Growing Up Alaska: Walking To School, Uphill Both Ways

Growing up in the small rural community of Central, Alaska, our school didn’t always have enough students to remain open. And when it did, the students were spread out over a large area.

My family was eight miles at the end of one of three roads, and with one bus, it made our commute rather long. There were a couple of families that lived near us and we all used the same bus stop. So each morning, Clint and I would walk about 3/4 of a mile up the hill and meet with the other kids while we waited for the bus.

It was springtime and we were in between a constant thaw/freeze cycle as temperatures during the day would get just above freezing and drop below at night. This particular morning it was already barely above freezing and the road was covered in slushy ice.

We trudged up the hill, Clint constantly encouraging me to keep up. It was cold enough we needed a coat, but warm enough that we didn’t zip it up. In fact, it was warm enough that most kids had their coat tied around their waist.

Like every other day, we rode to school. Only, today at recess, the temperature kept rising and we were near 50 degrees so no one wore a coat.

After school, we climbed onto the bus and prepared for the long commute home.

I noticed that many of the creeks, which were still frozen, had lots of water flowing over the tops of them and many low places in the road had standing water. All the meltwater had no place to go.

We dropped off everyone else and were nearly home when the bus driver stopped and told us we would have to walk the rest of the way. On this side of the hill, the creek had washed out the road and cars could not get across. Someone had set up a temporary footbridge so that people could cross.

We all climbed out and the bus driver walked us down to where the road had been washed out. The footbridge turned out to be a series of 2x6s and 2x8s that has been laid out across the downstream end of the culverts that had pretty much washed out.

One at a time we crossed the fifteen foot segment of washed out road. It was both thrilling and terrifying, but we all made it across safely and continued the walk home.

The bus driver lived up the road this way too, so she left the bus parked along the road so that we could get picked up there in the morning. Since we had parked on the other side of the hill, she started laughing as we walked along, nearly all of us complaining about having to walk so far.

“Well, at least you can tell your children that in your day, you had to walk uphill both ways to school,” our bus driver continued to laugh.

Our driver walked us all to the bus stop before heading back down to her house with the promise that she would contact our families about the pick up time for the next day.

As it turned out, we didn’t have school the next day because flood waters had washed out multiple bridges and repairs would take a few days to make the road safe.

But, for that one day, we can say that we walked uphill both ways, if not to school, to our bus stop; which I think counts.

Author: matthewlasley

I am a school teacher and an author. I like to write picture books, middle grade, science fiction and short stories. I live in Alaska and I love history, so those two things often influence my creative writing.

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