Tag Archives: Alaska

Back off Skylar!

Flying really has gotten to be a pain in the ass.

I should have drove.

The addiction that is Alaska

For Pete:

Caribou gauntlet on the Alaska Highway

I will be starting my 24th year in Alaska on the first day of May. I drove up in a copper-colored ’74 Ford Bronco, with my yellow lab in the back of the truck, along with my camping gear, a box of books and my typewriter. I didn’t really have a plan, just a desire to check out the Last Frontier. Much to my father’s dismay, I fell in love with the state immediately. It isn’t a stretch to say, that I realized that I had found my way home, on that original first day of May.

There are Two Truths about Alaska that I learned very quickly upon my arrival, and they are diametrically opposed. That does not make either one, any less true.
Truth One is the definition of a sourdough: Someone who has soured on Alaska, but doesn’t have enough dough to get out. Truth Two, is that Alaska ruins you from being able to live anywhere else. I fall into the latter category. I’m not just an Alaskan, but an Interior Alaskan to boot. I had a buddy from Anchorage who came up to visit one summer, and stayed at my cabin near Fairbanks for a whole week. He lamented to mutual friends after the visit, that “Mike has ‘gone Fairbanks’ on us. He has gone over to the ‘Dark Side’.” I took it as a compliment, even though he did not mean it as one. It was true, I had gone all in on my life at the end of the road.

Alaska isn’t for everyone; it does take a certain personality to thrive here. I’ve known people who could not leave the state fast enough after their first winter. But I’ve also met many retired military members who served in Alaska, eventually transferring out, but returning to build a life here after their service was done. There is something about Alaska that burrows into your bones, and soaks into your soul. For those of us who choose to live here, Alaska becomes a part of us, and we take a little bit of the state with us everywhere we go.

The Alaska Range as seen from the University of Alaska campus in autumn

“When you first arrive in Alaska, you notice that even the towns on the road system maintain a rugged uniqueness. Alaska is still a destination that beckons the adventurer, the individualist, and the free spirit… Home to 15 species of whales, and healthy populations of caribou, grizzlies, and moose, plus one of the last remaining strongholds of wild salmon, Alaska is still a place to behold.”
— Dave Atcheson, “Hidden Alaska: Bristol Bay and Beyond”

There is an ability here to immerse yourself in the natural world which is unique. Not because it can not be done elsewhere, but because there is still wilderness in Alaska. True wilderness. I do not know how long we will be able to hold onto that wilderness, but for now, we still have it, and it lies outside our back door.

On one or two occasions, I have been called a “free spirit”. I’m not 100% sure what that means, but I do follow my own trail some of the time. Heading into Year 24, I’m as thrilled to be here today, as I ever have. We all have our roller coaster rides, and I’ve lived through my fair share. I’m excited to be returning to The Ridge full time, and that should happen this summer. There are several trips planned over the next several months that will allow me to explore additional areas of this amazing corner of our planet, and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am about that.

I state all of this with caution. I tend not to plan out too far, because that is when the universe decides to throw you a wicked curve ball. I send out hope to the fates, that they will allow me to think out as far as September, if only for a change of pace.
I’ve been up in Alaska for a while now, and I know that each day is a blessing. After some revisions, I hope to immerse myself in this natural wonder for a while longer yet. At some point, I realize that I may have to move on from here. All one can do is make the most out of life wherever you are. That holds true for everyone/everywhere.

I will be heading Outside shortly. It is time to travel, and I’m excited to be heading Out. Some new places to explore, and some old friends and family to visit. As much as I am looking forward to it, I know I will be just as excited to return to Alaska when the time comes. As much as I do love to travel, I am always anxious to get back home in the end. I’ve seen Alaska recently described as a drug, and I think that is as accurate a description as any.

Alaska is a drug, and I’m addicted to her, just like many other very special people.

International Polar Bear Day

Today, February 27, is International Polar Bear Day. I have only seen a polar bear once in the “wild”, when visiting a client at Prudhoe Bay. Two bears had come in for a stroll through the parking lot. I have posted those pictures on here in the past. Today, since it is the bears’ day, I figured I would go with a more natural photo. Unfortunately, I could not find the photographer’s name, although she/he certainly deserve credit for such a beautiful shot.

SAFETY NOTE: It should be noted, that hugging a polar bear, on this day, or any other, is highly hazardous and not recommended by the author, or any representative of Circle to Circle.

Out on snowshoes

Camera: Leica M3; Film: Kodak T-Max 100

A cold, but bright day in the back 400 on snowshoes.

Boreal Owl

I stopped by one of my regular customers this morning, and found myself eyeball to eyeball with this little Boreal Owl. I had walked right by it, and only noticed it after I rang the door bell, and was waiting to be let in.

I’m pretty sure it’s a Boreal, and a small one at that. The Alaska DNR says that they can grow to 10″ long, with this one being in the 7-8″ range, by guestimate.

Around six inches of snow fell overnight, and the wind finally started to blow, knocking the snow off the tree limbs in small avalanches. No doubt, the little owl found the covered walkway to be well protected from the wind and falling snow.

The owl’s head would turn as I walked back and forth from my truck to the house and back again, but for the most part, it paid me only marginal interest. When I left, it was still perched on the carving that hangs on the wall.

Taking a few steps back, gives you an idea how small the owl is. Unfortunately, the only camera I had with me was my cell phone.

Walk towards the light

Friendly Neighborhood Moose