Probably the last day here in Alaska. I wish we could bag the rest of the stops and just climb here for the entire five months or head into Yukon and the Northwest territories and check out what they have there. This place has had a peaceful, calming effect on the trip; one I wish we could take with us as we head to the east coast.
I love Banff and Jasper (which is where we are headed next) but it’s moved down from being my favorite place. This is a constantly evolving thing, but they’ve held the #1 spot for so long that it is hard to admit something could possibly take their place. The thing is, Alaska is so similar to the rugged peaks and glacial valleys you see here but it’s filled with people. Jasper not as much and that has always been my favorite of the two. But the thing about this area of Alaska is that while there are tourists, it’s so easy to find your own spot and not have anyone around for long stretches of time, even in the most beautiful areas we’ve come to.
The next portion of our trip will soon have us headed east and though I don’t mind society, it will be interesting going from wide open spaces and sparsely settled land to an entire coastline of nothing but cities and buildings and traffic and music and chain stores and fast-paced life that judges success by the amount of material goods you’ve accumulated. (Generalization, yes.) The open spaces will be few and far between and the Alaska portion of our trip will seem like a long-ago dream.
On our way out of town, we headed up Mosquito Lake Road. It as slow going because my car’s clearance is about 6”… a normal car would make it fine. This road was recommended by the Alaska Mountain Guide team for a place that is easy access to quintessential Alaska. We got pretty far up and there were a couple of really spectacular spots that we could see form the car, but most of the views were covered by the thick trees lining the road. It looked like it opened up if we had continued on the road, but I don’t think the car could have handled it.
The road takes you back into the peaks and glaciers behind Haines. The area reminds me of Lord of the Ring peaks; black stone jutting up into the sky at tight intervals. If you can catch a glimpse of them between the trees, you can see the glaciers up close, more closely than anywhere in town. The view of the most impressive one is heavily guarded by trees, but if you catch a glimpse, you’ll see a glacier broken up as it flows through a narrow valley near the summit of the mountain it rests on. The ice itself is that ethereal blue associated with the icebergs in the polar regions and is quite amazing to catch view of.
A small but swift milky colored stream rushes alongside ht road as well and in another part, a full-on glacial river meanders through a rock-filled river-bed; remains of heavier water-flow days and glacial deposits. It’s become a ritual to stick our feet in each body of water we stop at to gauge the coldness of each area. This time the stream captured Steve’s flip-flop and took it quickly through the brush covered-stream. We played a game of hide-and0seek with the shoe until we located it tentatively resting in a tiny eddy but moving slowly in ever-widening circles and getting closer to the main current to get swept away again.
Seeing it stuck in the just-out-of-easy reach eddy and looking at the swift water, I told Steve I couldn’t get it. Since it was his shoe being sacrificed, he had more of a can-do attitude and grabbed an overhanging tree branch before making his way in.
The sandal was retrieved.
All were happy.
He was also covered in various insects and caterpillars from this water-excursion.
We wanted to start making our way back east because of a scheduled meet up with Steve’s parents in Banff, so we headed toward the border. Well, we didn’t actually want to go east at all. Given a choice, we would have moved northwest into the interior of Alaska. We gave in to the schedule, though. We stopped at Mile 33, a gas station and restaurant where we filled up the tank and grabbed a link of reindeer sausage on our way out.
The border crossing was interesting- we got asked a lot of questions and then I got out of the car and started having a full-on, nearly hour long conversation with Katherine the border-crossing guard. We shared a lot of stories about traveling and culture (she loves Quebec, where my father’s side of the family is from) and in the end I gave her a trip business card and told her to keep in touch for when I return to visit this area again.
It is nearly 2 a.m. and we have pulled over for the night. The light is still bright enough to illuminate the range in front of us – a massive wall of rock and glaciers rising out of a verdant river valley. A view of two peaks is cradled in the notch of this massive structure- they rise to 13,000 & 15,000 feet (the latter being the largest peak I’ve ever laid eyes on- Rainier holding this honor for a couple of weeks).
It’s hard to sleep with this much light but my sleepiness is about to win. I still haven’t seen complete darkness. I’ve heard it happens but it must be for a very short period at around 3 a.m. because I know it’s bright again at 4:30 a.m.