A few weeks ago, before I drove from Minnesota to Virginia in 21 hours and started teaching again and flew to London to give a conference talk and do research and then flew back to Minneapolis for Dave's 50th Birthday party and then drove up to northern Minnesota to be at the lake for a night and then flew back to Virginia to get back to teaching...I went to Alaska. Yes, it's been a bit hectic for me the past few weeks, but I wanted to share some photos from the trip. I was hoping to gain a story or two for the new book, and I wasn't disappointed.
I can't wait to write in the book about being on the tundra. The colors of the plants and berries, and the spongy feel--it's like nothing I've experienced before. By the way--this photo above--this is what was at our feet. You look down and you see this.
I have an old friend from my New Mexico years named Shane. He lives in western Alaska in a town of 6,000--which is the biggest town for hundreds of miles--in the middle of the Yukon Delta Wildlife Refuge. When Shane moved there 13 years ago, he knew nothing about hunting and fishing. But he's learned a lot, and he was kind enough to take us along.
We caught some salmon.
We shot some ducks.
And when I say "we," of course I mean Shane. Being in western Alaska means being in a subsistence culture, a culture that depends on the natural world to supply its food. I had a hard time watching the salmon flop around, spitting blood, until they died at our feet. And watching the ducks fall from the sky... really hard. But good. It's good to experience this, because obviously I--as we all do--kill every day to live. I just don't pull the trigger like Shane does.
We also went to Denali National Park. We were lucky to see the mountain clear all morning, as well as plenty of moose and half a dozen grizzlies.
The grizzlies did not scare me.
And now comes the fun part, where I get to write about this trip for the new book. The ground in Alaska, whether the western tundra or the central Denali area, is unlike any I've ever walked. And that is good. That's what I wanted.
I'm pretty much done with the research for the new book. My initial draft is due January 15, and let's just say I have quite a bit of writing to do between now and then. A lot of hard work. And in the final few weeks, it will be a mad rush of long winter days where I'll do nothing else for 16 hours except try to create a book worth reading.
I am lucky.