This is a difficult post to write.
To make it easier I followed Ernest Hemingway’s thoughts on how to write a novel, “Write one true sentence. Then follow it with more true sentences.” ( I believe I am paraphrasing.)
I have lived most of my life in Montana. External circumstances and my own personal drive pushed me to Augusta, Montana when I was 13 years old. I went without family.
Sunrise from the Sun River Winter Elk Range, January 2009.
I am not sure if I adopted Augusta, or if some of the great folks there adopted me, but most of my sunrises have been seen from the mountains and foothills of Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front. (Link to a taste of Montana's Rocky Mountain Front) Some call it, “America’s Serengeti,” although no Thompson’s gazelle flourish there.
I’ve always been a bit restless. Leaving Augusta frequently for Panama, Louisiana, Army, commercial diving, and other pursuits. In a year or so Augusta, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the people or Montana would beckon me back.
Not long ago, the restlessness returned. My feet wanted to move. My eyes wanted to see. My heart wanted experience.
Alaska had whispered in my ear for decades, but I had remained away. Now, I was going.
Southeast Alaska in general and Wrangell, Alaska in particular.
Kunk Creek, Etolin Island, SE Alaska, August 2009.
Very different the two. Augusta, Montana receives about 14 inches of precipitation per year; Wrangell about 80. Hiking along a stream in either place is similar. Trees are much the same--predominantly conifers and deciduous bushes between. Although, there are many more and they are more thickly packed in SE Alaska. Visibly the streams are mirrors. Clear water churns over boulders and gravel. Tails of Montana trout compare favorably with tails of Alaska salmon and trout.
The water’s taste is the biggest difference. Montana’s small amount of water picks up more minerals and seems to age as it makes its run. SE Alaska’s unrelenting runoff can’t tarry, and most of it tastes as it left the glacier.
Ford Creek, Lewis and Clark National Forest, Montana, April 2009.
Those few who are foolish enough to farm near Augusta know what Montana’s prehistoric glaciers left behind--thin soil and lots of coarse gravel and rock. And yet, the same expanse of open prairie and foothills nourishes cattle, elk and ghosts of bison.
Haystack Butte, or Shishequaw Mountain as known by Native Americans when Meriwether Lewis saw it in 1805, May 2009.
SE Alaska has no prairie, and its foothills drop straight into lakes, rivers and saltwater.
Flying into Virginia Lake, Tsongas National Forest, SE Alaska, November 2009
I have asked, “How can a cowboy from Montana navigate the waters of SE Alaska?”
While the two seem to talk a different language, I hear the same tones. People of both places are workers. Many don’t have the niceties of the city. They do without and plug away. They give up money for a slower, more human existence. They follow Thoreau, living in smaller homes so they can enjoy the “real world.”
This blog will document some of what I find in SE Alaska. Like Augusta, I came here without family. My wife will join me in a few months--it has already been four.
From what I have seen so far, I may see the rest of my sunsets from SE Alaska.