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Part Four of Four: The Alaska of Our Dreams and of Our Imagination 6/20/2004

On Memorial Day weekend Stephanie and I began our summer travel season. We pulled our trusty Trooper out of dry-dock and rocked on down the Parks highway, flew past Anchorage and pressed on towards Kenai. We had weekend plans with another couple from Fort Yukon to stay at one of the National Forest cabins that are sprinkled around the state. We were a car caravan of two, humming down the highway. The cabin where we planned to stay was on the edge of a mountain lake, high in the Chugach mountains. The other guy I was with, Neub, and I drove to the trailhead and hiked in to the cabin. All told, it was an eleven mile hike up to the cabin. It was an incredible hike, like something from the pages of Outside magazine. We passed through dense forest, crossed a handful of snow-fed streams, and watched continuously for the big grizzly. The hike was arduous at times, but mostly manageable, and the view was world class. Stephanie and Neub’s wife, C. took the other possible route and chartered a float plane in to the mountains to land on the lake beside our cabin. They also flew in all our gear. We spent a couple days relaxing, taking short day hikes, and kayaking on the lake. The lake was crescent shaped and nestled between three peaks. The water was so clear I could see the rocky bottom in eight feet of water as if it were eight inches, and so cold I couldn’t hold my hand under for more than a ten-count. Across the lake, a mountain peak rose straight up. We sat in from of our cabin and looked over the lake to the other side. At various times we saw on that side a dozen or so big-horn sheep, a grizzly sow with two cubs, and two black bear sows, one with one cub and the other with two cubs. I took one picture with five bears in the same frame! We also saw and photographed a moose and a bald eagle. The weather was clear until the day we were scheduled to leave. That morning a fog rolled in that shrouded the tops of the mountains. We weren’t expecting the float plane to make it in to retrieve us, and we were making plans to stay put for another day or two. A steady sprinkle fell, but in another hour, the plane arrived. The four of us walked all our gear down to the edge of the lake to load it on to the plane. As the float plane drifted to the pebbled beach, the pilot climbed out and stood on one of the pontoons. He looked like something out of a movie. The pilot was a big bear of a man. He could have been Bryan Dennehy’s twin brother, and he had that same grizzled appearance. He was every bit the quintessential Alaska float plane pilot. As we stood there loading the plane I looked around me in wonder for the ten-thousandth time that weekend. We were in southcentral Alaska, loading a float plane with our gear as it bobbed in an ice-cold mountain lake, nestled among snow-capped mountains with fog and rain shrouding our view. It was great. It was the Alaska of our dreams and of our imagination.

So now I am finishing up my last week of work. It’s mid-June and I am loving this weather, especially at night. I’ve been sleeping with the windows full open and feeling the fresh air waft through the house. At night the air has a slightly cool and damp feel to it that is downright woodsy. There is an absolute profusion of birds singing, calling and twittering and their sound is coming in through windows on both sides of the house. It’s Audubon in stereo, and all in the bleary, 2AM twilight of a never-setting sun. Stephanie is in Juneau attending a two-week reading class. It’s been pretty good timing because I’ve been able to put a lot of hours in at work while she has been away. She’s been having a good time there. She told me on the phone that she a few other teachers she met there went out sea kayaking in the bay in Juneau. She said that she had an incredible time and that while they were out, a pod of porpoises enveloped them and were swimming all around her. She said she could have reached out and touched one with her paddle. It was an amazing experience for her and I’m glad. I’ve wanted to kayak for forever, and I’m glad she’s hooked. I’ll be flying down to meet her on Thursday so that we can spend the weekend together there in Juneau. I hope the porpoises are still around when I get there.

Posted on Sunday, June 20, 2004 at 09:16PM by Registered CommenterBrian Rozell | CommentsPost a Comment

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