Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I’m feeling pretty anxious about winter. It’s never my favorite season to begin with, but now on top of the dark and cold, we have climbing COVID-19 case numbers. All the advice from public health officials is telling us to limit activities to things that are essential and keep our social circles small. We’ve been doing that, but I’m trying to imagine how this plays out amid Alaska’s super-dark, cold, long winter and I’m filled with dread.
We’re very active people, but we haven’t yet returned to the gym. Right now, my partner and I are in something of a good routine that includes jogs or daily walks in our neighborhoods or on trails. But walking in this town in winter is a joke. Sidewalks are never plowed, the lighting is terrible. We’ve met up with friends but only outside some distance apart, and who wants to have a beer or picnic in the darkness and snow? We both work at home and I’m just really worried about cabin fever when it’s January and we haven’t been anywhere for weeks on end.
Neither of us are even thinking of traveling, so our usual midwinter Hawaii trip is out of the question, for now anyway. Do you have any advice for how we can get through this? I know it’s bothering my partner too; he’s brought it up, as have I, and we’ve both been a little irritable this past couple weeks, which I think is just stress as the situation evolves. Help?
This is top of mind for many Alaskans as we’ve moved further away from those bright summer days of midnight sun and more toward the dark nights of burning midnight oil. No question, dealing with the pandemic and all its uncertainties and inconveniences will be tough as we roll into winter, but I firmly believe we’ve got this.
First step, make a plan with your partner to get you through the winter. Define the activities that can continue or start up that will help bring movement, peace of mind and balance into your lives.
Maybe you agree that once a week you’ll go on a drive, or you’ll take up a new hobby like skating or snow-shoeing, or you’ll actively research and seek out places with plowed paths and good lighting for weekly walks. This will also help you figure out what you need to get through the winter in terms of gear and logistics — like taking an old pair of shoes down to Skinny Raven, where they’ll drill screws into the bottom to convert them into ice-friendly walking shoes! Or, has there ever been a more justifiable time to splurge on a pair of cross-country skis? You get the idea.
Whatever you land on, this is definitely a situation where a plan will benefit you both. Rather than passively feeling each other out and making presumptive and reactive moves to stay sane, you get on the same page at the onset and agree on what you’re going to do — and not do — to get through this.
Sidewalks? Yeah, ew. Not in the winter in this town. They are rarely plowed, often icy and there’s no chance for social distancing. Fortunately, we also live in a place that has a world-class trail system webbing its way across our municipality, from its most urban neighborhoods to its most wild places. Miles and miles and miles of these trails are paved, lighted, wide, mapped, marked, packed down and perfect for walking, running, skiing and biking.
So, expand your walking and jogging beyond your neighborhood streets and sidewalks. I bet you there’s a trailhead or trail connector with parking nearby, if not within walking distance. Look for maps online. I also bet there are also some local trails around your neighborhood’s parks and ponds. We’ve all got them.
Now that you’ve found places to play this winter, you’ve got to stay warm. Take some of that vacation money you’ve saved and outfit yourselves to a few sets of hats and gloves (light and heavy), vests and breathable jackets, shoes and slipover cleats, lots of socks, and layers, layers, layers of tops and bottoms. Grab headlamps, too, for when you feel adventurous and want to break trail or investigate some side tracks.
Winter can be a beast under any circumstances here. Getting outside for some fresh air, a little exercise and a break from the home routine will make you feel so good and help you defeat winter’s worst.
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