On June 26, we packed our coolers and headed north to Philadelphia.
There was excitement, anticipation. We were heading out for our yearly trek to the Alaskan tundra, where we would spend several weeks pulling salmon from the water.
The trek is long. About 36 hours from point to point. By the time we got to Seattle, elation had given way to something quieter.
By the time we got to Anchorage around midnight, the sun was sort of setting.
Our flight to King Salmon, the quasi-town from which we would take a bush plane to our final destination, did not leave until 2:00 the following afternoon. So rather than get a hotel or sleep in the airport, we rented a car and drove out of town. We drove south, not really certain where we were headed. We only knew the drive was likely to be beautiful.
The road south of Anchorage runs along a long inlet for miles. It’s gorgeous, especially when the sun is up. But even when it isn’t. As it wasn’t at 2:00 or so in the morning.
As you can see, the sun refuses to actually go away entirely in the summer in Alaska. Rather, it just gets kind of gloomy for a while. We stopped occasionally to smell the air or stretch our legs. The kids refused to partake of the wonder, preferring the wonder of dreams.
At 4:00am, we got to Seward, which has a very nice aquarium, from what we have been told. It is not, however, open at that hour.
Nor, it seems, is anything else. We were full of vim, ready to shop and eat and stroll. But the streetlights of Seward just glowed at us as morning made itself known.
We took a nondescript dirt road at the end of town and found ourselves a waterfall. The kids had rallied at this point. It was almost 9:00 on the east coast, after all.
Seward is right on the water. Mountains are all around. Fog was doing its thing.
We found a beach and walked on it. We found a driftwood stump and claimed it as our own.
Eventually, it started to rain. Which is, as you know, kind of an emergency. Fortunately, Robbi had been carrying portable ponchos around in her backpack for approximately 25 years, during which time no more urgent emergencies had presented themselves, apparently.
In case you are concerned (and you must be, right?), all of us are ok. In spite of the dire circumstances.
We walked along the water. There are many boats in Seward.
And a massive seawall on top of which is perched a massive device for…what…unloading boats? Launching giant boulders at the moon? We stared at it for a while, but it never revealed its mysteries.
Eventually we moved on to Kenai Fjords National Park, where we took a short hike through the woods…
…to gain a view of Exit Glacier.
August, unwilling to accept majesty as it presents itself to the naked eye, was keen to mitigate the experience by peering through a poorly maintained telescope that added nothing but vertiginous blur.
We were tired and we were hungry, but we were having a rather nice day.
You are probably wondering how in the world we made it back to civilization after trekking .4 miles through the densely wooded Alaskan backcountry.
Alden, in her forward-thinking resourcefulness, dropped a series of orange pebbles to mark our trail.
She simply followed them back to the car, completely foiling our plans to abandon the the children in the wilderness.
As we drove back north to Anchorage, we had the benefit of daylight.
And yet, somehow, the children missed the journey for the second time that day.
Safely returned to Ted Stevens International Airport (from which you can see Russia if you squint), headed toward our gate.
But not before trembling in terror at the sight of one of Robbi’s distant relatives.
Who taught the kids a thing or two about the type of flinty demeanor they would have to adopt for success on the tundra.
They took to it quickly, growing hardened and resourceful. August, for example decided that he would no longer put up with such pedestrian pastimes as walking.
We boarded the plane. 46 minutes later we landed in King Salmon.
Our charter pilot Tim picked us up at the airport and conveyed us, via Suburban to a private airstrip.
While Tim wedged our coolers into the belly of the plane, Robbi and Alden practiced Tang Soo Do.
Robbi, for reasons I cannot fathom, was invited to sit up front with Tim. Prettier? Nicer? Better smelling? All or some of the above?
I was wedged in the back with the small people. We somehow managed to enjoy ourselves.
We flew at low altitude for about 25 minutes over the tundra. Eventually, we reached the beach near our fishing compound.
Alaskan bush pilots are the finest pilots in the world. It is the truth. They could land on a windy, lopsided dime and never break a sweat.
And that was the first day and change of our journey. By the time we reached our compound, the sun was thinking about sort of moving slightly down the horizon. The spaghetti sauce was bubbling on the stovetop. The pillows were piled high on our beds. We ate, we gazed out the window, and we fell into a deep sleep.
More adventures, more stories to follow in days to come.