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where the sun never sets

July 17, 2012

In Col’s kindergarten classroom there was this landform model where if you poured a cup of water onto the land, you could watch it flow down the drainages and into the ocean. I keep thinking of that here, how it’s like someone is pouring water into Alaska, except the cup never empties. The mountaintops wear wreaths of clouds. The moisture tumbles into the earth until the plants are so green, they look like living rain. The water spills into creeks and rivers and oceans. The plants exhale mist and it feels like the best thing that ever happened to your skin, your hair, your eyes. The green here is like the wild and fanciful dream of someone perishing of thirst in the desert.

juvenile bald eagles

After awhile you get slightly desensitized to the bald eagles, the never-setting sun, and even the steady drizzle. “I’m a little suspicious about that dead seagull,” Col mentions, which I believe means he’s a little curious. “Me too,” Rose pipes in, “I’m a little mysterious about it.”

The seagulls, like the sun, never sleep, and when I crawl out of our tent at 3am to pee, I can hear the seagulls screaming, dragging fish heads across the sand while the sun, instead of setting, has simply swung around the top of the the world to northeast.

We went salmon fishing with Dan’s brother, Cory, who lives here in Anchorage. Unlike Colorado, where everyone’s secretive about their honey hole of a hunting spot, here, the fishermen (and women and children), line up shoulder to shoulder, dip-nets poised to catch the spawning salmon wriggling upstream. Along the beach are over a hundred tents, pull-behinds and campers. The kids frolic in the vast sandbox of the beach. The tough Alaska kids go shoeless in the fierce, bone-bruising wind and just as you sigh in relief when the wind dies down, the biting bugs flare up. “If it’s not the wind or the rain, than it’s the mosquitos; it’s always something in Alaska,” someone says at fishing camp.

Col and Rose loved the beach. They buried their boots and each other, marveled at the changing tides, and collected beautiful shells and rocks. The four of us slept in a 3-person tent, crawling in at some undetermined, ridiculously light hour and fell asleep amidst barking dogs, campfire story-telling, kids riding dirt bikes across the dunes and seagulls arguing over fish guts. Somehow it was the best sleep I’ve had camping in a long time.

“They’re very patient,” Rose said about the people who spent the day wading in the cold waters, waiting for a salmon to tangle into their net. 

Col LOVED riding in the boat, watching Dan, Cory and Ben pull salmon from their nets. But most of all he loved the seals, also out in the water catching salmon.

Col and Rose’s new friends. “Ruthie is my best friend in Alaska,” Rose said.

Dan’s bro, Cory, filleting salmon back in the emerald green of Anchorage.

Camping with us was the grandfather of Cory’s friend Ben. Like Dan, Grandpa Mike makes bows and other primitive tools. He kept pulling new delights out of his van. “Wanna see my fire pistons?” he’d ask Dan.

Fire pistons: ancient device used to kindle fire.

Grandpa Mike’s homemade atlatl, which he killed a moose with at 10 yards.

Cory and his wife, Elena, have a sweet urban homestead with goats, rabbits, chickens, honeybees and ducks. We’re not going to talk about how they eat their bunnies, but hey look at those cute goats!

This is what 9pm looks like in Alaska. And I’m the goofy tourist who’s shouting up and down the block, “9pm! Look at the sun! Can you believe this is 9pm!”

That 9pm sun was the first real unfettered sun we had.

xo,

Rachel

ps: Giveaway winners for the book, Wild, From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, announced on original post.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. July 17, 2012 2:12 am

    Hello from Alaska to you visiting Alaska. It was fun seeing Alaska through your eyes. We are going dipnetting this weekend. Enjoy the rest of your time here.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      July 19, 2012 12:10 am

      I hope your dipnetting went well. I can’t believe people (like you!) actually live here in this amazing place.

  2. July 17, 2012 8:22 am

    When I was age 2-4 we lived in the Ozarks of Missouri. In a quest to visit the place that put me on my nature loving path, my husband and I returned a few years ago, and tracked down the property my father had owned through county records. I stood in the stream I had played in when I was 4, and I was continually astounded by the green everywhere. You don’t eek out a garden there, you hack down the other vegetation to make way for one, and don’t stop moving or a vine will grow over your foot. And the bugs. OMG. I had been toying with the idea of “could I live here again” and the answer was a big no. The west has spoiled me with it’s relatively tame insect life. But the word that kept ringing through my head over and over while we were there was fecund. I’m a bit jealous of your trip. Sounds like you are having a wonderful time, and Rose looks so grown up. Eat my share of Salmon for me.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      July 19, 2012 12:11 am

      I know. I feel like the Mountain West is a pleasing balance of everything. xo.

  3. July 17, 2012 9:00 am

    Fabulous. Thank you for the glimpse into your vacation. That salmon looks amazing!

  4. ike permalink
    July 17, 2012 10:59 am

    Great pictures, they capture Alaska and your experiences very well.
    Looking forward to tasting some of that salmon on our next Durango trip.
    Baba

  5. July 17, 2012 11:11 am

    You guys look right at home here.

  6. Jessica permalink
    July 17, 2012 2:20 pm

    I went to Alaska on a trip as a kid and it’s one of my best trip memories from my childhood. It’s so awesome that Col and Rose get to experience such great adventures.

    I could eat salmon for every meal, every day. Your catch looks delicious! Have a fabulous trip.

  7. July 18, 2012 6:46 am

    oh, rach! i love it! i am missing you very, extra muchly down here and am so happy to get to see some of yer adventure as it’s unfolding. sending love love love. xo

  8. July 18, 2012 9:24 am

    miss you guys! what an amazing place – wonder if they make black-out tents…

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      July 19, 2012 12:16 am

      Julia, lets market it and make a million. xo

  9. Emily permalink
    July 18, 2012 7:33 pm

    I feel so silly! I just called you asking about peaches when I should have been asking about Sun and Salmon! Dan’s brother is his twin??? I’m so glad for you and the family to be together like that in the lushness of another wonderland. Having fun just thinking about your adventures : )

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      July 19, 2012 12:18 am

      Emily, we leave Friday and I’m already thinking about the peach stands we’ll encounter on our way home from the Grand Junction airport. Because, even though it’s salmon season here in Alaska, it’s peach season somewhere else. xo ps: will look into hush hush K Orchards.

  10. July 19, 2012 5:29 pm

    i just ate this post up. thank you for sharing this grand adventure!! made me smile as i sip beer in some quiet that is happening before dinner. and made me excited for the trip we are taking in a couple weeks, not to alaska, but still a trip! involving ocean even. and you inspired me to write about it DURING the trip. how else to capture it? i will attempt to do that!! so fun.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      July 25, 2012 11:42 am

      Yes, do write about it during your trip. Take secret little notes when no one’s watching. Enjoy!

  11. July 23, 2012 2:40 pm

    wow, so you got a new camera then? so glad you did (or borrowed one, however you got these beautiful photos). it’s fun to see extended family. that grandpa mike is badass- most people don’t know what atlatl even is, much less know how to use it much less ACTUALLY use it to bring home a moose. that is cool.

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