Travelogue, entry #1
1521 05MAR06 Juneau, Alaska, awaiting the arrival of flight 64 from Anchorage (delayed for mechanical reasons, they tell us, for about the next three hours. Good thing the scenery is spectacular and the weather is clear.)
It was apparent from all the necks craning towards the nearest window on the packed 737 that I was not the only person captivated with the fact that I was going to be landing in Alaska soon (as we landed, a woman near me sighed “home again”—I was instantly jealous).
My project manager dawdled for a while before giving me the go-ahead for going to Alaska, so when I made my airline reservation, my choice of seats was pretty grim. Nothing forward of the wings, no aisle or window seats remained. I settled on seat 24E. I am usually ambiguous about where I sit (I mean, no one likes the middle seat), but then I am usually not flying through such majestic scenery, either. I was almost heartened by the overcast forecast since I didn’t have a window seat. I managed to sneak some looks out the window over my snoozing neighbor though, and saw that it was clouds as far as the eye could see over northern Washington, and what I expect was British Columbia. After the beverage service, I looked up from my book and saw islands and what I thought were more clouds. When my eyes adjusted to the bright light, I saw that the clouds were in fact snow-topped peaks. Gorgeous. From there on, I stared out the window over the newspaper of my now awake neighbor. The snow-topped peaks stretched to the horizon and became increasingly jagged as we flew further north. One ridge I spotted looked to be inspired by a child’s drawing of pointy mountains. Sharp angles up and down, right in a row.
As I look across the airport parking lot, the coast range looms within what looks like walking distance, and there are wispy clouds around the lower mountains. Old snow is piled in the parking lot and along the roadways, and it’s about 35 degrees (my best guess).
The airport has six, count ‘em six, gates. This, I must admit, is five more than Platsburgh, New York, which I had the pleasure of flying into and out of last November. I got about fifteen steps past the gate, still orienting myself in a new airport when I realized I was already leaving the security area. I hadn’t yet passed the metal detectors, so I turned myself around, only to be met with an Air Force-type person who was sternly telling me to keep going out of the security area. And of course, even in a tiny airport, once you’re out of the security area, all the signage area is geared for those intending to leave the airport. I could have found baggage claim, ground transportation, and the cafeteria, but no signs for “all gates” or “ticketing” where I could have asked for directions. It took me a while to figure out that I just had to keep moving around the right-hand circle I had started to get back to the security checkpoint.
I wish I could jump on a local bus and take a quick tour of the city, but I don’t think that’s practical, so I guess I’ll just tour the stuffed animals again (a brown , polar and two black bears, a sheep, ptarmigans, a pair of spectacled eiders, a snowy owl and a green sturgeon) and then settle down with my book while I await my chariot.
Travelogue, entry #2
0800 06MAR06 Petersburg, Alaska
The clock radio in my hotel room receives two stations—both of them are NPR. And this is a red state?
For those of you waiting to be enlightened, Petersburg, Alaska is located in southeastern Alaska (the panhandle) at the northern end of Mitkof Island, which is located just to the southeast of the larger Kupreanof Island. It’s about halfway between Juneau and Ketchikan. From my window seat on the starboard side of the 737 from Juneau to Petersburg, I watched the sun set over a spectacular island and mountain setting, with the Pacific Ocean in the background, under a layer of low clouds. I am told that it was an exceptionally clear day for this time of year, and great for flying. Even the locals had glued their noses to the windows. With a few small exceptions, the islands are mountains, standing straight up out of the water. A pair of peaks I noticed actually curved slightly to the south, resembling The Grinch’s Mount Crumpet. The flight was maybe 30 minutes, just long enough for the flight attendants to pass out three ounce cups of orange juice and a bag of mixed pretzels. We got into Petersburg around 1730.
I was the only one of the three of us staying at said hotel that was up for some dinner, so I headed to one of the only places open at 1830 on a Sunday night in Petersburg, a place called Rooney’s Northern Lights. After dinner, I strolled down the main street, about three blocks long. I counted two bars, one convenience store (open until 2200), one grocery store, a drug store, a hardware store, two banks, a small handful of clothing/book/gift shops, two coffee shops and a quilting store. It was about 15 degrees. I could live here.
Driving to the office today, we saw seven Sitka deer (a relative of the Mule deer, they were feeding in front yards, not minding the green Suburban at all), harlequin ducks, and a sea lion. I am told that there are moose and bears on the island, and that the northern end of the island—where the Stevens Passage and Frederick Sound intersect, is a popular hang out spot for whales. The USFS folks say they’ll try to get us out there to take a look. Probably unwisely, I am holding my breath for a sighting. They’re forecasting snow today and tomorrow. The clouds are high, so I can see the local mountaintops, but I can’t see where the sun should be. Now I am settling down for my first meeting of the week.
Travelogue, entry #3
1315 05MAR06 Petersburg, Alaska
Looks like I won’t have the opportunity to try moose meat while I’m here, but on our way back from lunch, one of the FS guys stopped by his place and grabbed two packages of mountain goat jerky (sausage style – tasty!). He promised caribou for tomorrow.