|Low-lying cloud + fall tundra foliage|
"They congregated round me; the unstained snowy mountaintop, the glittering pinnacle,the pine woods, the ragged bare ravine, the eagle, soaring amidst the clouds- they all gathered round me and bade me be at peace."Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus
|"You're off to great places. Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting. So get on your way." - Dr. Seuss|
Part of this post is carried over from an abandoned essay back in early June, when I first started making progressively deeper forays into the Talkeetnas and the grudging retreat of deep snow kept opening up more and more new ground to cover. It had been a long, slow tease watching the gradual unveiling of the land from underneath the winter coat and the first blush of greenup starting to color the view. Fast-forward to a fall that felt like it came and went as fast as our temporary residence.
While writing this I walked out back of the chalet and watched a cow moose with her baby browsing in the backyard, and the magpies seemed to yammer out another admonition over my intrusion. Such interludes serve to remind us of how special and tentative all our experiences are in the context of and contrasted against such a primal place. Or at the least make me wonder why I still insist on going outdoors when we have indoor plumbing.
|"Help - I'm berried alive!"|
Lots of images squirreled away, from micro + macro, panoramic to the personal, but always above all else are the ones that were never framed by any lens other than the simple optics of the open eyes. It's the gear you pack inside your head that will ultimately shape perception and memory, and nothing can ever possibly compare to seeing it in person, being a part - as opposed to apart - of what is at the core of our connection to being alive. While I can count on one hand the (two-legged) partners I've ever been comfortable sharing the trail with, being "out there" is paradoxically the shortest distance between myself the entire rest of humanity. It's also the quickest way to find one's self as well, or, to quote one of my titular druids: "The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness." *Required reading for any outhouse aficionado.
The above shot was taken from taken from 30 miles away while hiking Pioneer Ridge in the neighboring Chugach Range. It's looking back at Hatcher Pass, and one can see in the upper center where Independence Mine State Park sits cradled by the surrounding peaks. Slightly to the left towards the bottom a cliffslide area alongside the Little Susitna is visible as a patch of white, and, rightward below that is another speck that's approximately where we've called home for much of 2012.
Alaska distorts one's sense of time and space, putting a perspective on where you're at that is both deeply centering, and at the same time deeply disconcerting. Not the least of which is all the scattered ruins of historical - and many contemporary - attempts at carving out a life amidst the rawness of it all. Simultaneously inspiring and defeating to see the rustic remains of so-called "frontier" culture leavened between the rock, water, ice and earth: to know your temporal place while finding your personal space.
|“Ever wonder where you'd end up if you took your dog for a
and never once pulled back on the leash?” ~ Robert Brault
Two strays, both a little gray about the muzzle but always happy to hit the trail. Speaking of grey (or "arctic blonde" as I've heard it huffily referred to as), the one regionally apropos term I'll carry away with me in the mental knapsack is "greywacke." A big hat-tip to hiker and author Shawn Lyons for his introspective musings published in "A Walk-About Guide to Alaska Volume Three: Palmer Area and Hatcher Pass." Also guided in part by the fine folks staffing the USGS map store on the campus of Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage. Cheers for the Alaska State Parks too - one of the best investments you can ever make is picking up a season pass.
|“If I were to name the three most precious resources of
life, I should say books, friends, and nature; |
and the greatest of these, at least the most constant and always at hand, is nature.” - John Burroughs
One minor regret is to not had nearly enough time to explore more of the Chugach Range - pictured above is one of the handful of hikes taken on the northern edge of the state park at Eklutna Lake. And there are a few more nooks and crannies left for later... I suppose I'll savor this sweet spot in the center of a giant gobstopper of a state that's still going to take a lot of licks to finish.
Still, there are gifts I can keep unwrapping over and over again from where I've been and what I've seen so far. Case in point was this spring, through a pair of binoculars I got to observe the single-most transcendent scene to date in all my time outdoors: through a faraway pass, against a wall of rock half-hidden by a low-lying cloud that obscured the peak, a Golden Eagle soared in and out of the mist. For ten minutes the scene held me transfixed in wonder, at least until the tail-slap of a beaver a mere dozen yards in front of my pond-side perch scared the complete crap out of me. I might forget our anniversary or to pick up more cat litter on the way home, but I'll always have total recall of that moment, without ever having to even close my eyes. Which, by the way, can really freak out the passengers in your truck by the way. Alaskans have a peculiar, organic augmented reality which can overlay any given situation, usually known as daydreaming at work about the last trip you took.
So here's to another series of adventures: rather than the usual "one door closes/another one opens" cheesy Hallmark platitude, I'll turn again to the wisdom of Muir: "Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world." And since the ply of my Bristol board comes from such a pulp, maybe it's not too far a stretch to see a blank page as another way to keep revisiting these peak experiences. Though it's far more likely they will find their way into another funny, which, after sharing the trail, sharing a laugh is the next best thing.
Better get packing...