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The Fall, the Fair, Mountains, Meteors, Chitina, and McCarthy

And now, suddenly, it’s fall time. The air is crisp and cool. The rain has come on steady. Leaves are beginning to turn. I see cranes and geese flying in formation every day. The fair started this past week, and everyone is gearing up for the restart of the school year next Monday. It is an exciting time.

I took the kids to the fair on Saturday, and then we all went together as a family on Wednesday night after I got home from Chitina. It was one of those achingly beautiful days, and I’m glad we went when we did, because it turned rainy after that, and has remained rainy and cold since. The fair ends tomorrow.

[As I am typing this, Stephanie has directed my attention to Jacob, across the room from me, sitting in front of Stephanie’s computer, clacking all eight of his typing digits on the keyboard lightly but furiously, stopping every few moments to run his finger around the track pad, and then back to “typing.” He’s copying me, Stephanie is pointing out. Although he isn’t producing anything, he is typing on the computer just like dad. Do I furrow by brows like that?]

It shouldn’t be surprising, but I can’t believe how much money we spent at the fair. I had a free ticket, and the kids were young enough to be no charge, so it only cost $10 for Stephanie to get in. We bought $20 in tickets for rides, gave Jamiee $20 to go disappear with, spent another $10 on two games each for the boys, $30 in food for the five of us, cotton candy, ice cream. It didn’t seem like a lot, but very suddenly, we’d spent $107. Unreal.  Nonetheless, we had a really nice evening together.

On Monday, I headed back down to Chitina to get fish. It was my last chance for the summer. I had planned to go several times before, but something kept coming up to thwart my plans. We were looking at a summer of not getting any fish, and it was making Stephanie and me both nervous.

I made it down there, better prepared with the right gear this time. Everything went pretty much as I remembered it from last year. I was alone this year, in a very small nook in the canyon wall. Despite my experience last year, I was still filled with skepticism that fish would just swim right in my net. It seems absurd, and I wondered if I was wasting my time. And so I waited in doubt. It occurred to me then that this is how I am with God as well. God has been so faithful to me, providing for me in abundance. And yet how often am I gripped with fear that this time things won’t go as well. I doubt. But on this day, as in my daily life, the salmon came. One at a time, they came.

Chitina is almost, but not completely, at the end of the road. After Chitina, there is a dirt road that leads to McCarthy and the abandoned Kennicot Copper Mine. The Kennicot mine is something I have always wanted to see and to photograph. I somehow got it in my mind that it would only a thirty minute drive, so even though it was getting late, I set out. After an hour, down the roughest road that can still be called a road, I felt  invested enough in the trip that I didn’t want to just turn around. After two and a half hours I arrived at a footbridge about two miles short of the mine. I would have walked it, but it was late in the day, cold, and rainy. I earmarked it for another day, and turned around and headed North again. Five hours after I’d left, I was back in Chitina.

The drive could have been a waste of time if it wasn’t such profoundly beautiful and powerful scenery. It is without question some of the most beautiful country I have seen so far in Alaska. Just when I thought I had seen all that Alaska had to offer, the land outdid itself once again. The road followed what was a railroad bed that had once served the mine. It crossed one iron railroad trestle, and paralleled another wooden trestle that was rotting and sagging in places. I was so tempted to climb up and walk across this, but the rain and the dark dissuaded me. Another day. I love this country, and I expect to return to this area soon. 

After passing thought Chitina again, I drove on toward Fairbanks through the night, sleeping on the side of the road when I was tired, and pressing on after short naps. One unexpected treat as I drove through the night: the Perseid meteor shower spit a handful of bright shooters across the inky night sky when I was furthest from city lights. As the sun came up, I saw what a crime it was to drive through the Alaska range in the dark of night, not seeing what was around me. In the morning light, the snow capped peaks of the Alaska Range blew my mind as I wound my way home. 

Posted on Friday, August 14, 2009 at 10:41AM by Registered CommenterBrian Rozell in | CommentsPost a Comment

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