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.
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’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.
On the occasion of the expiration and intended renewal of my passport.
Coastal California joins the fun of chilly winter weather. This is the first time that I’ve seen this kind of frosty freeze on my car windshield in the morning. Of course it isn’t like the brutal Midwest cold that I grew up with — Dakota drifts of snow that cover houses and small buildings, not is it like the icy Indiana roads that would send my car careening into the yard of one of the good folk of Winona Lake, Indiana, if I took a turn just a wee bit too fast — but it’s something, notable enough for a photo op.
Activism is good for the soul. I want to change the world, like anyone else, but for me activism is also extremely therapeutic. It reminds me that there are other people who see injustices in the world and believe in their bones that things don’t have to be this way. That’s especially true of big activist events like the Women’s March. It’s kind of a beautiful thing, to be surrounded by smiling faces and to snap a hundred pictures of the explosion in creativity that surrounds us: all the catchy and colorful signs, the carefully crafted costumes, the music, the chanting, and the chalk art on the streets. Yet in the midst of this exhilarating experience of solidarity, opposition and hostility can sometimes come from unexpected places and from unexpected people.
My new accounting gig is in downtown Santa Cruz. In order to avoid paying for parking, I prefer finding street parking up the hill, in the Mission district, an area with a beautiful Catholic Church and an old mission building. It’s a nice little walk, from the Mission district, but not too far, and I get a pretty view of downtown Santa Cruz, when it isn’t pouring rain. We’ve had a lot of rain — it’s the rainy season — but this morning it was clear and I caught the last little bit of the morning sunrise.
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:
After a morning meadering through Arches, I drove an hour or so, to Canyonlands National Park. Whereas Zion had been overrun with buses and cameras and all their many peoples, and while Bryce and Arches were pleasant but still felt a bit crowded from time to time, Canyonlands was like hitting the paydirt of personal solitude. Of the four Parks I had inadvertently save the best for last. Canyonlands was my fave.