July Alaska-style: One month to do everything you want to do before winter

No lazy days of summer here

Posted: Sunday, June 30, 2002

Break out your dipnets, sharpen your hooks, mend your nets, unfurl your flags, stock up on sunblock and fold out your fold-out couches.

Better get ready, July is coming.

Each year, June slowly wakes us up to the fact that summer has escaped its icy tomb. The days get long, the fish start to trickle into our streams and the motor homes magically begin their annual migration from their winter feeding grounds.

June gets the summer rolling. In June, people seem to get the idea that the Alaska summer is truly endless. As the days just keep getting longer and longer, Alaskans begin to feel a tad bit invincible. It's as if we really believe the days will continue lengthening until they're each 50 hours long and summer lasts for a hundred years.

Wouldn't that be cool? Imagine, a fantasy wonder-Alaska where the salmon all weigh 200 pounds, the mountains are 10 miles high and the mosquitoes are as large as ravens. OK, maybe not.

My point is that in June, we feel we're getting back to where we belong. We relax a bit. There's no rush, no hurry -- we know we still have July ahead of us. We're content in the fact that summer has returned, and we're loving it.

Then comes July.

Once July hits, the panic sets in. People have to get their fish for the winter. Family arrives, seemingly always with one more cousin or nephew than the previous year. We have parades, fishing derbies, golf tournaments, baseball games, dipnets, setnets, bonfires, wildfires, fire engines, apple pie and fish guts. Fish guts everywhere.

July is sunshine and chaos.

And just to keep us on our toes, the days begin to shrink. Slowly at first, so as not to get anyone alarmed. But then we start to realize that each day we're losing two, then three minutes of our precious midnight sun. The shrinking daylight serves as a clock, ticking away in the backs of our minds.

As the days continue to melt, you can feel the pressure building. You can hear the clock tick louder and louder.

And so July becomes a short, wild season unto itself. Distilled summer. As far as I'm concerned, June is the last month of the spring and August starts the fall.

What I'm saying is we've got to be ready. Tomorrow, the sun will rise to reveal a magical landscape populated by some of the most beautiful and unique wildlife and plant life on the planet. Fantasy wonder-Alaska will really be here, but only for a one-month tour.

It will be a fun ride. Thirty-one days to play before we have to start hunkering down and bracing for the onslaught of winter.

I'm gonna try my best to make the most of it. That's really all you can do with July. There's no possible way to do everything you want to do. Each day will bring opportunities for amusement with the ever-present possibility that anything can happen. What you have to try and do is ignore that ticking sundial and pretend there's no night or day at all. Because if you're a true Alaskan, you know July is not a month for sleep.

So good luck to you, and here's hoping you have a successful July. I can't wish you a relaxing July, or even a fun July, because it doesn't always work that way. July isn't about having the most fun, it's about getting into adventures. I know I plan on getting into a few.

But you better hurry, because you've only got 31 days left.

Make the most of 'em. Sleep is for February.

Matt Tunseth is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.

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