While the beauty of Alaska is obvious, I was also taken by the real beauty of the people who live there. Many of the residents are natives, but repeatedly we met folks who went to Alaska to visit and never left. Their stories are as varied as they are similar.
A young woman – 30ish? – grew up in Texas and went up to visit 10 years ago. During the summer months she works in a shop that sells fine jewelry, scarves, and fur-lined gloves. Then she returns to her homestead in Homer, AK for a few weeks before getting on a boat to help process and can salmon. Her family thinks she’s crazy but she loves it.
Our bus driver and guide in Denali, another woman, lives in a 10’x12’ dry cabin and drives during the tourist season. She’s also a trained culinary chef, “. . . one of my other passions.” In the winter she’s a personal chef catering to those with special dietary needs – like cancer patients. She was another transplant, from Pennsylvania, I believe. (This is a picture of some of the mountains in Denali National Park. We never saw Mt. Denali herself. She’s so large she creates her own weather pattern and she kept herself shrouded in clouds that day. She would have dwarfed these mountains.)
Another of our drivers came up on a whim with a bunch of guys “. . . and four of us stayed.”
It’s not only their sense of adventure and both self and intra-reliance that impresses, it’s their sense of humor and their creativity. It’s evident in their self-deprecating stories and how they celebrate and welcome the unusual ~ in this photo that looks like trees, the second from the left standing alone is actually a house someone has been building for years. The guide on our train said it’s known as the Dr. Seuss House because that’s what it resembles. The guy has never lived there and he was ordered to stop adding to it, it’s 200 ft. or so, or he’d have to add a light at the top to alert pilots of its presence.
This one is another from the train ride, someone’s idea of humor out in the middle of nowhere.
The sense of strength, humor and whimsy is also seen in their public art.
Here is a glimpse of the art around Fairbanks, Skagway, and Juneau.
These are a couple from Fairbanks. The first is the top of a fence around a parking lot. The second is a street grate with birch leaves.
These are from Skagway. The top one depicts the skyline and sits at the ground of the “Welcome to Skagway’ sign. I didn’t all the figures climbing up the mountains until tonight when I uploaded here. The one below is one of many in different cities that honor the gold panning, mining, and exploring in Alaska.And these are from the capitol, Juneau. This is actually the shadow cast by the fencing along the pier. One can see the homage to the native tribes of Alaska with the totem pole design.
Star fish are cast out of the sea and on to these benches.
And salmon fly in the air.
While I took loads of scenery photos, I was just as likely to take pictures of the local art. I think public art reflects the mind and spirit of the people and the cities they live in.