Monday, July 25, 2005

Alaska Is Indeed Quite Different

Written from China Poot Bay, Alaska

Having been in Alaska nearly a month now on what is a comprehensive trip that is by no means over, I do have some impressions, and as a Californian they are not altogether positive. But I am enjoying the trip.

Global warming or not, this remains a very cool place in the summer, with a growing season so short that few fruits or vegetables grow here. Going to the weekly farmer's market in Homer the other day, virtually everything they had for sale had actually been grown in the Lower 48. It's like us buying fruit from Chile in the winter; it just doesn't taste the same. But the homegrown lingonberry jam was good.

This huge state, one fifth the size of the U.S. as a whole, has a population less than 800,000 still, and nearly half of those live in the Anchorage area. There is a saying in Anchorage, "Go 20 miles in any direction and you're in Alaska." In other words, the unpopulated bush is much more typical here than the cities.

I have yet to see either a moose or a bear. But the salmon are thicker than I had been led to imagine, and I probably will see bear and moose next week when I get to Denali.

This place not only has a short growing season, but even its trees don't look too wholesome in much of the state, and much of it is beyond the tree line, as the Aleutians are.

You can read that the glaciers are retreating. This is true, but there are still many glaciers that reach the sea and I've been seeing a lot of them. Alaska still has thousands of glaciers.

Another big volcanic eruption, like the Katmai in 1912, might even take care of the global warming for awhile by filling the atmosphere with aerosols and reducing the average temperature for three or four years at least. Then the glaciers would start advancing again.

Cariboo, buffalo, reindeer sausage and even musk ox are frequently on the menus here, and all are quite good.

It is not as expensive a state as I'd been led to believe. Food in the restaurants is certainly cheaper than Los Angeles as far as the top restaurants go.

Beware of assuming that the halibut you ship home will get there safely. I sent 67 pounds of halibut from Dutch Harbor to my daughter and close friends. The friends got their's, had a party last night, and assured me it was FABULOUS. But Fed Ex told my daughter they had lost her halibut for three days in the Oakland Airport and by the time they claimed they had found it, it was spoiled. I don't think I'm going to have to pay for that shipment.

Don't believe, by the way, all this talk about needing to make reservations everywhere you go during the high tourist season here. I haven't had any trouble finding places to stay, although the two wilderness lodges I'm staying in this week and next did have to be reserved months in advance, and I reserved a cabin on the state ferry to the Aleutians a year in advance.

The summer is so short, this is not a great state for the tourist businessmen and women, regardless of the summer visit surge. Many entrepreneurs are having trouble making ends meet.

Alaska is conservative, another example of the Mountain West. But, as readers of this blog know, that's fine by me


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Alaska is nice and conservative. So conservative that its citizens embrace the destruction of their own precious environment through oil drilling and other raping and pillaging of the land. And now with the Bushies in office, they have willing accomplices in Washington. Glad you're enjoying Alaska while you can--in another generation it won't exist in anything near the pristine state that you are seeing today. I am sure conservatives like you think that's just fine--you're so selfish that as long as you get to see it, who cares whether your grandchildren do?

7/27/2005 8:10 PM  

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