...in the Arctic Ocean, June 2007, Tuk, Canada.
Following, in random -- mostly reverse -- order, 5 weeks of images and entries from our ethereal trip through the tundra and boreal and taiga forests of Alaska, the Yukon and the North West Territories... Grizzly, wolves, caribou, wildflowers and scenery and stones and much more from the moon and mars. Earth calling all of us.
All ends come to something good. After our 5 week Uturn, the Exit. We returned from "North" a week ago, and we have finally found time and a decent internet connection (Cheers to Ben at the flyingdisc cafe in Ebosburg!) with which to post the following shots of the last two weeks of our arctic roundabout, from Dawson City, Yukon (July 6th) to Anchorage, AK (July 22), via The Alaska Range (above). By 'exit', I suppose we're implying we haven't really stopped the journey, just changed roads. Anyhoo, our last two weeks 'up there', at the top of the Map, were totally loco, replete with a billion new sensations and sights and in-sights and not much sleep and we stayed as close to the Arctic circle as we could, on the Alaskan side, but time and money and especially a growing lack thereof slowly pushed us 'South' again, closer to the epicenter, to the vacuum of industrial life. At least we exited with a splash, salmon and killer whales included, a splash in the Pacific to be precise, off the Kenai Peninsula, after a week in or around Denali National Park. Forgive us, for the pictures below represent more of a cook's tour of our voyage than the usual shoot and rant postings of the initial legs of our exploration. We're tired, exhausted, basically so stuffed with beauty and info and meeting new people we ended up saturating, like a water-logged sponge. It's called sensory and intellectual overload. We need more time to process, to get smart again. The aging hard-drive is full and hungover - Back-up needed! According to Johnny, our Gwich'in friend from Eagle Plains, maybe we'll get back to you in about 40 years, when we finally have some wisdom to share. By then it will be Manny's turn. Until then: Peekaboo!
...get their drivers license at the age of 41 and then spend the first month driving 4000 miles. If you can find a map, this is what we drove : Anchorage to Glenallen to Tok to Chicken to Dawson to Eagle Plains to Inuvik (To Tuktoyaktuk by plane), then back to Dawson, Chicken and Tok, then north to Delta Junction, south to Paxson, west to Denali, then south to Seward on the Kenai peninsula and finally back to Anchorage. Problem is, now we've got road fever and it wouldn't take much convincing to do it again. We won't because Manny needs gravity and to learn how to walk (we don't want to turn him into an RV potato - or like his dad, a (global) village idiot.)
...don't mean you're drunk. Here they translate as resurrection. Read "successional", as in ecology, regeneration, life on earth - Fireweed! Or this, from Henry Miller: The weed is the Nemesis of human endeavour .... Of all the imaginary existences we attribute to plant, beast and star the weed leads the most satisfactory life of all. True, the weed produces no lilies, no battle ships, no Sermons on the Mount .... Eventually the weed gets the upper hand. ()It grows between, among other things. The lily is beautiful, the cabbage is provender, the poppy is maddening ___ but the weed is rank growth ...: it points a moral."
It's an early successional plant, grows in the wake of disaster. If it were edible we'd be growing it all over the planet, as easily. Imagine the midwest this color, the heart of America would be pink. Ha!
Most glacial rivers are braided, they never occupy the full bed, only small rivulets within, that are always changing course and reshaping the entire bed over time.
Ships, carriages, planes, rockets : the initial impetus is always to carry a canon. We are not alone; wolves, chimps, lions, hyenas will carry out deliberate, strategized AND lethal attacks on their own (one definition of warfare). To gain resources and reproductive rights. Etc.
Happiness on both sides of the fence. The yaks wagged their little yak tails, Manny drooled and said something like a-dat-gable-brrrrrrrr and then yanked on a yak's nostril and then clapped his hands.
The pipeline that changed Alaska. From the Lonely Planet guide:
"Alaska pays citizens between US$800.00-US$1900.00 a year just to live there. The subsidy comes from royalties the state earns from Prudhoe Bay oil, which is starting to dry up. At one point, the state wanted to cap the payouts from the Permanent Fund to help pay for everything from roads to schools. But in a special election, 80% of Alaskans said 'no way'."
...turns out most Alaskaians use the Athabascan. We stayed in 'Denali' for 4 consecutive days. July 12, 13, 14 and 15. Two ways to see the park. Get on a tour bus for a 9 hour ride thru the north east section and suck it up because you're just another tourist (one of 415 k/yr to be accurate). Or get out and walk. We chose the bus - a campground was recently closed due to a pack of wolves surrounding a tent with a crying baby inside. Plus grizzly bears can smell babies, even silent ones. So we played it safe, Manny safe. To give you an idea of bear densities at Denali: we saw 25 in 4 days, on the same 45 mile stretch of road. I did get out of the bus for two short hikes, leaving family behind (the buses will drop you anywhere and pick you up on the return), one short hike up a mountain at Polychrome pass and one down a stream bed at Little Stony Creek. Once out of view of the road and the sound of heavy bus traffic (5000 bus rides/season) I finally realized where I was and both times I felt dizzy and cold. Earth dizzy and earth cold, like i was standing on the edge of the cosmos.
Males here only reach the 400 mark on average. Coastal Grizzlies - or Alaskan Brown Bear - get much bigger, in the 1000 lb range, because of salmon. But these tundra bears, apart from the odd slab of scavenged meat, rely on roots, grass and soap-berries.
..or plate tectonics and ocean-bottom granite? You decide. The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.
Denali is mostly alpine tundra. Some boreal forest at the entrance, and some timberline taiga woods (a Denali tour guide joke, along with "if you see a bear, undress and then you'll be bare too"). I'm telling you, it's the great American drive-thru, infotainment wilderness.
But in ALaska there is none. The cruise industry is everywhere. Naively we thought that by staying north we could avoid the hustle of Skagway and Haines. But "they" caught up with us. Most boat tours include a trip up the Alaska railway and a day trip through Denali - where indeed we saw thousands of cruising retirees. Baby Boomers from the south, mostly (Kentucky, Tennessee, Carolinas). The cruise companies are currently pushing Congress to up the quota of 5000 buses a year, and to bring even more people to the park. We are all people, right?
Baby boomers ! That would include me, on the tail end... The woman on my right, Marth, was from Kentucky and asked me what church i went to. The woman on my left kept singing David Bowie tunes, which made me feel a whole lot younger, of course, between rants on how predators like wolves and eagles should really stop eating chipmunks and turn vegetarian, just like her.