Over the Betster’s decades in Alaska, yours truly has learned a few tricks about living in the Last Frontier. First, don’t get all cocky even if you have lived here 35 years or longer — not even if you were born here. Even the most seasoned Alaskans know that Alaska can humble you quicker than you can say “moose crossing the road on black ice.” Hmm. That could be the title of a Japanese brush painting.
Second, if you’re reading this from Outside and planning to move to Alaska in the near future, come now. The best time to move here is in the winter. You get the cold and darkness over with first and appreciate the spring that much more. Move up in the summer, and the glow wears off by, oh, about now.
Third, don’t be afraid of trying new adventures, but wear your PFD and pack a sleeping bag. The first winter the Betster came into the country, yours truly decided to cut a Christmas tree in the Chugach National Forest. That worked out well until the Betster’s tree cutting companion, Mark, took a side detour to Portage Glacier and Mark’s bomber Toyota Land Cruiser slid off the road. You know how many cars travel that road in the winter? Well, in 1979, not many. We spent the night. See bags, sleeping, above.
Finally, like most things in the world, know that while you might have learned a few things about Alaska, there’s always someone who knows more than you do, and learned it before they invented polypropylene underwear. Hang out at the Homer Senior Center and chat up a 70-something or older elder. Those women and men are tough, smart and funny. They might tell you a few things or two, like how to have a good time in winter, maybe with some of these Best Bets:
BEST LONG WALK BET: The Barefooters who homesteaded at the head of Kachemak Bay were one skookum bunch. Learn about them and the land that eventually became part of the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust at KHLT’s annual meeting at 6 p.m. today at the Pratt Museum.
BEST LITTLE ART BET: If you want proof that you can pack a lot of creativity in small packages, check out AlaskaWax’s show of encaustic paintings, some just 8-inches square, opening at Ptarmigan Arts from 5-7 p.m. Friday. The 10×10 show of works 10-inches square continues at Bunnell Street Arts Center, with another reception on Friday. Also opening 5-7 p.m. Friday is Dan Coe’s “Art Through the Back Door” at Fireweed Gallery. The Art Shop Gallery also has a First Friday reception from 5-7 p.m.
BEST LOTS OF ART BET: The annual Nutcracker Faire is the chance for Kenai Peninsula artists and craftspeople to show off their work — and maybe sell some nice Christmas gifts. More than 100 vendors are at the fair from 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday at Homer High School.
BEST SOMETHING FISHY BET: You never know what surprises the awesome creative geniuses have cooked up for the Nutcracker Ballet. This year’s theme has something to do with the sea. Find out what they’ve done when the 26th annual ballet opens at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Mariner Theatre. The ballet continues at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12 and 3 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Mariner Theatre. Tickets are $10 for all seats at the Homer Bookstore and River City Books in Soldotna.
BEST RIPPING AND GNARLY BET: Catch the wave with curling from 9:30 a.m.-noon Sunday at the Kevin Bell Arena. The drop-in fee is $5. All are welcome to try out the sport that’s kind of like bowling on ice, but with big rocks.