Travelers

Travelers' Tales Alaska

English
135 Pages

Description

In Travelers' Tales Alaska, contemporary adventurers, seekers, and lifelong Alaskans take you into the "Last Frontier" for wild and poignant adventures. Walk among bears, witness the Inupiat taking of a bowhead whale, and spend time "weathered-in" on the Bering Sea coast. Follow the seasons of commercial fisherfolk in the world's most dangerous seas, sail the Inside Passage, or flight-see with bush pilots famed for high-stakes navigation around Denali, North America's highest mountain. Discover the 49th state’s quirky side, including an entire town that lives in a single World War II-vintage high-rise, a "Hairy Man" who roams the Bush, and backcountry gourmands who communicate with edible plants. Drive the Alaska Highway or head north along the pipeline Haul Road to the Arctic coast, not simply to get there, but to be there. Get the inside view as Alaskans share their stories of learning a new land or guiding tourists through Native culture. Whether you choose camping at Wal-Mart or casting for grayling on a lake named Paradise, whether you travel the Great Land in actuality or in your armchair, these stories bring Alaska alive, in all its latter-day complexity and glory.

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Published 27 December 2011
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EAN13 9781609520724
Language English

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CRITICAL ACCLAIM FORTRAVELERS’ TALES
“TheTravelers’ Talesseries is altogether remarkable.” —Jan Morris, authorof Journeys, Locations,andTrieste and the Meaning of Nowhere
“For the thoughtful traveler, these books are an invaluable resource. There’s nothing like them on the market.” —Pico Iyer, author ofThe Global Soul
“This is the stuff memories can be duplicated from.”
Foreign Service Journal
“I can’t think of a better way to get comfortable with a destination than by delving intoTravelers’ Tales…before reading a guidebook, before seeing a travel agent. —Paul Glassman, Society of American Travel Writers
“Travelers’ Talesis a valuable addition to any predeparture reading list.” —Tony Wheeler, founder, Lonely Planet Publications “Travelers’ Talesdelivers something most guidebooks only promise: a real sense of what a country is all about.…” Hartford Courant “TheTravelers’ Tales series should become required reading for anyone visiting a foreign country who wants to truly step off the tourist track and experience another culture, another place, firsthand.” St. Petersburg Times
“If there’s one thing traditional guidebooks lack, it’s the really juicy travel information, the personal stories about back alleys and brief encounters. TheTravelers’ Talesfills this gap with an series approach that’s all anecdotes, no directions.” Diversion
TRAVELERS’ TALES BOOKS
Country and Regional Guides America, Australia, Brazil, Central America, Cuba, France, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nepal, Spain, Thailand, Tibet, Turkey; Alaska, American Southwest, Grand Canyon, Hawai‘i, Hong Kong, Paris, Provence, San Francisco, Tuscany
Women’s Travel Her Fork in the Road, A Woman’s Path, A Woman’s Passion for Travel, A Woman’s World, Women in the Wild, A Mother’s World, Safety and Security for Women Who Travel, Gutsy Women, Gutsy Mamas
Body & Soul The Spiritual Gifts of Travel, The Road Within, Love & Romance, Food, The Fearless Diner, The Adventure of Food, The Ultimate Journey, Pilgrimage
Special Interest Not So Funny When It Happened, The Gift of Rivers, Shitting Pretty, Testosterone Planet, Danger!, The Fearless Shopper, The Penny Pincher’s Passport to Luxury Travel, The Gift of Birds, Family Travel, A Dog’s World, There’s No Toilet Paper on the Road Less Traveled, The Gift of Travel, 365 Travel, Adventures in Wine, Sand in My Bra and Other Misadventures, Hyenas Laughed at Me and Now I Know Why
Footsteps Kite Strings of the Southern Cross, The Sword of Heaven, Storm, Take Me With You, Last Trout in Venice, The Way of the Wanderer, One Year Off, The Fire Never Dies
Classics The Royal Road to Romance, Unbeaten Tracks in Japan, The Rivers Ran East, Coast to Coast, Trader Horn
TRAVELERS’ TALES ALASKA TRUESTORIES
TRAVELERS’ TALES ALASKA
TRUESTORIES
Edited by BiLL SHERWONiT, ANDROMEDA ROMANO-LAX AND ELLEN BiELAWSKi
Series Editors JAMES O’REiLLY AND LARRY HABEGGER
TRAVELERS’ TALES SAN FRANCiSCO
Copyright © 2003 Travelers’ Tales, Inc. All rights reserved. Introduction copyright © 2003 David Roberts
Travelers’ TalesandTravelers’ Tales Guidesare trademarks of Travelers’ Tales, Inc.
Credits and copyright notices for the individual articles in this collection are given starting on page 286.
We have made every effort to trace the ownership of all copyrighted material and to secure permission from copyright holders. In the event of any question arising as to the ownership of any material, we will be pleased to make the necessary correction in future printings. Contact Travelers’ Tales, Inc., 330 Townsend Street Suite 208, San Francisco, California 94107.www.travelerstales.com
Art Direction: Michele Wetherbee Interior design: Kathryn Heflin and Susan Bailey Cover photograph:© Steven Nourse/Getty Images. Aurora Borealis, Alaska Range. Page layout: Cynthia Lamb, using the fonts Bembo and Remedy Distributed by:Publishers Group West, 1700 Fourth Street, Berkeley, California 94710. Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
Travelers’ Tales Alaska : true stories / edited by Bill Sherwonit, Andromeda Romano-Lax, and Ellen Bielawski.— 1st ed. p. cm. ISBN 978-1-6095-2072-4 1. Alaska—Description and travel—Anecdotes. 2. Alaska—History, Local—Anecdotes. 3. Frontier and pioneer life—ALaska—Anecdotes. 4. Outdoor life—ALaska—Anecdotes. 5. Alaska—Biography —Anecdotes. 6. Travelers—Alaska—Biography—Anecdotes. 7. Adventure and adventurers—Alaska —Biography—Anecdotes. 8. Travelers’ writings, American. I. Sherwonit, Bill, 1950- II. Romano-Lax, Andromeda, 1971-III. Bielawski, E. F910.5 .T73 2003 917.9804'51'0922—dc22 2003014901
First Edition 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Who comes here, to this whiteness, this far and frozen place, in search of something he cannot name? Not wealth, it may be, but a fortune of the spirit, a freshness denied him in the place he came from.”
—JOHN HAINES, “Stories We Listened To” The Stars, The Snow, The Fire
Introduction DAdID ROBERTS
Sixty-Five JEFF FAIR
Surroune by Bears ED READICKER-HENDERSON
The Flyboys of Talkeetna JON KRAKAUER
Table of Contents
Part One ESSENCE OF ALASKA
Kayaking through a Timeless Realm of Rain, Bugs, an B.O. BARBARA BROWN
Eating Ewar Curtis at the Ugruk Café DANIEL HENRY
The Only Place Like This KATHLEEN DEAN MOORE
From Scratch SUSAN BEEMAN
The Great White Philharmonic TIM CAHILL
Woe Is Me IAN FRAZIER
Camping at Wal Mart ELLEN BIELAWSKI
Taking on the Kenai TOM DUNKEL
Hell Can’t Be Worse Than This Trail STEdE HOWE
Downtown Duel NANCY DESCHU
Point Retreat ERNESTINE HAYES
The Bloo of Fine an Wil Animals PAM HOUSTON
Part Two SOME THINGS TO DO
Part Three GOING YOUR OWN WAY
On the Pack Ice HEATHER dILLARS
In Go’s Back Yar NILES ELLIOT GOLDSTEIN
Seeking Paraise ANDROMEDA ROMANO-LAX
The Last Roa North PHILIP CAPUTO
Everything’s Oishi MIKE STEERE
Shot Tower DAdID ROBERTS
Hairy Man Lives BILL SHERWONIT
Part Four IN THE SHADOWS
Woul You Be, Coul You Be, Won’t You Be (an Why in the Hell Does Anyone Want to Be) My Neighbor? MIKE GRUDOWSKI
Leaving Lan Behin TOBY SULLIdAN
I Want to Rie on the Bus Chris Die In SHERRY SIMPSON
In the Giant’s Han NANCY LORD Index Index of Contributors
Recommended Reading
Acknowledgments
Part Five THE LAST WORD
Alaska: An Introduction by David Roberts
With six college friends, I first arrived in Alaska in June 1963, having driven a VW bus up the Alcan (not yet the Alaska Highway) in order to assault the then-unclimbed north face of Mt. McKinley (not yet Denali). As we started hiking at midnight across the tundra toward the Peters Glacier, I was one scared twenty-year-old. At the moment, there were many other places I would rather have been than Alaska. The gigantic, avalanche-swept mountain wall we had chosen to attack, I felt in my gut, would prove too much for the modest talents of our gang, trained as we were on the diminutive crags and gullies of New England. Thirty-five days later, as we staggered out of the wilderness, having not only climbed the Wickersham Wall but traversed over both summits of McKinley, I was hooked. Hooked on Alaska— though to be honest, it was Alaska’s mountains that had set the lure. For the next twelve years, I returned every summer, seeking out virgin faces and peaks all over the state. The sheer plenitude of untrodden glaciers and ridges in Alaska dazzled me; I felt like a classical scholar who had stumbled upon a cache of unknown scrolls. In 1967, we even got to name a whole range—the Revelation Mountains—that had never been explored. During those thirteen years, Alaska was by far the mostrealplace on earth for me. During the “off-season,” as I trudged through college, grad school, and a teaching career, I longed for the Alaskan ranges as a troubadour poet pined for his unattainable mistress. Yet never for a moment did I consider moving to the 49th state, as several of my alpinist cronies did. On the way in and out of the mountains, what I saw of Alaskan culture dismayed rather than enthralled me. A get-rich-quick opportunism seemed to dominate the sprawling burgs of Anchorage and Fairbanks. The bush was steeped in a frontier ethic, the resourceful pluck of the homesteader leavened by his provincialism. There was no ignoring the xenophobia that ran deep through Alaska’s boom-or-bust mentality, and the squalor and alcoholism that pervaded many an Inuit or Indian village that I visited seemed heartbreaking. In my ex cathedra take on Alaska I was, of course, acting like the Eastern snob I was sometimes accused of being. There was, I had to admit, as much provincialism and squalor in Boston or New York as there was in Alaska. Still, it was the Alaskan wilderness that spoke to me. Like most mountain climbers, the more passionate I was about new routes on unnamed peaks, the less curious I was about the cultural matrix that embraced that wilderness. It was only as my career as a climber started to taper off that I began to probe deeper into Alaska’s unique and puzzling history and culture. As the twenty-six narratives assembled in this beguiling collection testify, I was hardly alone in my response to Alaska. Again and again in these tales, it is the power and peril of the wilderness that the authors celebrate. The rare exceptions—Ellen Bielawski’s “Camping at WalMart” or Mike Grudowski’s mordant portrait of Whittier—only reinforce the centrality of wilderness in Alaskan life, by evoking parodic inversions of the myth of the limitless outback. This emphasis is not surprising. Alaska does indeed teem with some of the most magnificent and daunting back country on earth, on the edges of which a mere 627,000 inhabitants (55 percent of them nestled in Anchorage and Fairbanks) cling to their livelihoods. As a result, the literature of Alaska, unlike that of, say, Tuscany or Virginia, focuses almost obsessively on man’s (and woman’s) encounter with nature. Thirty years ago, Margaret Atwood, in a polemic calledSurvival,argued that Canadian literature would never come of age until it got over its preoccupation with adventurers battling the wilderness. As a feminist, Atwood saw this fixation as a predominantly male hang-up. At its core, “survival” was reduced for Canadian writers to a morally simplistic, anti-intellectual machismo. Does the same stricture hold for Alaska? I think this anthology of some of the freshest writing in recent years makes a strong case to the contrary. The classic Alaskan narratives of the first half of the twentieth century—works such as Belmore Browne’sThe Conquest of Mount McKinley, Charles Brower’sFifty Years Below Zero,and Robert Marshall’sArctic Wilderness—wove lyrical and heroic fantasias around the monotonic theme of an explorer or pioneer confronting the wilderness. In the present collection, in contrast, there are twenty-six different voices ranging, with a thoroughly postmodern sense of irony, across a dozen themes more ambiguous than survival or wilderness. And yet, inTraveler’s Tales Alaskalingers (as I would guess is true for very few other there places in the world) a fundamental choose-up-sides distinction between writers who live in the state