I got home to Colorado three weeks ago. I spent ten days at home, helping Sirius transition, unpacking and packing, and (best of all besides my family), got to run the Bolder Boulder. I wasn’t in great shape for it, but it’s one of my favorite things to do at home, and I felt lucky to be able to do it this year, especially considering my schedule for research. The day after the Bolder Boulder, I got up bright and earlier, caught a plane to Seattle, and another plane to Anchorage.
I haven’t been to Washington in a year and a half, and while I didn’t get to leave the airport, just being in Seattle felt wonderful. I feel lucky to have such a strong connection with Washington, in spite of the relatively short period of time that I spent there. I love being there every time – I love recognizing the place that I got off the plane last year, love the crazy people running around the airport, the plethora of coffee shops, and the diversity of that airport. I love that they have Native art, and some sort of crazy 1920s sculpture along the people-mover. It’s a pretty sweet airport, and while I was ready to leave by the time my flight (delayed out of Houston) finally got to the gate, I was still happy to hang out there for a while. In the midst of sitting there, however, I also got to think about the fact that I had to leave my dog behind, feel incredibly guilty about that (he’s with my parents, so he’s fine, but it’s hard, you know? And he’s been my constant companion for a year, so it’s tough suddenly being alone!), and realize that we’d both be fine.
I arrived in Anchorage pretty late, and the weirdest thing about it was that it was so light out. Obviously – it’s summer in Alaska, so the sun is up much later than it is further south. It is, I’ve decided, one thing to know this, and another thing to experience it. It’s incredibly strange, because you can be tired from traveling, tired from hiking, tired from whatever, and still feel utterly and completely awake. The circadian rhythms in your body that would normally tell you to go to sleep just seem dulled, even when you’re tired. That being the case, eating dinner at 8:00 pm seems totally normal. And eating at Orso at 8:00 pm is even better. I highly recommend their cocktails; I had their elderflower martini, but also got to taste their fireweed and blood orange martinis, both of which were excellent. They have amazing (Alaskan-caught, of course) fish, as well as other surf and turf (and American-Italian) options. I also highly highly recommend their crispy ravioli. Just in case you were wondering.
The other thing about Alaska is that, while you can totally be prepared for the scenery, it’s absolutely stunning. I haven’t uploaded my pictures to my computer yet, so I won’t have any just yet, but the thing is – I grew up in a place with incredible scenery; I grew up in a place with some of the tallest mountains in the US, and still my breath was completely taken away by the scenery in Palmer, and now in Kodiak. It’s utterly gorgeous, and raw in a way that it really isn’t almost anywhere else. In Palmer (just outside of Anchorage, where I stayed with my close friend from college), it’s very mountainous. The peaks might only be 5,000′-7,000′ tall (and considering my house is close to 6,000′ at home, this normally wouldn’t be impressive), but they rise from sea level, so they look incredible. They also still have a good bit of snow on them, lending them the particular air of being far north. I got to play around at Hatcher Pass and the Independence Mine, both of which were beautiful. We also spent some time biking into Palmer and seeing some of the sites there (I recommend Fireside Books for a cute bookstore, and the Palmer deli or Vagabond Blues for coffee and sandwiches), as well as spending a little bit of time at their Friday Fling (farmer’s market, etc).
I flew into Kodiak on Saturday afternoon; Kodiak is an island community settled near Prince William Sound, and if you eat salmon, cod, halibut, or crab from Alaska, you can bet that it might have come from here. There are other fishing communities in Alaska, obviously, but this is a pretty major one. Kodiak is a pretty small community (only about 6,000 people in all), but it’s a cute (if a bit strange) town. It’s got an amazing view of the ocean (from many sides), gorgeous beaches, and some amazing trails. People come up here to travel; they watch whales, view bears, and many people come up here to charter-fish. I’m up here for many reasons, not the least of which is for research. I’m interested in how human communities interact with marine resources, how they depend on them, and how these interrelationships manifest and change based on new circumstances. Long term, I’m interested in understanding how fishing communities respond to and recover from oil spills; getting up here was partially beneficial for getting me into a far northern fishing community to make sure I was truly interested, and to make sure I could hack it in a place like this. So far, I’m loving it.
Kodiak is a lot like western Washington in the scenery department – there are gorgeous pines, smaller deciduous trees, lots of moss, and of course, rain. The beautiful thing about the summer weather (at least so far), is that the rain comes in, and then passes through, leaving it sunny and clear behind. There might be several of these storms a day, but nothing (again, so far) like the persistent grey of Walla Walla. I’m hoping this makes it more pleasant for me to be up here for the month, but even if it gets grey, let’s face it – I’ve seen enough sunshine in Arizona to last me a good long time!
My research is getting underway, and while I’m still scared to approach people and (mostly) to be rejected, it’s getting easier. People here seem incredibly willing to help, and it’s easy to talk to people here, because I have friends here, and I’ve lived in places similar to this. It’ll be a whole different kettle of fish (literally and figuratively) when I head down to Alabama. I’m looking forward to it, and to the rest of this month getting to know the people and the area!