Saturday, July 3, 2010


The cigar afternoon at a nice campsite provides an opportunity for the mind to slow, and to consider the many impressions of Alaska and their residents.


Alaskans love their salmon runs up select rivers, such as the Kenai. People stand twenty feet apart, casting a limited distance so as not to foul a neighbor. Twenty miles away there is no-one and we get a terrific state campground to ourselves.


Alaskans love their RV's, their ATV's, and presumably their snowmobiles. We met a nice family, three girls and a three year old boy, from Fairbanks while we rested at Tangle Lakes. They sported two ATV's and rode around before setting down for the evening. They were first time visitors to this area along the Denali Park Highway.


Alaskans are friendly, offering tips to the visitor on where to go. One of these conversations led to our idyllic campsite overlooking the Susutna. As this is being written, an ATV rider stopped to ask Mary about his lost dog, a Chow/Setter mix. He is camped about two miles up the road and may have another family grouping down the road. At any rate he and his friends keep burning gas going back and forth, back and forth.


Political candidate signposts are every where. We have yet to see the words Republican or Democrat on any sign, but all of the candidates for State House, Congress, Senate, are pro-Alaska, pro business, pro jobs.


According to my boat captain in Homer, Greg Sutter, no-one does value added work in Alaska. Everyone is involved in extracting something, timber, mining, and fishing. Eventually everything will be taken, and Alaska will be in the soup. Maybe, but I see very little imprint of man on this huge state, which makes even Montana look like a study in miniature.


Moose may be pretty rare. We finally got a good sighting west of the McLaren River and four vehicles had pulled over to look along with us. Out came impressive tripods, binoculars, and expensive telephoto lenses. We have yet to see a bear, but we are equipped with bear spray and an air horn in case we meet old Oso on the trail. The closest we have been to a bear was at Lake Nerka, where we saw signs of very recent bear grazing. One of the science teams there lost $25,000 worth of measurement gear. A bear had dug it up, and mouthed it thoroughly, covering it in heavy bear saliva. Like a human baby, a bear will test something new by trying to eat it.


The Denali Park Highway contains a few lodges, several of them closed even in the midst of summer. The romance of trying to make a living by attracting people to a beautiful area during an eight week season is irresistible to some. The reality is the odds of success are extremely low. Better is to have a run down lodge at the intersection of a major highway, especially if it has gas, hamburgers and toilets.

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