On Leaving Alaska

In 1879 the great naturalist, John Muir, took a steamship and began to explore Alaska. In the early pages of the journal he kept on that trip, he wrote: “Never before this had I been embosomed in scenery so hopelessly beyond description.”

I understand. I spent most of my last full day in Alaska with my mouth hanging open in slack-jawed wonder and astonishment.

For the previous six days the weather here has been gray and snowy, with low-hanging clouds obscuring views of the sea and of the distant mountain ranges. But today . . . Well, today was different . . .


Grasping the twin gifts of a beautiful day and clear schedule I took the rental car, my camera, and a Garmin Nuvi and headed out of town.

In the morning I took Alaska Highway 1 south and east along the coast of the Turnagain Arm of the Chickaloon Bay. Around every corner, I was greeted by views like this:


And this:


In the afternoon I headed north to Palmer and tried to keep the car on the road while gawking at sights like this:


By the end of the day I was reminded of another entry in John Muir’s Alaska journal:

To the lover of pure wildness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world . . . Chasing shining ways through fiord and sound, past forests and waterfalls, islands and mountains and far azure headlands, it seems as if surely we must at length reach the very paradise of the poets, the abode of the blessed.

It is indeed a wonderful place. God willing, I’ll be back.

Alaska Bonus


I didn’t realize when I planned this trip that my next-to-last day would coincide with the start of the 38th running of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.  But I consider it a pretty cool bonus. At 10a this morning (1p Dallas time) the teams took off here in downtown Anchorage amidst a festive, party atmosphere that engulfed the entire city. It’s a very big deal here.


The dogs are amazing and seem to be having the time of their lives:


Another full day of work and research here tomorrow, and then I head for home Monday morning. I like this place. Wouldn’t want to live here. But I like it. In an email to a friend yesterday, I described it this way:

Snowy. Gray. Gorgeous. Alien. There is much about the culture and vibe that reminds me of Texas. Just replace Hispanics with eskimo/indians, add ice, and stir.

I’ve learned a lot here, too. Maybe I’ll write a book about it.

Anchored in Anchorage . . .

It’s better than being ensconced in Escondido or sequestered in Susquehanna, I suppose.

I’m safely and warmly nested in my hotel room here in Anchorage–my home for the next week. This is my first time in Anchorage, if you don’t count the time back in ’88 when I flew through here for an hour on the way to South Korea (long story).

Anchorage in March feels a lot like our winters in Minneapolis in February (except for the gorgeous snowy mountain peaks off in the distance.) Piles of dirty snow on every corner. Constantly using your windshield washers because of the spray from the car in front you you. Black slush in every parking lot.

Off in the distance, however, the views are spectacular.


The Chugach mountains which surround the city are beautiful. Tomorrow I get to leave the city for a day trip into the countryside. Looking forward to it.

Long, Rambling Catch-Up Post

I think I’ve sufficiently recovered from moving now to resume blogging. Why, I’ve regained almost full use of my hands! And I don’t collapse into a weepy puddle every time I need to find something I last saw laying on a counter back in the other place. So . . .

Stand by for news!

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of Paul Harvey’s passing. In a more just, more perfect, more lovely world, I would have been on radio and television this last weekend talking about Mr. Harvey and giving the book another little goose up the Amazon sales charts. But alas that’s not the world we live in. (Of course, it’s never too late to send a father or grandfather the Paul Harvey’s America as a gift!)

Speaking of news. I still can’t share any about the new book project. It’s still top secret, but I’ll spill when I can. Or you can ask my wife. She’ll tell you.

In other, utterly-unrelated news, I’m off to Alaska today–Anchorage and environs for a week. The forecast is for mild (by Alaska standards) weather. Highs in the mid-30s, snow showers most days. In other words, about the same as in Mineeapolis. I mention that because in the six years we lived in Minnesota, I developed a habit of comparing the winter temps in Minneapolis to those in Anchorage. Nine times out of ten, it was warmer in Anchorage.

Look for my Twitterings and Twit-pics to be all Alaska-y over the next few days.  Why follow me on Twitter? I can’t think of a single good reason. Unless you enjoy random musings like this one from the other day:

Regrets? I have a few. e.g., I rooted for Taylor Hicks on American Idol a few years back. That one still stings a bit.

Here’s something I came across on BoingBoing the other day that I’ve been meaning to mention. I can’t express how much I loved the story that relates to this picture:


The photo is from a 1949 LIFE magazine pictorial/article about the great battle of the bench that roiled Whitney, Texas back in ’48/’49. You can get the full story here. But at issue was a long, rough-hewn bench which had sat outside the local drug store in Whitney for as long as anyone could remember. From almost the very day that it appeared, it had been occupied all day long by old ranchers and farmers who would chew tobacco and comment on everyone and everything that moved into eye-shot.

I loved this story because my home town of Wilburton, Oklahoma had a bench that performed pretty much the same function. It sat outside Fern’s Cafe, (which burned to the ground a few years back) and was always occupied during daylight hours by gentlemen I called the Spit and Whittle Polo Club.

The Battle of the Bench in Whitney erupted when some image-minded busybodies tried to have the bench removed. My favorite quote from the article was this one:

“I’ve never heard of such foolishness”, ‘cried 97-year-old Tom Rose, dean of the bench sitters’. “Come here in ’77 from Tennessee, been married 76 years, and my wife ain’t whipped me yet.”

That was “1877” he was referring to, by the way.

Now I’m off to Alaska!