Within the past few days, travel has become difficult in and out of the village. We are in the limbo time where the river is no longer passable by boat, but the ice is not yet ready for snow machine (snow mobile to those of you in the lower 48) travel. All traffic in and out must happen via bush planes from Bethel. This time is generally referred to as the “Freeze Up” by people in the village.
To illustrate how quickly this happened let me share a few anecdotes:
On Tuesday I was subbing for a teacher who had to go to Bethel. She was planning on boating over. The morning was too cold for the boat motors to start so she waited until the sun had been out for a few hours, but then could not find anyone who was headed into town that day.
The next morning (Wednesday) I awoke to see ice on the banks of the river! It started creeping out during the day, but there was still a visible flow of water in the center.
Two days later it is Friday, and all the boats are out of the water. Several people who were traveling to Anchorage for the weekend have had to book charter flights out last minute because they were planning on traveling by boat to the airport in Bethel (the cheaper, although longer and colder, alternative).
There have been multiple safety talks at the school this week- especially with the younger kids- to stay away from the river and the ice for now. Later on in the winter the river becomes the ice road that connects all the villages and towns up and down it, but right now it poses a big threat, because it looks safe, but the ice is still very thin. There is a high risk for drowning accidents at this time of year, and we hope to do everything we can to prevent that. The river will not open for traffic for a few weeks yet.
Perhaps this weekend I will venture out to the sandbar to get some close up pictures of the frozen river. The wind here makes the temperatures so much more bitter cold.