Sunday, October 01, 2006

Vacation, Alaska

This may take some time, but I thought that I'd put together some pictures and journal excerpts from my Alaskan vacation. There is a lot to tell...stick around, you might learn a thing or two.


The woman's head in 28 C is like a big, yellow, perfectly matted mane. I have been fighting back the urge to stroke it for three hours now. I am on my third flight of the day. JFK to Atlanta to Seattle to Fairbanks and then, after fifteen hours, I am in Alaska, where I'll be for the next few weeks.

I am so sick of airport culture. I have immersed myself in magazines the tell me all about Paris Hilton's lost loves and exceedingly worthless life. It's unreal. I am so tired of other people. I can't wait for all of this to seem so far away. I can't wait for the battery on my ipod to die. I'll celebrate when my watch stops ticking. I have nothing at all to do here, and very few worries, and I'm making much less sense the longer I am suspended in midair. I will have no more airport pizza today, thanks.

I land in Fairbanks at 12:30am where my dad and I will check into a Super 8 motel, sleep for a few hours and then begin the trek further north.


I woke up this morning and crossed the street to have breakfast. What I consider my last 'civilized' breakfast, or at least the last involving waitress service and actual plates anyway. This is what I saw:

Apparently there are lots of these 'Northern most' things up here. It is pretty far North, but that doesn't necessitate a sign on every single thing that happens to exist, regardless of merit, only because of its latitude. I read the paper and had pancakes this morning and then we walked a mile or so to the rental place to pick up a camper, there will be no tent for me. The truck is great. It's a massive, fuel-guzzling behemoth with four-wheel drive and a roomy camper strapped to its roof. Stopped by a grocery store and loaded up on some food, then bought a new raincoat at a camping store as it's meant to rain for a good majority of my time here.

We started out on the Elliot highway heading North.

The skinny trees, Spruce and Birch I think, cover the hills with yellow and green patches for as far as I can see. I did a lot of reading about this part of highway, its prospecting and mining history as well as its native population. For all of the preparation we couldn't have been on the damn road for more than 20 mins. So it goes.

The landscape here is subtle. It is not altogether foreign to me somehow, and it doesn't amaze me like California beaches and Redwood forests, but just a few mile out of town and it's already starting to feel remote. Made it on to the Dalton highway, a mostly unpaved haul road that runs along the oil pipeline up to the Arctic Ocean, and rumbled along the gravel road for hours. It is filled with pot holes, rough washboards, dips and the occasional tractor trailer that kicks up dust and rocks so that you can't see more than 15 feet in front of you.

Must be why everyone here seems to drive a large truck and be pretty grizzled.

I blend.

There seems to be an element of genuine danger here. It is not totally impossible to run out of gas, drive off the narrow road or be eaten by one of the many animals that is larger and hungrier than I am out here. Just putting that out there. After what seemed like hours of unsteady driving I pulled off the road and sorted out a level place to park for the night. I started a fire, surrounded by a circle of large rocks, had a beer and cooked a few steaks that we got at the grocery store this afternoon. As the sun set I realized how unearthly quiet it is here. I could hear only the hum of a generator off in the distance and the occasional truck on the road. This is the first time that I have been remotely aware of the damage I have done to my ears from loud music and loud city life. My ears are ringing and the silence is too much. We went for a walk along the road tonight. You can hear a truck coming from miles away. I walked right up to the oil pipeline that runs the length of the state and carries the country's stability in it's metal tubes. I put my hand against it expecting to feel the rush of liquid, but got only a cold, metallic silence.

Looked up to see a vague shifting of light in the sky behind the clouds. The Northern Lights.

It's too cloudy tonight. This place is starting to feel wild.


I am completely in awe of nature. I just stood beside finger mountain and looked out across the Alaskan landscape.

The land above the Yukon River gets pretty barren. The trees, sparse if any, dot the landscape and the sky looks absolutely huge. The air is getting cooler, though the sun is still shining.

I am comfortable in a down vest and hat. I have spent the day wrapped up in my own thoughts. I feel like I never have occasion to think about one thing for very long as I'm constantly running around for some reason or another. I was walking and thinking of how much of our lives is spent in steady decline, if only physically. You get 24 or 25 good years and then 50 or 60 that are consistently worse. It's not negative, just bizarre, and fascinating. Today I climbed a mountain, ignoring my racing heartbeat and the burning in my legs, and looked out over the mountains.

Then I made a fire and when it got dark watched the Northern Lights stretch across the massive Alaskan sky. It was one of the most amazing things that I have ever seen. I saw them once in Umea, Sweden a few years ago, but it wasn't nearly as impressive. It is difficult to describe. Its like a hallucination, maybe. I ran around taking pictures, but I don't think any will really come out (a few of them did).

Man they sure didn't like me in Coldfoot today. One of only 2 places to get gas on this damn road and they are pretty uninviting. Granted we were the only truck at the gas station without a set of moose antlers on the roof, but come on. The combination of many long winters and a good deal of inbreeding make the locals, well, different. I also almost filled the truck up with diesel fuel. I'm going to skip the rest of that story. Continued...

The Story of The $95 Hat

Not much of a story really...

Right On

Jamie had this posted on his blog the other day. It's worth watching and passing around so I'll post it here as well. This is the most pertinent ten and a half minutes of television that you will see this year.