Alaska dreams

Note to Readers of My Journal: On Friday, the company hosting my web site migrated the site to a new server. This usually does not cause any issues. However, the move required that I change the address and route for the contents of my site when I uploaded new content. I made a couple of mistakes in the process in the middle of the night between Friday and Saturday and the update to my journal didn’t make it to the site until Saturday evening. There are some other problems with the site, which I know how to fix, but it takes time. In the meantime, we are scrambling to prepare our new house. The furniture and household goods will be moved on Friday of this week and we had general cleaning and painting to do. Add to that the rain that is making it more difficult to move items in our open pickup and I got a bit overwhelmed. I’m sorry for the inconvenience this caused. With your patience, the entire site should be up and running and also be being published from a new address to a new, faster web server within a week or so. In the meantime, I’ll keep the journal up to date for those who read it daily.

I invest a bit of time and emotional energy dreaming about new projects and opportunities and adventures that might lie in my future. Plans are frequently changed, and not everything I can imagine is practical, but exercising my imagination has led to some wonderful experiences in my life and I expect that there are many more adventures in my future. One of the adventures about which I have thought quite a bit over the years is a trip to Alaska. The massive size of the state and its incredible natural beauty are attractive to me. I dream of seeing glaciers and mountains and wildlife. I also am attracted by the trip. We love to travel and a place that is so far away that it takes weeks of driving and exploring is an adventure we think we will one day undertake.

However, so far that trip has not become a reality. Our adventure for our first year of retirement was a trip to South Carolina to see our daughter and to take her some items that had been in storage with us when they lived overseas. It was a grand trip and we had a wonderful time. But it meant we didn’t have time for Alaska this year, which was a good thing because restrictions on travel to and from Canada due to the pandemic meant that it would not have been a good year to undertake the drive.

Still I watch and read and learn.

Part of what we would like to see in Alaska is Denali National Park and Preserve. The focal point of the park is America’s tallest mountain and the park is home to brown bears and wolves and caribou and dall sheep and other creatures. Visiting the park is an adventure itself. The park has a 92-mile gravel road that winds up and over several mountain passes before dead-ending at an old mining community at its western end. Most visitors to the park camp at or near the park entrance and reserve a ride on one of the park buses to make the trip into the center of the park. Because of the need for advance reservations, it is entirely possible that the weather could be bad on your chosen day to visit. It could be raining, or even snowing, and the mountain might be obscured in clouds. It is a risk that one has to take. Some visitors spend extra money to book a flight over the mountain on a different day in hopes that one of the two days will afford a photo opportunity.

The best time to visit Denali is generally late June through the end of September. The road is closed most of the year because of heavy snowfall. However, this year the road closed early, in August, and park managers have announced that it will not be open at all in 2022. The closest you can get to the park by driving is the park entrance.

There is little doubt that the closure is the result of human-caused global warming. About half way up the road, near Polyhchrome Pass, an underground glacier has moved 300 feet of road bed down the hill. The slide is called by the acceleration of an underground rock and ice glacier. In previous years, the glacier moved slowly and park officials could have tons of gravel poured on the road bed and compact it as the side of the mountain slowly slid. However global warming has accelerated the pace of movement and truckloads of gravel are no longer the solution. Park officials have proposed a $53 million bridge to span the moving section of the mountain. Funding for the road is part of the infrastructure bill proposed in the US Congress. At times it seems as if progress on the funding proposal is as slow as travel on the Denali road - halted.

Alaskans have mixed feelings about global warming. At the same time as most residents of the state are aware of the impact of climate change on their key industries of fishing and tourism, they are also heavily dependent upon revenue from petroleum drilling. One of their sources of income is threatening another source of income. It is understandable that Alaskans would like to keep both streams of revenue flowing, but such is not sustainable. Choices will have to be made. And some of those choices will not be popular for politicians, who are more dependent upon donations from the petroleum industry than dollars from tourism and fishing.

The argument is enough to get me to think about the amount of petroleum that I would have to consume in order to drive to Alaska. It will be some time before driving an electric vehicle will be possible for the remote areas with long distances between services. It is entirely possible that our dreamed-of trip to Alaska will need more dreaming to consider alternate ways of travel. I guess it is a good thing that we are delaying our trip while park officials and Congresspeople and Alaskans ponder the choices that lie before them.

Taking time to consider options can yield new possibilities and new ideas about how to solve problems. Perhaps slowing down and considering new options is just what is needed at this point in our history. One of the dilemmas of wild and scenic places is that the scenery means that people want to visit, but too many visitors threatens to make the place less wild. A balance needs to be struck between access and remoteness. In the case of Alaska it is clear that what we will see and experience when we visit in the future will be different than what was seen and experienced by those who visited a few years or a few decades ago.

For now, I’ll keep dreaming a a big trip. There is considerable pleasure and joy in exercising my imagination and making plans that may or may not come to pass.

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