I’ve been ignoring the signs for weeks.
It snowed last week. I was in the newsroom, minding my own business, and when I looked out the window there it was… tiny little harbingers of my icy doom.
Yeah, they were melting almost as soon as they hit the ground but the damage was done.
Everywhere I turn the brilliantly covered leaves are falling to the ground and while I’m as tantalized by the chance to jump on a crispy leaf as the next person, this just doesn’t bode well.
It’s October and winter is coming.
Oh yeah, Alaska.
It’s not that I’m afraid of snow, although the balding tires on Piotr and his reluctance to start on cold mornings aren’t confidence inspiring. It’s that I don’t know how to drive on the ice, and the moose are like ground squirrels.
That combination has assassinated many a car around here, I’m told.
Plus, I wasn’t done camping yet.
I’ve made it up the short but arduous Skyline trail several times, but I haven’t yet gotten the chance to pitch a tent in that saddle and watch the world go by. There’s something incredibly soothing about watching clouds whip by so fast that you can almost feel the globe spinning.
I made it out to Whittier and saw the million-dollar highway. It was not much more than a wide gravel road, but residents in the giant building that houses most of the town assured me that, despite its dead end, it cost a lot of money to build.
At the end of that highway, we parked and climbed vertically for a couple of hours before deciding to bed down for the night. I watched the sun set over the Prince William Sound and was reminded, once again, that not all beautiful things are easy to photograph. I also learned a little bit about camping without a tent and why the most comfortable-looking spot on the mountain probably looks that way because it belongs to a bear.
Did you know bears could be super quiet? I didn’t.
Upon reflection the status of apex predator probably means they can sneak up on potential prey.
Maybe I just sleep too heavily, regardless, I woke up to a fresh pile of scat about eight feet from my head. I’m assuming this was the bear-equivalent of letting someone know they’d overstayed their welcome in your home.
I spent some time in Anchorage with the photojournalist and former Anchorage Daily News photo editor Richard Murphy.
I’m afraid I wasn’t much company as I spent most of the weekend poring over books in his truly epic photography book collection. The best of the weekend was Eugene Smith’s Minamata which I hadn’t realized was a photo essay.
For those of you who aren’t in the know, my journalism track was photography and I’m a sucker for a good photojournalist. We had an excellent conversation about the future of newspapers, still photographers and the function of journalists in society. It’s hard not to appreciate that kind of generosity from a stranger who has probably heard it all before.
I’m not completely unprepared. I went to a ski-swap last weekend and bought both downhill and cross-country skis, so prepare to be amazed by the new ways of falling that I’ll invariably discover before the year is out.
In the meantime, I’ve been using the two-story barn behind my new house to learn how to ascend ropes and am looking forward to next year’s bouldering season. Between the various outbuildings and the new fire-pit, I think I’ve died and gone to renter’s heaven. The view is stellar and I’ll tolerate a cold nose any night to watch all the shooting stars that light up the moose hanging out in the back yard. I spent a couple of hours roof-side this week and am wondering if I’ll be able to see the northern lights up there. A large part of me assumes that I’ll look like Soran entering the Nexus a la Star Trek when they finally do show up.
I STILL haven’t managed to buy those Xtra-Tuffs, but I hear they’ve taken a nose-dive in quality since the company’s Rock Island, Ill., factory was shut down. Maybe I’ll wait until next year for those. But, if any of you have ideas for proper winter gear, I’ll gladly take them. Right now my plan is to wrap myself in an electric blanket, duct tape it shut and drag a portable generator on wheels around with me every time I need to venture outside.