where the sun never sets
In Col’s kindergarten classroom there was this landform model where if you poured a cup of water onto the land, you could watch it flow down the drainages and into the ocean. I keep thinking of that here, how it’s like someone is pouring water into Alaska, except the cup never empties. The mountaintops wear wreaths of clouds. The moisture tumbles into the earth until the plants are so green, they look like living rain. The water spills into creeks and rivers and oceans. The plants exhale mist and it feels like the best thing that ever happened to your skin, your hair, your eyes. The green here is like the wild and fanciful dream of someone perishing of thirst in the desert.
juvenile bald eagles
After awhile you get slightly desensitized to the bald eagles, the never-setting sun, and even the steady drizzle. “I’m a little suspicious about that dead seagull,” Col mentions, which I believe means he’s a little curious. “Me too,” Rose pipes in, “I’m a little mysterious about it.”
The seagulls, like the sun, never sleep, and when I crawl out of our tent at 3am to pee, I can hear the seagulls screaming, dragging fish heads across the sand while the sun, instead of setting, has simply swung around the top of the the world to northeast.
We went salmon fishing with Dan’s brother, Cory, who lives here in Anchorage. Unlike Colorado, where everyone’s secretive about their honey hole of a hunting spot, here, the fishermen (and women and children), line up shoulder to shoulder, dip-nets poised to catch the spawning salmon wriggling upstream. Along the beach are over a hundred tents, pull-behinds and campers. The kids frolic in the vast sandbox of the beach. The tough Alaska kids go shoeless in the fierce, bone-bruising wind and just as you sigh in relief when the wind dies down, the biting bugs flare up. “If it’s not the wind or the rain, than it’s the mosquitos; it’s always something in Alaska,” someone says at fishing camp.
Col and Rose loved the beach. They buried their boots and each other, marveled at the changing tides, and collected beautiful shells and rocks. The four of us slept in a 3-person tent, crawling in at some undetermined, ridiculously light hour and fell asleep amidst barking dogs, campfire story-telling, kids riding dirt bikes across the dunes and seagulls arguing over fish guts. Somehow it was the best sleep I’ve had camping in a long time.
“They’re very patient,” Rose said about the people who spent the day wading in the cold waters, waiting for a salmon to tangle into their net.
Col LOVED riding in the boat, watching Dan, Cory and Ben pull salmon from their nets. But most of all he loved the seals, also out in the water catching salmon.
Col and Rose’s new friends. “Ruthie is my best friend in Alaska,” Rose said.
Dan’s bro, Cory, filleting salmon back in the emerald green of Anchorage.
Camping with us was the grandfather of Cory’s friend Ben. Like Dan, Grandpa Mike makes bows and other primitive tools. He kept pulling new delights out of his van. “Wanna see my fire pistons?” he’d ask Dan.
Fire pistons: ancient device used to kindle fire.
Grandpa Mike’s homemade atlatl, which he killed a moose with at 10 yards.
Cory and his wife, Elena, have a sweet urban homestead with goats, rabbits, chickens, honeybees and ducks. We’re not going to talk about how they eat their bunnies, but hey look at those cute goats!
This is what 9pm looks like in Alaska. And I’m the goofy tourist who’s shouting up and down the block, “9pm! Look at the sun! Can you believe this is 9pm!”
That 9pm sun was the first real unfettered sun we had.
ps: Giveaway winners for the book, Wild, From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, announced on original post.