Up and Away: Journey to Alaska
After catching three flights, one only by running through the Chicago airport, and 15 hours of travel, I was caught off guard by one
of the most stunning views I have ever seen. I may just be saying most because I am at this very moment looking across white topped mountain peaks as far as I can see and not at this moment seeing the rest of the beautiful sights nature has offered me. Nevertheless, my brain is saying Wow. Spectacular.
My morning started with plopping a bacon duct tape-wrapped cooler (see picture) onto the baggage scale at the Logan airport. The United agent laughed approvingly of my choice in adhesive and asked me what was in the cooler. I told him “Empty tubes and petri dishes for collecting research samples.” He gave me an open-mouthed, tilt-headed confused look, so I followed up with, “Biology stuff.” He nodded with an “Ah” and slapped on a baggage sticker. I’ll lead with latter version next time. I asked if he thought I had enough tape on it, to which he replied, “Couldn’t hurt to add another layer of bacon.” Then I was off to wind through the security line maze and jump on the first flight of the day.
Weather systems across the states made for a great deal of turbulence while flying today. Between the bumpy ride and not sleeping for long last night (a mixture of anticipation and last minute packing), my stomach has taken refuge in my throat. I had booked window seats on the cheapest flight option taking me on the not so direct route from Boston, to Chicago, to Houston, to Anchorage.
To make the more interesting, each of my connecting flights had started boarding long before I was off of my previous flights. When I got into the Chicago airport, I was amused and horrified to find that my next flight was boarding in the next terminal over. I strapped my backpack on tight and started out on a light jog. When I switched planes in Houston, I was happy to see that my connecting flight was at the next gate over but initially a bit confused not to find other passengers lined up to board. I approached the gate, digging for my boarding pass, and the airline rep said “Are you Melissa Graham?” Hah! They shut the door behind me as I took my seat. I will never complain about a layover again.
Having already been sitting for 6+ hours, about to sit for another 7, and my stomach still not yet returned to my abdomen, I was grateful for some Dramamine, a good book (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) and a window to lean up on to go in and out of snoozing.
I would open the shade every once in a while to take peaks at where we were, mostly to find milky cloudy whiteness and a lack of a view, but sometimes plots of farm land, suburb communities neatly lined up with turquoise backyard pools, or curvy country roads carved out from surrounding forest greenery. I paused to take in the scenery, but usually went back to my book after a brief moment.
The pictures do not do it justice (as is often true of pictures). It doesn’t help that the only camera I have directly on me is my little iPod.
The difference between our structured, plotted towns and the chaos of a mountain range is astounding. I saw a shallow pool of water near the top of a peak and it was as clear and blue as the artificial turquoise swimming pools in the rigid suburbs. I didn’t know that color existed in nature, or at least I had never seen it with my own eyes (I am sorry I didn’t snap a pic). The distance that the chaos reaches out to is lost to my brain. At times when the sky is free of clouds corrupting my view, it is my own eyesight unable to bring the hazy mountains on the horizon into focus that prevents me from seeing more.
Spring is the reawakening of the natural world – trying to free itself after months of forced suspension. I can see it in the mountains. They look like they are trying to escape from their suffocating shroud of snow wherever they can: the high jagged peaks emerge from
snowy slopes and rivers in the ravines gain icy reanimation after being frozen in space. I keep being told that it has been a long winter and a late spring in Alaska this year generally. My bet is that most of these peaks do not ever feel the full relief of spring.