The view from my front yard. Alaska state mandates a two week quarantine for out of state-ers, of which I have four days remaining. Can’t complain, with views like these.
It was August of 2010. I saw the lights of Anchorage from the seat of my plane as we prepared for landing at Ted Stevens International Airport. My family had lived in Anchorage for a few years when I was very young but at age 32, this was my first time back in Alaska, as an adult. This trip had begun in my imagination, about a year before, as I walked around the Indianapolis Zoo. I was fascinated by a placard about grizzly bears, located nearby to a rather sad looking, caged Griz. The placard told of how a woman was attacked by a grizzly bear, in the city of Anchorage no less, while out for a jog in the park. For some reason that resonated with me. It wasn’t a sadistic thing, I don’t take pleasure in the suffering of joggers. I was just completely enchanted by the idea of a state like Alaska, where bears and moose made their presence felt, even in the biggest of cities. It was strange, that moment, but …
For me, 2019 brought a big shift. In the fall of 2018 I knew that I needed to make a change. I had resigned my management position at McCarthy Lodge, at the end of the summer season, but it wasn’t quite clear what I should do next. Should I look for another seasonal summer Alaskan gig? Or should I look to do something else entirely? Was I going to continue to live my nomadic lifestyle, spending summers in Alaska and winters in California? To complicate matters, my health had suddenly taken a bad turn, back in the fall of 2018, and problems in my gut had led to me losing a great deal of weight (which was alarming because I’m already a skinny dude). I was feeling extremely low energy, to the point where a simple, short walk just about did me in for the day. At that point, all options were on the table.
My writing has been going pretty well so I had to drag myself away for a nice hike. I was helped in this by Paul, a photographer friend of mine, who is working on a photo book of abandoned places like the mines in this area.
Long day of hiking yesterday, then back home to the cabin, late, where I took a sponge bath. Not a stitch on my bare back and wouldn’t you know it? One of the locals came around for a visit, right up to the porch. I ducked down and peaked at her though the window, a mama bear with a cub, the cub playing in one of the (many) trees in my yard. I snapped a quick pic while she ambled away. Then I quickly put some pants on.
Like many Alaskans, this guy really needed a hair cut.
I’m mostly on foot, out here, in terms of navigating myself to and from places like the mail shack or the Saloon or wherever the bonfire may be. Hence I’m always on the lookout for a ride. On Saturday I got a lift in the bed of my buddy’s pickup truck. He had taken out the passenger seat and besides that the dog looked comfortable, so I jumped in back
I wrote up a humorist piece (attempting to channel a bit of Melville) as a therapeutic way to bring myself some resolution after my rather harrowing three-thousand mile road trip when the malevolent tire that wrenched itself free from its axle and attacked my Fiat 500. I wrote this piece to be read/heard, and I read it at the Thursday Open Mic Night at the Golden Saloon here in McCarthy. It was well-received by some, but the venue wasn’t very suitable to read a long piece like this — but I had a good time. I thought that I would repost it here. It’s been written to be read/heard, but I think that it should fair fairly well on the page/screen. The greatest inconvenience will probably be that I italicized words or phrases that I wanted to emphasize, in the reading.
I was enjoying a nice drive, heading west on Highway 16 in central British Columbia, when a tire flew at me, loosed from a vehicle that was heading the opposite direction. My car is fucked but thankfully there were no injuries. If anyone has any advice on handling auto insurance claims while traveling abroad, I’d love to hear it.
I’m slowly working my way north in my subcompact Fiat 500, which I converted into a little camper car, of sorts. I stripped it down to the bare bones, took out all the seats with the exception of the drivers seat (which I admit to giving consideration, however short-lived, to the idea of taking it out as well), and I stuffed it full of stuff with just enough room for a sleeping area where I can stretch out long-ways on the side of the car that formerly housed the passenger-side seat.
I’m trying to make the most of my remaining time here in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I start out tomorrow and in the meantime, I’m packing and getting the car ready for the trip up north to Alaska, but I try to squeeze in some walking and hiking time. I was hiking a few weeks back with an activist friend, Nick, a union organizer. I was introducing him to Fall Creek State Park, which is walking distance from my house. Fall Creek is also my go-to trail because apart from being so close and accessible it’s also not very heavily trafficked. It’s got all the splendor you’d expect from a Redwood forest — towering, serene trees, a barrage of gorgeous greenery, and a stillness that serves to refresh the civilization weary soul.
When we arrive in McCarthy at the beginning of the summer, we all ask each other about our winter. At the end of the summer, the topic of conversation is what we are doing for the winter. I always seem to talk to one or two people who are considering working on the North Slope, at the top of the world. A friend of mine working the Slopes recently sent me these two pics: