Snowden Creek was named by Bob Marshall after Harry Snowden, the English name given to his Inupiat companion while visiting Wiseman, Alaska. Accordingly, the mountain towering above the creek is Snowden Mountain, a complex agglomerate of sharp ridges and menacing towers.
We decided to explore this pristine area attracted by the easy to reach dry creek bed left behind by the annual powerful spring snow melt. Several small streams fed into the narrowing canyon, supporting a layer of lush moss in the otherwise dry autumn landscape.
A noisy waterfall announces the end of our excursion. The water shoots down into a turquoise pool. A symmetrical sharp crack at the base of the waterfall draws my attention. Expanding thawing ice must have created this amazing display.
I see a curious similarity to our current state of affairs: a deeply divided nation with opposing views that prevent us from coming together.
In the United States we have currently about 100,000 new daily cases of people infected with the Corona virus. That’s more than one new case every second. More than one new case every second!
1000 humans in the US die of Covid-19 every day.
Currently there is no approved vaccine nor therapy.
Those are the facts.
No wonder, that’s why we hear and read about Covid-19 every day, Mr. President.
“Unless someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
What better way to escape this current madness than a walk in the woods? Away from TV screens. No way of checking the news. Reconnect with nature, as they say? Is that the appeal of a walk in the park?
I did not run into a bear. I did not get lost. I set no records.
Nothing happened that would make the news.
How can I write about nothing?
Let’s see. I had spent the night at a National Forest campground. After a frosty clear night I shouldered my backpack and set out for a 12 mile walk. My destination was the Upper Russian Lake in the Chugach National Forest. This time of the year I did not expect many visitors. It was the middle of the week. The tourist season that never took off this year was certainly over by now. Nevertheless, there were a few cars in the parking lot, maybe fishermen or day hikers?
The trail started out as a gravel path, wide enough for a maintenance vehicle, hence the tire tracks. There was a sign, where I could register. Nobody had signed in the last two days. Most people that had signed went 2 miles to the falls or the Lower Lake and returned the same day.
The trail stayed mostly on the the East side of the river. On occasion there were bridges, wooden signs, and benches. The slope was gentle. After 30 min of walking I started to warm up, although I kept the mittens and the hat. Walking was care-free.
Initially, the trail passed through dense stands of tall poplar trees that had mostly shed their leaves for the year. Occasionally there would be an opening with tall, dry grass allowing a view of the surrounding scenery.
That’s when I saw the moose. A male adult. At least 500 yards away and below me. I looked for the closest trees. Oh good. There were trees that I could reach if the moose decided to come uphill. Nevertheless he barley swung his head towards me and kept munging at the willows. That’s how I like it. I kept a low profile and continued my journey.
I wasn’t sure if the bears had already started to go into hibernation. Late October, temps below freezing, termination dust in the mountains. Those should all be indicators that it’s time to find shelter. Nevertheless, I carried bear spray. I did talk, sing, and whistle. How surprised was I when I walked into a young man coming down the trail, reporting that he had seen 4 or 5 brown bears on the river. More talking, singing, and whistling.
Later in the afternoon the sun started to liquefy the frost on the dried vegetation. Just so before the temperature would drop again below freezing. I had planned to arrive at the Upper Lake before sunset. No fun setting up a tent in the cold and the dark. Unless that becomes your daily routine. I am not there, yet. Haven’t camped out much this year. Anyway.
I think, I stop here writing about nothing for today.
So many places, so little time. That was the mantra before Covid. Now we are cooped up in our little countries. Before Old Man Winter arrives I decided to go on a road trip to see more of the land where we live.
Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
What I came away with is this humble feeling that Earth is a beautiful place, mostly in areas where we leave her alone. And those places become fewer and fewer. Some of us need space, not crowds…
Here is half a dozen images shot in the Brooks Range in the Summer of 2020. The number of out of state visitors was way down due to the pandemic. A mountain range that offers true wilderness, if you manage to get away from the one and only road through the range.
“To the complaint, ‘There are no people in these photographs,’ I respond, There are always two people: the photographer and the viewer.”
Somebody said if you shoot portraits in black & white then you photograph the people’s soul. I believe that applies to landscapes as well.
Wherever you chance to be always seems at the moment of all places the best; and you feel that there can be no happiness in this world or in any other for those who may not be happy here.
It is an existential question these days deciding where to be. I have never felt so restricted in my life before as right now. There are many places on Earth that I would like to visit, but it is either impossible or not advisable.
So I think there is no choice than going with John Muir’s advice to be happy where you are.
Another remarkable day in the history of mankind, or just another day?
Today, I learned that Dr. Anthony Fauci lied to the American people in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic about wearing face masks. We were told that “They (face masks ed.) are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus“. Now he admits that this message was a ploy to prevent the general public from hoarding masks, knowing that there were not enough masks for health providers and the general public.
I am used to politicians lying to us for any given reason, but a scientist and medical professional? I don’t understand.
Are we, the general public, considered so dumb that we would not understand the truth? The truth in this case was, we did not have enough N95 face masks for everybody. We did not even have enough PPE for the medical community in the beginning. So, let’s keep the sheep in the dark.
Dr. Fauci, you owe us an apology!
The consequences of this irresponsible behavior are two-fold:
First, lives could have been saved, and the spread of the disease could have been diminished if people had worn any kind of face mask early on. Any mask is better than nothing.
Second, what shall we believe now? The vaccine is coming, we flattened the curve, let’s reopen? Are you wondering why people now do whatever they think is right? Where I live, the minority of people wears a mask in public. That’s frightening, and against the recommendations of our chief medical officer.
Lying is one sure way to lose credibility.
In this case, some innocent people will pay with their life for this faux-pas.