Paradise Found

At a staff meeting last week I heard one of the veterans-in-charge discsussing how our 3-weeks on and 1-week off work schedule was created in spite of beating a polar employee's pursuit of survival. A work schedule lasting more than 3-weeks on, 10 hours+ per day, has shown a decrease in productivity levels from various departments. Agreed, felt, been there done that. But, the pursuit of survival, aka an explorer's survival mode, cannot be rerouted so to speak. For me, my first instinct when entering a polar environment where I will be stationed for months is to first seek out a survival mode. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs begins with physical necessities and that's the first step most forget. I've come across many workers in Antarctica that forget about sleep and how important it is for the mind and body, eventually they burn out. Six hours of sleep may be suffice in the mainland, but up here or way down there, I feel like I need eight hours because the working and living conditions are more extreme. To survive my job and maintain my level of performance (sustainability), and be quick to adapt and maintain good health I always have to secure access to a healthy diet, a comfortable living quarters/tent where I can experience pitch black as to mimic night, some means of recreation and exercise and a social network that educates the mind and allows for laughter, which is very important for the soul.

Pace myself, I'm in for the long haul... the day the 2011 Arctic summer ends is the day the 2011-2012 Antarctic summer begins and that's about two months away. Two polar ends, one planet, one sun.

I have back-to-back-to-back polar gigs lined up for the future. I want to be in the Arctic when the Polar Nations scramble for natural resource claims and I want to be in Antarctica when explorers access the mountains, valleys, lakes and microorganisms that are buried beneath miles of Ice. I really want to be at the Poles in the winter when the sun radiates at it's maximum and our skies light up green, dispelling the myth that we live on a blue planet. I'd enjoy to explore all outside of my 12-hour work days, but then again, I want to leave some nuggets on the back burner and reserve a spot in my mind for the unknown.

Chocolate covered strawberries

6 sheet trays of croissants.

Leftover croissant dough was stuffed with peanuts and chocolate.

Fresh rhubarb and strawberry pie. The strawberries were mixed into the cake batter.

Red velvet cake.

One of the last things I did while in the Toolik bakery was fail at making maple fudge (too much butter for the recipe I used) and then fail at making a chocolate covered, nut laced maple fudge bar (fudge still too runny w/o a binder - ran outside the chocolate coating). Two or three wrongs make a right? At a last resort, not giving up, I chopped up all the gooey bars, tossed in some whipped eggs and flour, and threw it ontop a fresh Oreo crust to make a Snikers-Oreo Pie. Yeah, beat that Paula Deen.

Had 24 croissants leftover from my 150-piece batch, so a few mornings later I made bacon, egg and cheese croissant sandwiches.

Once B da Baker got back from break I hopped back on the otherside to do some dinner work. Eggplant Parmigiana.

With caprese salad.

Time for a week break. Adios kitchen. Hello Dalton Highway, my physical (not digital) portal to the rest of civilization. Let me begin by explaining a bit about the Datlon Highway. James W. Dalton is the dude that the highway is named after. He is known for surveying and mapping out the northern territory for the US government during the Cold War for the Distant Early Warning Line, which was a radar network set up to detect incoming missiles and aircraft from Russia in the 1960's. With his work, and the work of other surveyors, a path to the Arctic Ocean from the interior US was created. In 1974, the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline was born and a gravel road (North Slope Haul Road aka Dalton Highway) originating from the drilling camps of Prudoe Bay to Fairbanks was established. First war effort, then resource effort, now the highway is used for those efforts, as well as tourism and science. I more or less am taking on the role of exploration (geographical, personal, etc.) and art in relation to Dalton Highway. Below is a detailed map showing the 414-mile long, $8 Billion dollar highway that's somewhat paved and perhaps the most rugid highway in the United States. Moreso than Schnebly Hill Road Grandpa Bill :) The map below comes from Wikitravel: Dalton Highway.

Heading southbound on the Dalton in a 4-wheeler stakebed Toolik truck.

There were two major changes I noticed while heading southward. One, everything was much greener because it's mid-summer. Two, purple fields of fireweed were sprouting. Later they will turn bright red. I remember a fellow in Kodiak that was experimenting and making wines from the different seasonal states, colors of fireweed. Supposedly there was a difference in taste depending on when the flower was harvested.

Can't forget the moose.

Nor the bullet holes in the roadway signs that signal you're nearing the City of Fairbanks.

One other important thing I should mention is that there has not been as many wildfires this summer compared to the last few summers due to rain. The guy I was driving down with said the weather in Fairbanks has be unusually damp and tormentuous and no fires since early June. In July 2009, I remember driving into Fairbanks from Livengood in a massive haze that blocked out lines in the road. Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain.... ironically, it just started raining. Peace.