Zoey is right about the wildlife in Alaska, it’s right there for the viewing. One day we’re on a tour boat out of Seward and through the fjords to the glaciers, and two days later we’re jumping off a bus in the middle of Denali National Park and climbing through the tundra. And between them it might be easier to list the wildlife that we didn’t see.
In Juneau it seemed as though people were focused towards the water. Not so much because of the ever-present cruise ships docked in town, though they drive much of the economy. Nor because the geography of sea, short flood plain, and steep mountains limits what most people can do on land (e.g., limited paved roads). But when you look at the neighborhoods you notice a common sight: a big boat on a trailer in the driveway. And you don’t need to be a fisher to appreciate that.
North of Anchorage, conversely, folks seem to be more focused towards the land. And similar to Juneau, this is belied by what’s in the driveway. The frequency of pickups towing trailers of ATVs, and those chugging along the side of the road on their own trail, have me wondering what it is that they need these vehicles to access. I picture backwoods hunting and fishing cabins, where no truck can go. And long dark winters when they have to use snowmobiles or dogsleds. Two weeks is too short to be in Alaska, and I need to come back in the winter.
On our last morning in Alaska we stop at a bakery along the “boardwalk” just outside of Denali National Park, in need of chai, coffee, and pastries before our several-hour drive to the Anchorage airport. Our phones vibrate as messages get downloaded for the first time in a few days through the store’s WiFi. The place is hopping, as people from all over the country stop in for a coffee fix. In the corner are two middle-aged couples sitting together who look almost normal, except that both men are dressed head-to-toe in camo. They both have their sunglasses sitting on the bill of their camo baseball caps, adding to the sense they are in uniform. I assume that they’re here, like we are, to see the mountains, tundra, and wildlife. But I get the feeling they’re thinking different thoughts than I am when they see the moose, caribou, and grizzly bear.