After ten years of transitioning between remote locations and cities very quickly I have grown used to this variety of culture shock . . . or so I thought. It has become a point of pride. . “Denali to Boston? No problem!” “The Cascades to St. Andrews? Sounds good to me!” “The Brooks Range to New York? . . . Alrighty.” I’m as flexible as Gumby.
Since Christmas I have been up in Denali Park in my quiet cabin or out on the trail, rarely being in the presence of more than three people at a time . . . But yesterday after driving 6 hours, (spending the final two in traffic behind a 15 car pileup on the Glenn!!!) I arrived in Anchorage. The Iditarod starts on the 6th and I’ll be helping out in the village of Nikolai, which we fly to via Alaska’s big, scary city. . . AHHHHHHnchorage. My past experiences in Anchorage have been very confusing and as brief as possible.
I parked at a grocery store to buy a few things for Iditarod, stepped out of the car and froze. The traffic, the noise, the people . . . instead of curling up in a ball on the ground I forced myself to march into the store, heart pounding, and locate carrots, apples and granola bars (and promptly forgot everything else on my list). I was completely dazed by the endless aisles and baffling set up and millions of choices.
Notwithstanding my desire to jump in my car and leave the big city as soon as possible, I wouldn’t have gotten very far. Here’s an article about the 70 car crashes in the city the day I drove in. (Don’t worry, I made it through without a scratch although I did get to sit on the highway for 2.5 hours while the pileup was cleared) http://www.adn.com/article/20160304/anchorage-police-15-vehicle-crash-glenn-highway-over-50-accidents-reported-friday
Apparently, I may not be immune to city-shock after all. I somehow managed to stay put in the city for a whole fourteen hours before flying out to McGrath to get to Nikolai. The first half of the flight was in the clouds, but for the second half the weather cleared and we could see the Alaska Range give way to the western flats.
It was great to arrive at McGrath! Everyone waves if they are driving by and, if you cross paths with a stranger, they immediately introduce themselves and don’t stay a stranger for long.
One of the first other volunteers I met happened to be a fellow thru-hiker! We walked around town and took in the sites.
Tomorrow we fly to Nikolai (pop. 97) where the mushers should arrive on Tuesday. Nikolai is a subsistence community that is tied to Denali Park.
(River Ice Clock )
(Where us volunteers are staying tonight)
Someday it’ll be good to be back in a city, but for now village life in Alaska is pretty great.
I just launched a GoFundMe campaign for the Sedna Epic Expedition to the Northwest Passage that I will be joining this summer. Check it out here to learn more: https://www.gofundme.com/u7xquw !! Even small donations will go a long way! For your support a range of rewards are listed on the site.