow glistened as if it were shattered pieces of a glass rainbow.
As more people walked past me, I could smell the scent of something warm and familiar. It was hot chocolate. It made my mouth water and my body shiver instantly as I knew it would be warm. I quickly followed a friendly looking couple that had what looked like full cups of hot chocolate, asking where I could get one myself. I made my way to the concessions building where I bought my hot chocolate and gladly took a break to warm up a bit. I started to exit the building feeling refreshed and ready to take on the bitter cold that again awaited me outside.
Once back outside and onto the pathway, we continued to walk. As we were walking, we could hear the giggles and laughter of kids in the distance. I was unsure what was taking place, I just knew whatever it was the kids were enjoying it. As we got closer, the laughter grew louder and became more audible. I could hear the kids shouting to their parents, who were standing to the side (and who were no doubt freezing), “Can we go up again? Please?!?”
By now I could see the slope of the slide. It was a bright green and yellow-colored, totally functionable, ice slide for kids! It was even equipped with a set of built-in stairs on the side. We stood and watched as the kids would run up the stairs to slide down just to run straight back up the stairs to do it all over again.
I decided now was a perfect time to try and take a picture of the kids enjoying themselves. My first picture did not turn out too well. As I stood and looked at what I thought was going to be possibly one of the best pictures I have ever taken, all I could see was a huge white steam puff. I realized it was my breath and it was coming out like puffs from an accelerating steam train. The temperature was so frigid and harsh outside that my breath made it impossible to capture these moments on film. The only solution I had was to hold my breath so that I could take a clear picture, as just one breath barely had time to dissipate before your next cold heavy breath was exhaled.
Brittany Lea Hebert is a student at Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College.