It’s almost July, and I still hear the heat kick on some nights. I still wear a light sweater or windbreaker jacket every morning. But real summer heat is on the horizon. The summer season here is July and August. If we’re really lucky it might stretch into September.
This is the brief season when I wear summer sandals, strappy little heels, tank tops, sleeveless dresses, when my hairstyle becomes a ponytail and my house heats up with the afternoon sun. This is the time of year when I remember that my car has air conditioning, and I wish my house did. This is when I make up reasons to go to Wal-Mart to enjoy the cool indoor climate. This is the full-price season for cruises in Alaska, because you’re more likely to have a postcard day for your stay in port than a rainy day.
I think about summer traditions in other places I’ve lived: Rockies baseball games, summer gardening season when the earth produces home grown tomatoes that are warm from the sun when you pick them; farmers’ markets; rambling drives “in the country” just because; kids playing in the sprinkler, and trips to summer camp. I think about road trips and vacations to the beach.
Hhmmm. Alaska is more about coastline than beach, although there are a few beachy areas here in Ketchikan, and you can get in the water…probably not for too long. But summer fishing is always popular, and there are great hikes around Ketchikan. You can camp in backcountry Forest Service cabins, and if you’re lucky you might see black bear. Summer is the season when it rains less, and people whose homes are on a rain collection system for water may have to have their tanks filled by truck. Seems hard to believe, but you can actually run out of water here, in the rain forest.
Summer is the season the ferries are full, and if you plan to take a vehicle on a ferry, and haven’t reserved space for your car, it’s probably already too late. Walk-on passengers usually don’t have space issues, but vehicles are another matter in summertime.
Summer is about the commercial fishing industry, and the addition of crews who come up to man the boats and to work in the processing plants. (Workers who clean the fish and remove the un-edible parts work on the “slime line” and all wear the iconic footwear of Southeast Alaska, Extra-Tuff boots.)
Summer is about tourists. And in Ketchikan that means the jewelry stores open downtown…don’t ask my why cruises and jewelry stores are such a popular combination. It means the return of summer workers to support the tourism industry, the influx of summer construction crews, road crews, shipyard crews. Even the Forest Service brings in summer workers. That’s when they are busy out in the field monitoring wildlife and forest and water conditions. Alaska Airlines adds flights to the daily schedule. Even the hospital sees an uptick in volume (never thought about it, but quite regularly, cruise passengers who come through are admitted for all sorts of illnesses that occur after boarding, and Ketchikan is the first port on the way up the Inside Passage).
Summer is the season you’re more likely to have visitors. It’s the time for town activities like the Fourth of July parade, the Blueberry Festival, the Salmon and Halibut Fishing Derbies. Summer brings the looong days and short nights. On Wednesday evenings sailboats dot the waters I see from my windows.
There’s a quote I like from Henry James:
Summer afternoon – Summer afternoon… the two most beautiful words in the English language.
We’re not quite there yet, but soon…soon, the magic of the summer will be here again.