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Alaska & Out

OK, so you took a ferry to Alaska, spent a few days around Haines and drove up through the Yukon to the big part of the state. What now? Well... sha... drive around, find backroads, what else?

Maps come in handy at this point. Cell phone maps really don't work up here where there can be hundreds of miles between towers... Seriously you can drive five or six hours with no connection. (There are actually people up here with no connection to the internet or cell network, Geepers! How do they survive?) ...This is why God gave us paper maps. Well, OK, I got mine from Delorme... They have the best maps. One, giant, $20, book-sized map per state. Topographical, pretty darn good resolution.... They show all of the roads, even the itty bitty ones. But there must be something wrong with the Alaskan map, it doesn't show all of the tiny sub highways between the big ones. That's OK I'll just start driving & they will show up.

While driving through Alaska I found myself paraphrasing Young Frankenstein: "Where mountain? There Mountain!" And there... and there! Yes it seemed that all of the mountains were over there. To get to them you need to walk through grizzly-infested forests... Or hire an airplane, helicopter or guide who will lead you to one on one of those ride-'em four-wheelers... There mountain! That'll be xxx-bucks, please. But the mountains are beautiful, even way off in the distance.

But not all of the mountains are in the distance. You get to drive among them now and then. Oh yes, driving... You know those little roads I like to drive on? They don't got 'em. In most cases for any distance over 15 miles there is only one route from point A to point B... Everybody that wants to get from A to B by land is on the same road as you, Generally in chains of 8 vehicles with a motorhome doing 50 in the lead.

Glaciers too! Alaska has glaciers. They, too are mostly in the distance & require payment to visit. Though, there are a few glaciers where you can drive up to the mounds of rubble left behind as they melt away due to anthropogenic climate change. But even in the distance glaciers are pretty amazing.... Giant masses of ice flowing down mountain passes, grinding lovely, parabolic valleys. Nature, science & math equal beauty... yeah, that too... it's here.

Alaska is an adventure! Yes it is. The TV shows, the ads. The dog sledding in winter, the grizzly bears catching salmon. You can walk on glaciers, visit old mining towns... they even have Denali! These are all heavily-marketed, "authentic" adventures. Pay the man the money and you are off on your own, unique experience. It seemed like every medium-sized town had a place offering zip-line tours. Every backroad I found had 15 - 20 cars parked at the end of it. Lots of people have been convinced that they want to see Alaska and why shouldn't they? It is stunningly gorgeous.

Alaska is overpriced.... and that is partly my fault, I am not much of a camper. The thought of sleeping in a tent with nothing but a few layers of nylon between me and the racket being made by the dozens of other campers surrounding me is not my idea of a good time. Give me 100 acres and a lake to myself, I'm all for it I'll sleep up in a tree, in a tent, out in the open... wherever. Otherwise give me a room with a door & window shades... Don't forget the window shades, its light most of the time up here... If you have a hard time sleeping when it is light out. On a market basis... supply and demand... Alaska is priced fairly, but expect to pay double what you would in the contiguous states. If you are in a hotel by the ocean the odds are that a ferry or cruise ship will be landing there and there is an industry catering to just those folk.

I didn't get to Denali. Yeah, yeah, yeah... maybe it would have been worth it but it would have involved another week of driving 300+ miles per day, in a traffic queue, between over-priced hotels. So after about 2000 miles I was done with Alaska. I saw some beautiful things, took a couple of pictures, and ate a lot of really good Thai food. Yes, it seems that every town in Alaska, no matter how small, has a Thai restaurant or food truck.

Because I wasn't able to get far enough from roads and whatnot to do much recording I was still able to get in a couple of sessions... Here is a recording of a different bird... this one was all gangbusters for the first few minutes and them didn't make a sound for the next 20 that I was recording.

Mining Claim

If you have a mining claim in Alaska It is smart to post that it is yours. If you are going to post a sign in that environment you might as well put up something that will survive the elements.

Rock Texture

I thought this rock had an interesting texture. Something I can add to my catalog & use in some other project someday.

Silt strata

Many of the rivers in Alaska run grey from the fine silt runoff from the glaciers. In the sound south of Anchorage these are deposited in broad mudflats. The slow tides carve them into miniature buttes. In a few hundred-million years this could become a nice slate.

Silt Landscape

Another shot of the silt. This might be usefule for something someday.

Even with all of the warnings about bears... Sometimes the hills are so appealing I just have to pull over and walk up into them. But I am careful, I have a ginormous can of bear spray. They say to make noise when you are in the woods. So I channel an old couple from Brooklyn: "Melvin, look at the trees, they got all these trees here."

"Of course they have trees here, Gladys. That's why they call it da forest. Hurry up, you're walking too slow."

"But Melvin, don't rush me, there's so much to see. Look another tree. They're so beauty-full! Why don't they grow trees like this in Brooklyn?"

I figure any bear would want to keep it's distance from that couple.

Magenta Wildflowers

Throughout the northwest lands you will see these magenta wildflowers. They are tall with many flowerets that bloom in sequence so they are painting the roadsides much of the summer. Here they are cascading down a hillside on the far side of a lake.

There Mountain

There Mountain

Rough Road

I was able to find neglected roads. Most of them ended where they were washed out or slid over so it was an out-and-back run.

Leaf Labyrinth

I don't know if this is caused by an insect or a fungus. but ir is pretty interesting!

This is big. The wheels are as tall as the eaves of the building you see at the right edge of the picture.... I don't think my vehicle could tow it.

What do you do for fun in Tok, Alaska? You go to Mukluk Land, of course!

      Hey, Let's hit Idaho
      A Drive About (series)
          And We're Off
          Alaska? Alaska!
          Alaska & Out
      West Highway 162

A Drive About
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