Sunday, August 01, 2010

Alaska

Kenai Peninsula, 11 pm

That was some trip. Still sorting out my thoughts. I might do a few blog posts not so much about what I saw and did, but just on various topics -- whales, glaciers, salmon fishing, the Russians, etc. I learned so much. It was both intellectually and spiritually stimulating, if that doesn't sound too ludicrous.

For now, though, a few observations:
  • I love the midnight sun. I've always loved staying up late, and with 18 or so hours of daylight, and the rest of it basically twilight, the people there extend the day well into the night, heading out for more salmon fishing after dinner, lingering by the campfire, and just exhibiting a ... I don't know ... a childlike sense of excitement. Though I may be projecting.
  • It's like the Chicago summer on 11. I thought people here went crazy and made the most of our short summer, but Alaska in July is like Mardi Gras. I guess a much less lewd Mardi Gras.
  • I do love fishing. It's been a long time. The last time was a decade ago with my father. And the times before were a couple of decades earlier, also with my father. He would have enjoyed this trip.
  • I love the frontier spirit. It reminds me of the eastern Upper Peninsula, but again on 11. Interestingly, the UP got its bridge from Michigan around the time Alaska became a state. There's just a very improvisational sort of spirit to things there. But also a very serious kind of attitude -- because it's all so much closer to the bone there. Danger versus safety, life versus death. The stakes are very high. People have friends who have died in bear attacks or moose collisions.
  • The people aren't jaded. They see moose ALL the time. Along the road, by the bike path, in the backyard. But so many natives pull over and watch and even take pictures like it's the very first moose they ever saw.
  • I thought I knew everything about glaciers from my trip to the Canadian Rockies. Hell, I wrote a poem and even a sketch about them. But those glaciers are not like these glaciers. I've got a video of the glacier cracking that sounds like a thunderstorm.
  • I continue to lament that people need more damned reverence. Waiting for a glacier to calve is like "watching paint dry?" This is not a time for one-liners. To paraphrase myself, you're standing there watching ice that fell as snow centuries ago. Show some respect. For whatever you might believe in -- God, or mother nature or just awesome forces that are bigger and more powerful than yourself.
  • Orcas. I really wanted to see orcas. And I did. The boats hadn't seen any for a while, but a pod showed up the day we were there and one of them swam right under our boat.
  • They have a law where if you have five cars following behind you, you must pull over and let them pass. Go, Alaska.
  • The majority of the native Alaskan people are Russian Orthodox. It's a fascinating story. More later.
  • I became acutely aware of how dependent I am on the Internet, especially during the 36 hours my iPhone spent in a bed of rice drying out from a clumsy dunking in the river. On the bright side, I watched almost no TV at all for 8 days.
  • I had almost no allergy issues at all in Alaska. And right now I'm already starting to itch.
More to come ...

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