Saturday, March 24, 2007

The driven snow

I am a lousy driver. Terrible. I don't even try to pretend otherwise. We make a (half)-joke about it around our house; Miles would probably insist on driving us instead of me even if his feet were gnawed off by lynxes. I'm not really sure why I'm so bad other than, as my father told me my entire teenage life, my head is always in the clouds. It's why I can't listen to books on tape - a funny-looking person will walk across the street and I'll spend the next 15 minutes thinking about him and next thing I know, I have no idea what the author is talking about. I'm the one who drove my dad's Mercedes through a fence around the corner of our house eight days after I got my license. That was the start of a brilliant career.

So imagine everyone's surprise when it turns out that I could really handle a Ski-doo snowmachine through the tundra! It was rocky for all of us at first, inching along at 15 or 20 mph for a while, but by the time Miles, our friend/innkeeper Karen and I were through with our 65-mile roundtrip jaunt, I was booking at 50+ mph in some spots and even FLYING over bumps just for effect. (Random Vegas connection: Ski-doos are manufactured by Bombardier, the same folks who built the parts-shedding Las Vegas Monorail. Nothing fell off on our trip.)

It wasn't just exhilarating -- and, for some reason, body-tiring -- but sensationally beautiful. In the winter, the massive rivers north of Anchorage are like wide open, white highways of thick ice. It was mind-bending to imagine that in a couple of months, the rivers will be back. I did have a close call with a wooden post, but otherwise we came through it all intact. We drove out 30 miles to a little cabin where a family out of Deliverance lives and served us up a delicious little meal of burgers, though we're not real sure what sort of meat it was. The house could only be reached by boat, snowmobile or small planes that land on the frozen river. The family out there even had a foster son, a teenager. I'm trying to imagine how the caseworker even got to this place for the home visit. No threat of the kid going bad out here, tho.

Sadly, we've worn out our camera battery and didn't bring the charger. So the Nikon did not cooperate when we saw two majestic bald eagles perched on a branch along the route. Our guide, Craig, from Alaska Backcountry Adventure Tours, told Miles to take the battery out of the camera and put it somewhere warm -- a pant pocket or something -- and it would get a little charge back. He was right, so we got just these couple of shots shown here.

The other bad news is that despite nearly a week in Alaska, somehow the ubiquitous moose have eluded us. We've seen loads of moose tracks -- or at least that's what they tell us they are -- but no moose. Another thing we haven't -- and won't -- see... igloos! Except in today's newspaper, where this appeared, appropriately:

Today's a quiet day after Thurs and Fri were big-adventure days. Sunday, we fly to Juneau so I can see the state capitol, one of my obsessions. Hopefully we can put that battery somewhere, uh, warm, so we can get enough juice to snap my image there. Yes, I'm a dork.