Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Take-off to Alaska

How to begin?

I’ve now been in Alaska two weeks and some-odd number of days, and yes—I’m collecting stories to tell. The problem is, I’ve put off beginning this far too long, and now I’m almost overwhelmed by everything I’d like to tell you about. So, I’ll break the story into parts and tell you about it a little at a time—with pictures:


My journey to The Farm Lodge in Port Alsworth, Alaska, started a couple years ago, though the idea runs much further back. I’ve always wanted to see Alaska, or at least a portion of the immense state where I was born. Sometimes when people asked me where I was from, I would tell them “Oregon,” but add that I was originally from Alaska. This, even though my parents moved back to the states when I was just a few months old.

Then too, I had several friends who spent their summers working at some remote place up here. During college, when I started looking for summer work, the two thoughts merged—job, Alaska? A job in Alaska!

If someone would pay me to work here, plus cover room and board, I could actually afford to visit my home state, besides making a little extra money. I tracked down an email address and contacted the lodge’s owner.

After a couple weeks, and several emails, Glen Alsworth let me know that he had a position available—August to October. Oops! School started the first of September. With 17 credits of upper-level English classes, I couldn’t afford to miss the first four weeks of the fall semester.

That summer didn’t work out, but I tried again the following year. This time, after graduating in May, I was available to stay until October. About a month after accepting the position, I had my airline tickets and a list of supplies that I would need during my two months in Alaska.

May, June, and July passed.

At last, on August 11th, in the blank darkness that comes at 4:00 am, my mom, my youngest brother, and I got out of bed and drove in the dark to the Eugene airport. While we drove, we watched the dawn begin spreading over the sky—first a pale smudge, then a white glow, then a blue burst of color. The sun rose just as we reached the airport and wheeled my bags inside. From there, the trip reads like a timetable:

7:00 am, board my first plane in Eugene.

8:00 am, descend through white clouds to Seattle, land in a gray world below the clouds—grab my duffle bag and laptop case, run half a mile down the concourse, wait for the train, ride the train five minutes to my new gate.

8:30 am, reach the gate just as the flight attendants start boarding.

9:00 am, fly out of Seattle.

10:00 am, the clouds break apart and I see the first mountains ranges—along the Canadian coast, most likely. More clouds like furrowed snow below us, with mountains rising through them.

12:40 am, home time, but it’s 11:40 here, and bright sunshine on trees and mud flats as the plane flies over Anchorage and banks toward the airport. I call the phone number Glen gave me, gather my bags, and walk out of the airport to find my ride. Outside, I find myself below an underpass, watching the cars head up to the entrance above me, and wonder whether I should wait there or up above. After about ten minutes, though, my ride comes, and she drives me ten minutes across town to the other airport.

1:20, Alaska time, I board a nine-seater for the hour-long flight from Anchorage to the lodge.

The lodge—but that’s another day.

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