This place; the cold and damp mountain air, the crunch of the ice below my feet, the wolf tracks I am following, the not so distant peaks and their adorning glaciers, these forests, and the creatures that live in them all have a hold on me that is unshakable. The weather today is the type that makes any Alaskan winter day a stellar one. At 21 degrees, it is cold, but not too cold, and the clear blue Alaskan sky, and it’s wisp of distant clouds have become a play up for the jagged peaks of the Chilkat Mountains; their glaciers visible in a clean and striking fashion to anyone who may ponder their geographic position, and strikes in my heart and mind, an acuity that they are the creators of all life in this magnificent place. It is the glaciers. They are a gift; a cosmic bank account of life. They create the kind of river’s that Salmon swim to spawn, bringing the Eagles, the Wolve’s and the Bear’s. These are the things that have brought the Human’s here as well, over 12,000 years prior.
It has been some time since I have been immersed in a large, cosmopolitan chaos, save a stint in both Anchorage and Fairbanks earlier in the year. This I do not miss. Walking along the banks of this river, with the mighty peaks and glaciers above, I cannot imagine myself living anywhere else, and cannot imagine why so many others do. I am grateful that few have the desire to live in a place such as this; if it were different with people to want this kind of life, one of natural beauty and simplicity, this place would not be what it is. It would be San Francisco or Seattle, or even Anchorage. These places were once fantastic places of natural splendor as well, long before humanity got it’s grip around it, dammed the rivers, killed off the Grizzlies and Wolve’s, and polluted the landscape with a chaotic sprawl of freeways, factories, and skylines filled with concrete and steel. This, has not yet happened here. Yet. I hope, for the sake of the Bear, Eagle, Wolf, and Human, that it never, ever does.
In the forest it is dark, not errily so, but has a quality that resembles a dream that one cannot quite get a hold of; a reminder of a distant realm in which fantasies are conjured and aspirations are taken ahold. This forest is a prdoct of the those brilliant glaciers and all that precipitation that formed them. At 50 inches a year, Haines gets fairly wet, but is actaully in a dry zone compared to places further south on the coast. Juneau, an hour ferry ride south, for example, gets an average annual rainfall of around 65 inches, and Ketchikan, even further south, recieves yet more. The rain, and at higher elevations, the snow, is what defines this place. It is what has created the Muskeg bogs and the giant ferns and the gigantic Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock and Cedar, and the massive Cottonwood trees engulfing the landscape here. I gaze out over the frozen river to it’s disatnt shore and visualize a world that allows things to grow and prosper in natural balance, free from the manipulization of corrupt human hands.
I grew up believing and later knowing that all places wild and free were special ones and as I grew older, began to slowly realize that these places were becoming smaller and fewer. The towns that edge some of these places, towns such as Haines, Talkeetna, Coldfoot, or Seward, are in existance still because of an occurance of a conumdrum; a paradox. These towns, and many, many more like them, exist, in part, to extract oil, timber,fish or metal from it’s surroundings, and left unchecked, serve to only desroy. They also exist to present to the “Eco-Tourism” faction to countless persons from such places like San Francisco or Seattle, and places across the globe. To show these people a lancscape that has not been destroyed; yet. Herein lies the paradox, yet there is a further potential contraditction. Will these “eco tourists” return home with a new, greater respect for these wild places in there hearts and let them be? Will they go further than that and even go to bat for said places and fight for them from the destruction of corporate gain? Or even still, will these people look at these places with an eye of opporotunity for exploitation. The latter has been historically more accurate, but I can only hope that by educating the people that come here, these forests and mountains will continue to be the sacred, magical places that they still are, and continue to be the home to more Bears and Wolves than Humans. This is what I wish for…