May 31, 2014

Downsizing (Again)

“There is always a sadness about packing. I guess you wonder if where you're going is as good as where you've been.” 
-Richard Proenneke

I spent today packing. Don't worry! I'm not leaving Alaska just yet, but I felt the need to downsize once again. Right now I have a duffel bag and a ruck sack holding all my earthly possessions, which doesn't sound like much but I've been wondering lately (especially after hauling the bags through airports all the way to Alaska), how much stuff do I really use?

Do I need six shirts when I only really wear three? How about pants? Two leggings, two shorts, two khakis and a pair of jeans. I think I could cut that in half and be fine. I'm even thinking of sending my laptop back to the folks in New Hampshire, since I have my kindle and do most web based activities on that right now, although the laptop makes job hunting much easier so I may opt to keep it for now.

After packing what I see as the bare necessities into my ruck sack I even have room left over for odds and ends like food or shampoo should it come to that. Without my laptop it weighs about 13lbs and is a little over ¾ full, though I'm planning a few extra lbs for last minute can't-live-without stuff.

I had to downsize a lot to fit into the Jetta and then even more when I went to New Orleans, but I'd like to get to the point where everything I need fits on my back. Maybe this summer will give me the push I need.  

May 30, 2014

Summer On The Yukon

“We got so much food in America we're allergic to food. Allergic to food! Hungry people ain't allergic to shit. You think anyone in Rwanda's got a fucking lactose intolerance?!” 
-Chris Rock

It's almost June here in Alaska and the weather is beautiful. If it weren't for the small hills around the camp I know I could see the sky go on forever, especially on days like this with light blue skies and the occasional puffy white cloud that takes the whole morning to work its way from one end of the horizon to the other. When I got here on May 15th the nights were still a little chilly and there were even a few days that might have been jacket worthy had I been less stubborn. While it might not be swimming weather yet, summer has definitely arrived on the Yukon River and, though I hear that there's still snow on the ground in Coldfoot, 120 miles north, we wake up each morning to new leaves and greenery that wasn't there when he went to bed.

Along with the changing season has come two new challenges. The first is allergies, which I normally don't have but it seems I have in abundance up here in Alaska. After a week of my eyeballs hurting all the time that symptom finally subsided and was replaced by breathing trouble. Every day I wake up with no voice and an elephant sitting on my chest and it takes at least three cups of honey lemon tea and gargling with salt water to sound like I'm not on helium. I'm hoping that this will also only last a couple weeks. The second challenge is the misquotes which I've been told will begin the bug season as slow and ineffective Buicks and end as deadly Mini Coups. I like to believe that after a summer in North Hero Vermont I have seen the worst mosquito infestation of my life, but the folks here are making me a little nervous. They ever outfitted my bed with a super duper bug net which I hope will be more effective than the duct tape someone has used to seal every whole and vent in my room.

I'm being delightfully lazy up here, working my serving shifts and spending the rest of my day reading and writing and planning. I wasn't expecting to make tips but in the past two weeks I've brought in about $300, which anywhere else might be scoffed at but here at the top of the world, with the fishing and tourist seasons barley started, it's a welcome surprise. The problem I'm now facing is that I need to pay bills and, while I'm holding a wad of cash, there's no money in my bank account. I won't get a paycheck until next week and, because I'm far from civilization, I then need to mail that check to my bank who will deposit it which could take a few more weeks. I figure that if making a bill payment is the worst of my worries than I'm doing alright. 

May 24, 2014

Yukon River Camp

“A half-dead thing in a stark dead world, clean mad for the muck called gold.” 
-Robert Service

Yukon River Camp
Yukon River Camp is at mile 56 on on the Dalton highway, just 60 miles short of the arctic circle. Think of it as an outpost, one of only three on the 500 mile road to offer gas, propane, food, cigarettes, razors, candy... Basicly everything you could need while traveling.

I say road because the term highway (as in Dalton Highway) is used very liberally here. The Dalton is a sometimes paved, sometimes gravel stretch that rolls up and down hills, around bodies of water, and alongside the pipeline. By the time cars reach us at mile 56 they are brown with dust or mud, no matter what color they started as.

The Yukon River Bridge
There's a mix of customers: truckers from the oil industry, tourists on their way to the arctic circle or the arctic ocean, and natives who live at least part time along the banks of the river. Today there were some bear hunters heading down the river who stopped for lunch and 100 gallons of gasoline. Yesterday a guy called from Fairbanks with a message for his father who lives up river and occasionally visits us, so we played secretary and tacked the note up for the next time he comes in.

My job title is "camp host" but I'm kind of a waitress, clerk, gas attendant, and jack of all trades, which is good because it's never boring. There are only eight employees here and, lucky for me, they're all great (this would be a long summer otherwise). So far I'm enjoying myself; reading a lot and going for walks in the "woods" (more to come on that). 

May 21, 2014

Alaska: The New Adventure

“I won't tell you that the world matters nothing, or the world's voice, or the voice of society. They matter a good deal. They matter far too much. But there are moments when one has to choose between living one's own life, fully, entirely, completely—or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands.”
-Oscar Wild

It was 2009 when I decided to go back to school and finish up my Bachelor's Degree. I was working at a farm in Massachusetts and about to leave for a job in upstate Vermont and thought that finishing my degree would look good on a resume and allow me to continue working these seasonal jobs around the country. It was a good plan, but somewhere during the college experience I forgot my motivations.
Maybe it was because I had been living in the Jetta for over a year and wanted permanence or maybe it was the prospect of student loans but when I walked out of Amherst with my degree I went for a nine to five job with an apartment and settled into a fairly normal life of work, bagged lunches and drinks with friends on the weekends.

I can pinpoint the exact moment in which I realized that life wasn't going to work (about 1 ½ years in) and within two months I was headed for New Orleans Louisiana with no real plan, just a hostel that agreed to let me work off my rent.

I loved NOLA! The people were friendly and the food was good, although there are definitely a lack of vegetables in the city. So I stayed for three months and worked at the hostel. I met some great friends I hope to keep in touch with, went boating on the bayou, ate lots of seafood gumbo, and saw everything I could in the city. There was really only one problem: Louisiana gets hot in the summer, REALLY HOT, and by April I was realizing that even the muggy heat of spring was more than I wanted. So, just as I had left the New Hampshire winter for the furthest southern point, I escaped New Orleans for the most Northern location I could find.
Today we're watching a wildfire


Yes, I'm now in Alaska working at a little outpost on the Dalton Highway four hours north of the nearest town. It's a bit of a shock going from the heat and city bustle of New Orleans to the cold and quiet of northern Alaska, but I'm loving it. Not much happens up here, but there will be updates!