Nick Varney

Nick Varney

Unhinged Alaska: Not quite the Olympics … but

This unhinged winter and its obnoxious attitude has been an eye-opener

Well, well. Things are changing. Sometimes we can go almost two days without weather alerts trickling across the lower screen of the T.V. warning area populations to either don heavy winter garb or snap up snorkel gear.

Up north, avalanches are clogging up roads like poorly maintained gutters and so much rain has soaked into the deep snow layers shawled over landscape that cross-country skiers are sporting personal flotation devices when traversing low-level terrain.

Locally, when the first serious warm fronts started to roll through morphing driveways into mini-glaciers, the operative words for getting rigs out to the nearby access roads were “pushed,” “dragged” or “the hell with it.”

It was quite a change from continually having to dig out the vehicles after those nasty ice trolls, the Fiends of Frost, buried them under a mass of what chionophiles refer to as “winter’s butterflies” (get a grip chions) while leaving the landscape draped in a Switzerland motif and the populace with compelling urges to yodel.

This unhinged winter and its obnoxious attitude has been an eye-opener.

As we watched the recent Winter Olympics, I became rather awestruck when I realized that there were several featured sports that I had vicariously participated in by just living through the latest weather fronts.

Example: Trudging up the icy incline to East Hill Road is good exercise but, if one’s cleats malfunction during a positioning turn, the way back to our turnoff is a howling keister traverse down to its junction with only one chance to grab the corner alder and swing toward the cabin. The probability of my success is not enhanced by being the size of a Sasquatch and the rescue tree being just knee high to fledgling moose.

Fortunately, the only time I experienced such a debacle, I managed to snatch onto a branch, regain my footing, then ice dance along the remaining driveway via involuntary triple axels, quad toe loops and countless twizzles while scaring the bejesus out of a half dozen pheasants foraging for seeds under an old spruce. My landing was not graceful but I received a few points for not requiring a 911 call. Those were disallowed by the judge who imposed a major penalty for not waiting for the sanding truck that arrived 20 minutes later. Lesson: Never give a wife a score card if you are up to something that requires the IQ of ice melt.

At the moment, we are getting slammed by a muscular downpour accompanied by banshee winds yowling out of the east so fierce that the larger raindrops are leaving indentations in the logs.

Well, that was a bit dramatic. Let’s just say the foul circumstances are raucous enough to rile the dog queen because she knows that we’ll be using the chain leash when we take her into the meteorological maelstrom for a duty run.

The gear change-out not only keeps her from becoming airborne but signals that, once the door opens, she’d better hit the ground smokin’ and get the job done.

She used to deem such physical exertions unseemly until realizing that there’s nothing regal about trying to hold a dignified squat midst a 40-mph headwind while being blown backward in the midst of a crucial bladder purge.

Note: I had just finished the above paragraph when the lights went out. The wife had no clue of what happened because she had retired and had initiated her sound suppression routine of white noise and a blanket burial of her cranial area.

On the other hand, our four-footed lunatic had been apprehensively prowling around the cabin like there was something evil lurking just outside the front door waiting to turn her into evening snack when everything went black.

Needless to say, I didn’t see her coming before she hit my lap in full turbo but saw red after her paws impacted an area I once vigilantly safeguarded with an athletic cup during my days of impact sports.

I still haven’t wholly recovered from her panicked dive but my balance is back, I can speak in baritone again, and type without seeing double to make my deadline.

Yep, at the moment, things are looking up. The passing hell-storm turned our driveway back onto a gravel pad and left the thoroughfare to town looking more negotiable as long as one avoids the potholes with “Diver Down” flags and vehicle recovery barges.

Until next time …

Nick can be reached at

More in Life

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: This and that

Organizations are running out of people to keep them going

This Al Hershberger photo of his good friend Hedley Parsons was taken in Germany in 1945, after World War II had ended. Parsons and Hershberger came to Alaska together a few years later, and in 2010, when Parsons was interviewed for this story, he may have been the last person living who had actually attended George Dudley’s messy funeral
This parting was not sweet sorrow — Part 2

The funeral was scheduled for 2 p.m. on May 5, and spring break-up was in full, sloppy bloom at the Kenai Cemetery

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
A copy of “People, Paths, and Places: The Frontier History of Moose Pass, Alaska” stands in sunlight in Soldotna on Friday.
Off the Shelf: Community history project a colorful portrait of hometown

The book features the work of students at Moose Pass School and integrates further stories pulled from a community newspaper

The Anchorage Bowl Chamber Orchestra performs. (Photo courtesy Anchorage Bowl Chamber Orchestra)
Anchorage orchestra group to visit Kenai Peninsula for 10th annual tour

Anchorage Bowl Chamber Orchestra will play four shows from May 30 to June 2

Minister’s Message: Boasting only in Christ and the Cross

The Reverend Billy Graham advised every president since Truman during his lifetime

Corn cheese is served alongside grilled beef, kimchi and lettuce. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Planning barbecue with all the bells and whistles

Expect kimchi, lots of side dishes, piles of rice, marinated meat for the flame and cold fruit for dessert

Noa (voiced by Owen Teague) in 20th Century Studios’ “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.” (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios)
On the Screen: New ‘Planet of the Apes’ expands, brings new ideas to franchise universe

“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” tells a story that feels more rooted in fantasy than the post-apocalypse vibe of its predecessors

A mural depicting imagery and iconography of Kenai brightens the entryway of the Walmart in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Visible art raises people’s spirits’

Local artist’s mural introduced as part of Walmart renovations

Former North Kenai resident George Coe Dudley, seen here during the winter of 1950-51, was a hard-drinking man. His messy funeral in 1967 in Kenai echoed his lifestyle. (Photo courtesy of Al Hershberger)
This parting was not sweet sorrow — Part 1

“Dudley was an easy-going, laid-back sort of guy, always laughing and joking, as well as hard drinking.”

Most Read