I love the fact that I can gaze out from the deck of my home and peer into the dark forest and see the contrasting colors and shades of the snow reflecting form it’s floor. I love the fact that Alaska is a place I have dreamed of my whole life and I am finally in her. I love that I have a home that fits my basic and artistic needs. I love the fact that I have a family that has supported me in all of my worldly adventures an has not judged me for such. I love that I have a woman in my life that is crazier than my myself and backs me on the decisions I make to create a better and more adventurous life for myself. I love the fact that I have friends and acquaintances that allow me to be me. I am thankful for the fact that I can gaze, from the deck of my home, and see Alaska’s fantastic Chillkat Mountains. I love that I can see active and flowing glaciers from many spots near my home. I am thankful for the many aspects of the world that I am only now coming to understand. I am thankful for my bicycle and it’s manifestation of travel and foresight. I am thankful for all of the friends and peers I have known in the past whom I rarely speak, but think of often. Thank You… I am grateful for the adventures I have yet to embark, and I am thankful for my health and age. I love the fact that the world is an ever evolving place that one might allow a change to occur, if only one has the courage. I hate the fact that I sometimes become paranoid of the world and the people in it, but I am thankful that I have the power most of the time to overcome it and, once again, feel joy. Thank You.
After hearing one of my work mates mention there was a snow storm headed our way, I decided that evening to check out NOAA’s website for details. Sure enough: “snow expected, 12-15 inches likely”. So that night, it began to snow softly. 22 hours later, there was 40 inches of snow covering the world., and after spending a good portion of my weekend shoveling snow, I decided that enough was enough and decided to go for a grocery run to town and pedal around a bit. The Surly Ogre, now equipped with the awesome Kenda Klondike studded tires, was just itching to get out of the basement and onto the snow packed streets of Haines. A stop at Mountain Market for some items and then a quick layover at Olerud’s for more grocery items put me pedaling around Old Fort Seward and the hills south of town. Just a quick jaunt to snap some pics and get the beastly Ogre out for a spin…
The other day, while nailing hardwood flooring the the sub floor of the house I am being paid to re-assemble (a re-model), with the radio cranking out all things I mostly abhor when they are not playing music, an advertisement came along with a woman purveying her stature for election to some arcane political office, enticing all who listen that what Alaska needs is a better economic future in the form of upholding, and the enticement of more drilling for oil, the further decimation of one of the most fragile places on Earth. Her main and only stand point for election was one of ensuring that Alaska be pushed and pushed and further endowed that we have the top place in the extraction of fossil fuels to fuel it’s economy. This was her only standpoint. Now I ask, would I really want to vote for a person who’s main and only objective for Alaska’s future be one of a dying technology without so much as a faint mention of what might be possible for future generation upon generation; with the notion that far greater concepts might take hold in this world of today as we know it? Especially in a place with as much eminent resources of beauty and wildness that this magnificent place offers? Seems like backwards thinking to me. I know this for a fact: there is more to our way of life than mere economy. It takes a different form of thinking that we have been on the verge of for generations now, and for political offices to endear the contorted thinking of more raping of the landscape and less of altering our way of life and thinking are preposterous to me.
It certainly is surprising to me, however, when I go to Mountain Market on occasion, there are still those that seem to feel that it is some how in fashion to keep their truck running while they sip their coffee inside. When I see this I think, “good thing fuel cheap:”… at $4.40 a gallon for gasoline and $4,80 for diesel, it sure as hell isn’t cheap. Not that price is the issue, because it certainly is not. Having respect for yourself and all those around you is important. This mentality is exactly the sort that will keep officials aforementioned above in office. Not that I believe wholly in the concept of government or voting for that matter; to me, it is an arcane ideal that is required to vanish and the notion that we need to take complete responsibility for ourselves instead take it’s place. I realize that this notion will stir the shit pot, and most will disagree, that we need government and such, but what we need, in my opinion, is real and genuine spiritual growth in regards to the natural world and ourselves. All else will fall into place. Call me crazy…
My mind occasionally wanders back to the time in Moab, back in 2010, when life there became altered, and a change occurred. To tell the story in completion would require a significant amount of mental and emotional strain that I do not wish to embark on at this time. The story, in it’s entirety, will be told, just not today. I recently came across this document that I created back during that time and though I would re-share it.
Well, boy o boy, where do I begin… After being removed from our homes on Kane Springs Rd (given 48 hours notice), we finally found a wonderful spot at the low end of Spanish Valley Drive on an acre of land, sharing it w/ two wonderful people who made us feel welcome and comfortable. Now the ax wielding Grand County Building Dept. has swung again. Apparently a “friendly neighbor” called the county and complained that people were living “illegally” in school busses. Now keep in mind that this nice piece of property is surrounded on 2 sides by the worst kind of Moab redneck shit one could possibly imagine… 20 or more (and toxic I might add) cars, abandoned, line the once pristine creek that runs trough. That is only a fraction of it. Refrigerators, ovens, wrecked trailers, drill pipe, oil rig misc, and damn near anything else one could think of also line this creek. And it’s “illegal” for us to live a clean and respectful life of our choosing!!?? Give me a break! This is the same county that is permitting a large scale tar sands operation just 30 miles north, one of the most earth destructive operations on the planet. This county and this town in particular are the worst kind of sellout assholes that typically inhabit this planet today. We are being forced from our homes and treated like lepers. I feel as tho a Native American might have felt in the 1880’s. After 21 years of working and living here, I feel like leaving this Park City- Aspen- Telluride conglomeration and never looking back. Daily, on the TV and in the news, the media is constantly pounding the public to live “greener” lifestyles, yet we who live this way, here in Moab, are being rejected for just! The hypocrisy in this place is so thick you could park a school bus on it. I wish I was a better writer. I wish we could some how get some national light on this. Local coverage is not enough, not enough people here care. They seem to be more concerned w/ the bottom line than the well being and integrity of their community. I know people who have lived here for a generation or more who are moving to Grand Junction because the bureaucracy and housing costs are forcing them out.
Linus Platt, August 2010
A mild winter indeed, Haines has been experiencing remarkable conditions as of late. March first, clear and cloudless skies that are bluer than blue, with magic mountains gleaming so clear that it takes me a moment to wipe my eyes and re-focus in order to take them in as they should be taken. Temperatures have been mild as well; daytime highs these last days have hovered in the high thirties, with the darkness temperatures peaking lowly around fifteen. Snow has not fallen since early February, while back in January, snow did not fall at all with any significance; December on the other hand, showed a display of record breaking snowfall, with over 96 inches of the white stuff, breaking all known snowfall accounts since humans have been recording such occurrences. It has been a grand spectacle of remarkable days for some time. Folks are out and about in these fantastic status, skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, working. I, unfortunately, and on the same account, fortunately, have been a commitment to the latter, having just bought a house in conjunction with my sister Paloma and mate Angela. This is where I am at. There has been no time for getting out there and falling prey to the world of Alaska that I hold so dear. The juxtaposition is thick, and I am fully committed to the chores of not only woking to pay the mortgage and bills, but to improve and upkeep the dwelling in question.
I am fortunate in the fact that I have favorable workmates to consort with, and a splendid home in which to occupy. This makes me happy, as I have not experienced this home sensation since being “kicked out” of our school bus life in Moab, and subsequently embarking on a self imposed exile from said place. I am overwhelmingly joyous to be in Alaska finally; I am no longer looking back to the potentialities of Moab, because for me, there are none. Alaska is a place of hard work for ones self and the day to day chores of encompassing these duties are inherent to living in a place as magnificent as this. Perhaps one could argue that it is this way anywhere one wants to be, especially in as beautiful a place. But here, it is infinitely different, at least to me. Alaska is a different place. It is a place that I have dreamed of for many years, and after having embarked on two separate ultra long distance bicycle journey’s here, and wracking my brain in ways to make this surreal place my home, I have at last succeeded, and I am grateful.
There will always exist a balance between making a living, wether it be hunting and gathering, or living a life of the modern prose, and enjoying the surroundings that I have labored so hard to accommodate. To me, that is what makes Alaska so special; a life here is a interspersion of both of these philosophies that commands a keen eye, a solid heart, a will of iron, and a temperament and willingness to take a leap of faith that the forest and the animals and the community in which one dwells, will provide. It is hard work indeed. Life in The North is no joke. It takes commitment. It requires a doctrine that is largely missing from the rest of the United States. That is why I am here.
Yesterday, as I was headed out the door to work, a Bald Eagle had placed itself proper at the top of the giant Sitka Spruce tree in my yard. It cawed out at the raven that was tormenting it, looked me square in the eyes, and flew off, likely headed to the side of the Lynn Canal in search of a meal. And I, bound for the finishing of drywall and paint, take glimpse at the glorious glaciers not far off, reminding me of why I am doing what I do.
In a potentially similar fashion, yet at the same time, in a far reached difference, I feel as though Henry David Thoreau might have felt at his cabin at Walden Pond. A different time indeed, but a similar sensation seems to me being evoked. A life in the woods of the north, observing the world from a alternative perspective of his time. One that has been dominated by a sense of predominant commerce and trust in a world of thought that is largely obsessed with technology and and it’s dominance over nature, rather than a personal reflection of the real and natural world before him.
Life in Haines, and anywhere in The North for that matter requires a blending of these concepts. One, partly due to the economic differences here, and the obvious resources available, must be available to the notions that one must cut his own firewood, grow his own vegetables, harvest his own meat, maintain his own dwelling, take care of his own health, take care of his community, and do this all with respect and dignity in regards to the people, forests, and animals involved. To live in balance is the goal, and nothing else will do. It is hard wok, but so is living in the polluted environment of the cities to the south. Even Juneau, a mere 50 miles south, where lie services and goods readily purchased, seems a far cry from here, where one must learn to do things for himself and all commonly available items of the cities are not not so common. Yes, living in The North is a unique experience, to say the least. To dispose of waste and garbage here, one must haul said items to the Haines Borough dump, where trash is disposed of for a fee, by the pound. There is a recycling center here of which most take deep advantage. There is nothing like financial burden to force humans to alter their lifestyle and create less waste. Even in the realm of wildlife is there a uniqueness that prevails. The house I have purchased sits on “Cemetery Hill”, an ancient native burial ground, and is a know Brown (Grizzly) Bear thoroughfare. Gerry, the previous owner, told me a story of a big Brown decimating an air tight freezer full of fish on the back porch. Life here requires diligence. If you want or need something that is not locally available, such as a stereo amplifier or a computer monitor, one must decide wether to do without, or pay a dear price for it’s transport from the “outside”. In Haines, there is no UPS or Fed Ex; the post office is the main source for the delivery of personal goods. All other things must be delivered via the barge from Juneau or Seattle, or be flown in, all of which are expensive options. This notion keeps it real, and keeps unchecked consumerism under wraps. If one is flying somewhere abroad, your options are to catch a 2-4 hour ferry to Juneau, spend the night there and fly out the following day, or drive to Whitehorse, some 260 miles into Canada, all the while dealing with customs and international flights. Flying out of the tiny Haines airport is a costly and unreliable option as most planes are grounded during inclement weather, which is often. The mail is also flown in, which in times of bad weather, becomes held up. Diligence, I say. Perhaps that is why there is a real sense of community in Haines. Being very new here, I still feel like an outsider, but in fact I am a member of this scene; I care about what happens here, because it is now my home. I still do not know that many folks here. The main social arenas seem to be the Mountain Market, where coffee and organic and local food can be bought, and the Haines Borough Public Library. There are several bars here as well, of which I have yet to step foot upon. There are community events here quite often I see, but, as of yet, I have not had time or energy for. Perhaps when Angela arrives, we might embark this.
Spring seems to be in the air now, and it is hard not to get excited about it. Be forewarned however; March, I am told, can be a real blizzard. Just when you have reserved yourself to warm and dry spring-like conditions, March can drop a torrent of snow unlike any other month in a normal year, some times depositing 2 or 3 feet in a single storm. Snow removal is a challenge as well; one must be willing to acquire the necessary equipment for said task, shovel like crazy, or hire it out to one of several people who have heavy equipment for the job. Sometimes all three might come into play. The typical hire out to plow a 100 yard driveway might be 60-80 dollars a pop. That’s per storm. It can add up. I for the time being, will be shovel happy.
I sat down at the computer yesterday to go through the photos of last summer’s 2600 mile bicycle journey, and it made my heart ache. It made me long so badly the weight of the heavily laden bicycle, the quiet solitude of the Alaskan forest, the smell of sweat, the rain, and the day to day scenery change that a long distance bicycle trip affords. For the time being, I am on a different adventure, one that I am excited about; the bicycle is on my mind, however. It has been some time since I have ridden my it, due to the reasons already spoken, and today I am to remedy this. So now, I will shut this damn computer down, get on the savage Ogre, and pedal away, into the Alaska I love.