Monday, November 26, 2012

Southward Bound

It's hard to believe, but it's been exactly four months since Rigby and I arrived in Haines on the ferry from Prince Rupert. From the Southeastern Alaska State Fair, to hiking Mt. Ripinsky and the trails in Chilkat State Park, to learning about spawning salmon, subsistence fishing and canning, to setting out trail cameras and finally, trapping and tagging bald eagles, the last four months have been filled with a host of new experiences and opportunities. And bears.

And now, four months after we arrived, it's time for us to leave and head back down south for winter. Neither Rigby or I are particularly excited about leaving Haines; we've both grown to love the town, the wilderness, and our day-to-day lives here. If you ever travel to Alaska, you'll often hear people say, "It's not like the lower 48 here" or, "It's different here from the rest of the US." And it's true. Alaska is very different, in culture, lifestyle, the very pace of life, than the rest of the country. It often feels like a nation of it's own, far removed from the contiguous states. But that's part of what makes it so special.

Rigby and I will be leaving behind open spaces, ecosystems still relatively unmarred by human development, places teeming with wildlife, to return to the bustling, traffic congested, urban sprawl of California's central coast. I'd be lying if I said we're not reluctant to leave.

But, the show must go on! I have responsibilities on campus, teaching assistantships for winter and spring quarters at UC Santa Cruz, and courses of my own to complete. We'll be glad to see our friends in California again, although we'll miss our friends here. The consolation is the knowledge that we'll be heading back to Haines again next summer to continue data collection, so this certainly isn't the last we'll see of Alaska.

Rigby and I board the ferry this evening. Winter has already settled in around Alaska, the Yukon, and British Columbia, so driving back, through countless mountain passes, would be difficult and dangerous. We're not set up for winter camping, so if we got stuck somewhere in the snow we'd be in trouble! We'll have to take the ferry all the way from Haines to Bellingham, WA, a trip that will take more than three full days. We're hoping to make it back to Santa Cruz by Saturday evening.

Alaska, you are beautiful, and we love you. We'll miss you, but we'll see you again soon!

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