Maybe it’s the sunshine or maybe it’s the revival of activities that were shuttered during COVID, but the peninsula is feeling brighter and more bustling than ever. I’ve had a lot of people tell me since I moved here in 2020 that the peninsula isn’t usually so quiet, or that there’s usually more going on.
For what feels like the first time, I’m starting to see that. Summer is just beginning and the central peninsula has already been treated to music in the park and the Kenai River Festival, on top of solstice celebrations and everything else happening around the peninsula. It feels like there are more opportunities than ever to come together as a community and celebrate what makes this corner of the world so great.
I was able to connect with a group of hikers last month through Meetup, for example, to knock one of my most anticipated trails off my list — Ptarmigan Lake. There are a few reasons that the hike can be difficult to swing. Between overgrowth in the summer and avalanche risk in the winter, timing can be crucial to the experience.
The day we hiked to the lake was sunny and breezy. After a few minutes of trying to figure out who was and wasn’t with the group in the parking lot, we set out. I’ve found it sometimes difficult to meet new people as the severity of the pandemic ebbs and flows in Alaska and was grateful for the opportunity to expand my social circle.
One lady voiced a similar sentiment while we trekked, saying that she hadn’t participated in many group hikes over the last two years because of the pandemic. Another attendee asked to take frequent breaks, which she attributed to being chronically out of breath since contracting COVID three times.
It was a reminder that as much as the pandemic forced people apart, we’ve all emerged with a shared experience through which we can find common ground. If nothing else, the pandemic has made me appreciate more than ever the types of community gatherings I used to take for granted.
It really has been magical to watch the peninsula come back to life in more ways than one. As more events and groups make celebratory “We’re back!” social media posts, the spring thaw has made the region awash in wildflowers, baby animals and yellow hues.
While winter holds a fond place in my heart because of its own unique magic, I’m excited to see what the rest of the summer brings!
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.