Thursday, July 17, 2014

Life in Alaska, Part II

The apocryphal story of the three blind men examining the elephant is widely known. 
The first blind man feels only the elephant's trunk and thereafter confidently
describes the beast as a great snakelike creature, similar to a python.
The second blind man feels only the elephant's ears and announces that it is a bird that 
can soar to great heights.  The third blind man examines only the elephant's 
fringe-tipped, fly-chasing tail and "sees" an animal that is curiously like a bottle brush.
So it is with any experience that human beings share.  Each participant perceives it
in a different way and takes from it a different lesson than do his or her compatriots.
       -- Dean Koontz - "Hideaway"

Young moose running in water, Denali

Well, really it's part one, since we didn't make it to the Alaska part in the last post, but who's counting.

So, I made it on an airplane to Alaska.  The "cheapest" mileage points on the way out were first class, so, what a shame, that's where I had to fly.  As we were flying into Seattle for the layover, we were able to see the mountains out the windows, including Mt. Rainier, and I said to my seatmate, "It's been a long time since I flew to Seattle." And then I realized that that wasn't true, and memories came flooding back.  The last time I had seen Mt Rainier was in Sept. 2011, when I went out to visit my dad for what was, though I didn't realize it at the time, the last time.  After visiting with him and his wife for several days, I went down to Mt Rainier and explored that area some.  However, the weather was not great, and you couldn't see the mountain, so when I'm in that area again this September, I will probably go back.  The last time I was in Seattle, was when my dad passed away and I flew out there, but was coming from VA, so didn't even see Mt Rainier out the window of the plane.  My favorite part of that very hard visit, was getting to spend time with my brother, who I hadn't seen in several years at that point.  We went on a whale watching cruise, and then went to the tulip festival that was going on.  It reminded us of when we had gone to Holland when we were growing up, and my dad was in the army.  So, lots of memories in Seattle, and even the airport, after having been there so many times over the years.

When we left Seattle, and flew to Fairbanks, I was surprised to find kids in first class.  There were 2 young children (under 5), with their parents.  Thankfully, they slept the entire time (late night flight), but it would have been annoying if they had been awake/screaming/obnoxious during the flight.  I think a no kids under 10 rule for first class would be a good thing.  :-)  As we continued our flight towards Fairbanks, my body really wanted to sleep, but I kept getting sidetracked by the views out the window.  Beautiful, snow capped mountains, you could barely see in the evening light, but the glow of sun on the horizon, promising the brightness that would come.  And bright it did eventually get.  After taking a nap, I awoke to a 6am type of morning sunshine.  The problem?  It wasn't even 2 am yet.  Welcome to Alaska, the land where the sun doesn't go down in the summer.  It does get dimmer, just never really dark.

And then, suddenly, I was at the Fairbanks airport.  Being greeted by an old friend.  And then taken out to one of her little cabins in the woods for a night sleep before heading out to her house.  This cabin is part of 2 cabins she has closer in to town, one of which she is still working on, that kind of reminds me of a yurt.  Electricity, but no running water.  Near the city, but still out in the woods.  A perfectly lovely place to spend the night.  It felt like getting back to nature.  Oh, and did I mention it was 60 degrees?  Absolutely perfect.  When I awoke the next morning, my friend was still asleep, so I went for a walk around the cabins, and discovered some fun little things.  A blueish black mushroom.  Moose droppings.  Birch trees with peeling bark.  Mosquitos.  Oh yes, mosquitos.  The bane of the interior of Alaska in the summer.  But my favorite thing?  The ground.  It was soft and squishy all over, like walking on a pad instead of solid ground.  Had to take off my shoes and just enjoy that feeling for a little while.

A little while later, my friend awoke, and we headed into Fairbanks for some meetings she had to attend.  I got to wander around the University of Alaska - Fairbanks campus for a while.  A lady passed me while I was walking around, and she had two layers of cupcakes in her hand, and all of a sudden I got this amazing waft of odor that was part perfume, and part chocolate, and fully delightful.  Met some amazing ladies during my friend's second meeting, and got to see a side of things that I don't normally get to see.

And now, I'm taking off to Dallas to meet a friend for lunch, so the rest will have to wait for another time.... :-)  This story is definitely on the installment plan.

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