Monday, May 21, 2012

Day 158: Alaska – Too Much of a Good Thing


I’m tucked inside today on this beautiful afternoon in Seabeck. I have what I can vaguely diagnose as an Alaskan hangover. It’s not a typical kind of hangover, you know, like the kind you get from shooting vodka with your Russian neighbors or tequila with writer friends in San Miguel de Allende.

No, this hangover is one of overconsumption of the wild outdoors. It’s caused from too much fresh air, lack of routine, and 900 miles in an RV with 2 grandchildren, a daughter-in-law, a grown son, and a beagle puppy. Or maybe it’s from mountain vista overload, constant moose spotting, and bumping across waves at thirty knots on a halibut fishing charter operated by young men in their early twenties. I feel beat down from head to toe, and I kind of like it.

I flew into Anchorage on the 6th of May for a week with family. We had a great time, but I forget how much work camping with kids can sometimes be – or how a four year-old giggles half the night, or has potty accidents in your bed, or how loud a two-year-old can scream when she doesn’t get her way, or how much a new puppy piddles or chews on what he should not chew or piddle on, or how irritated even the most loving grandma may become when rattling along in 29ft of living space.

We did put some miracle miles on the RV, traveling to Wasilla for a little Sara Palin spotting. We didn’t see her, and we couldn’t see Russia from her house either. We traipsed in and out of museums, gawked awestruck at Portage Glacier, admired a fuzzy Kodiak cub at a wildlife refuge, and I became particularly enamored with a herd of muskox. Muskox are so damn cool.

We dropped down around Kenai to visit Aunt Barb, a lady I haven’t seen for nearly 30 years. Aunt Barb owns The Inn-Between, a bed a breakfast outpost. She offered me a southern-exposure room with lemon colored walls, downy pillows and a comfy bed, respite from sleeping in the back of the RV and sharing a bed with my 4-year old, giggling camping buddy. I accepted. My camping buddy was miffed to say the least.

Aunt Barb took us to visit Kassik’s Brew stop, a home-based brewery owned by her friends. One of my favorite cousins was already there, sipping a frothy Morning Wood IPA. I “tested” a Dolly Varden nut brown because I liked the name and the label. It reminded me of my fishing trip to Forks where I didn’t catch a steelhead but did catch and release an endangered Dolly Varden trout. Dolly is not endangered in Alaska, the fish nor the beer. The beer was intriguing, like nothing I’ve ever tested before, with hints of chocolate and caramel, dark and toasty, a fragrant blend of malt and hops. I’d love to make something like that at home. I’ll be off the brewery supply store soon.

The final tourist stop was in Seward at the sea-life center. Colton and Cheyenne fell in love with Woody, a 1,500lb sea lion. The kids weren’t crazy about the rest of the exhibits, shrieking and pulling their hands back when I tried to make them touch a starfish or feel the velvet tendrils of a sea anemone. Jellyfish behind glass frightened them, but both would have jumped into Woody’s tank given an unsupervised moment.   

While I did enjoy time spent with my son’s family, I have to say the very best day was after I dropped everyone off at the airport and made my way solo to Homer for a day of Halibut and Salmon fishing. Call me selfish, but I like traveling alone, doing whatever it is I want to do, stopping to enjoy scenes, and eating whenever and wherever I choose. Peaceful travel with others requires a tiring commitment to diplomacy. After a week attempting to please others, my diplomacy tank was empty.

Homer is a decent drive from Anchorage, about 225 miles, give or take. I broke the drive up by stopping off at the Inn-Between again for another evening with Aunt Barb & Uncle Mike. Reconnecting with friends and family has been one of the most beneficial and unexpected facets of my year-long killing spree. There is something so wonderful about slipping back thirty-years, back to the kid my aunt remembers, and enjoying the spoils and spoiling of my youth.

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