June 22, 2002

From the land of the midnight sun

[note: it's remarkably hard to get email access in the middle of the
wilderness. even hard in the cities sometime. i'm at an rv park and they're
nice enough to let me use their phone line with my computer.]
[i've uploaded a whole series of pictures to
http://groups.msn.com/mblain/northtoalaska.msnw . someday i'll have a nice
narrated version here. ]

Subj: Land of the midnight sun.
Time: 12 midnight, june 17th, 2002
Place: Eagle Trail State Recreation Site near Tok, Alaska.

Right now I'm sitting in my tent writing this message. It's just before
midnight. The sun set an hour ago or so, and now it's gotten about as dark
as a typical winter afternoon in Seattle. This is the furtherst north we've
gotten so far, and it's getting closer and closer to the
solstice--apparently about four weeks 'til it gets dark again.

There are some clouds around. Not too many, the weather has been wonderful
and clear and sunny. But mosquitos. WE've finally gotten far enough north
that the mosquitos are numerous, large, and mildly desparate. And they work
24 hours a day.

We entered Alaska for the third time today. Maybe it's the stamps on my
passport, but they decided to search the car, rifling through things a bit
and bringing out a dog. A bit different from the last border
crossings--friendly into Canada near Vancouver, nothing into the US at
Hyder, AK, nothing and nobody going into or leaving Canada just north of
Hyder (then again, there's not exactly much there either), the usual
questions at Canadian customs returning from Stweart (presumably there to
stop alchohol importation), a simple ID check back into the US near Skagway,
and normal questioning again going back into Canada north of Haines.

Then again, maybe the customs people are stir crazy. Most everyone in Canada
seems to be, especially in the very small towns. Having to drive 180 miles
just to see a first run movie could drive you that way, and that's some of
the closer towns.

In Alaska the solution is merely to drink. The small towns all have a few
bars where the people are friendly and seem to be having a good time.
Perhaps they're doing better economically, so they can get out when they
need to.

By this point (6/21) it's the summer solstice. It's actually a sad holiday
for Alaska, because it means that soon the long sunny days will be coming to
an end. The weather has also turned a bit for this trip, to typical Alaska
weather, much like what you would expect in Seattle at this time of
year--cloudy, occasional drizzle, close in visibility. It's not so bad to
stop things, but I don't expect to really get to see Denali or the other big
mountains best seen from far away.

Anchorage is a place where you can see Denali. Well, at least on a clear day
like those before we actually arrived here. Anchorage reminds me of St.
Louis more than anywhere else I've been. There is a grid of four or more
lane streets with randomly timed traffic lights. Traffic moves in all
directions at most times. The streets are largely anonymous, with the
omnipresent institution being Alaska Federal Credit Union instead of
Schnucks or Walgreens. Everything was probably built in the 60s or newer,
probably much newer.

Tomorrow we head north towards Denali and/or Fairbanks and/or Nenana, where
an autocross is taking place this weekend. Perhaps I will get to compete in


P.S. The autocross was canceled, so the Nenana airport was completely empty.

Posted by MBlain at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2002

The road to Alaska

Well, I'm off again. This time instead of the warm tropical rainforests of
Southeast Asia, it's the cool temperate rainforests of Alaska. Today we
went up the inside passage on the Queen of the North, to Price Rupert in
British Columbia. It's beautiful forest along the narrow passage, but oddly
enough all the animals appear to be in hiding. Some eagles, and maybe a bear
on the shore. Tomorrow we continue by land, up through north western British
Columbia, the Yukon, and onto central Alaska.

Posted by MBlain at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)