Driving south to the Kenai Peninsula

OK, so let’s be honest: It turns out, I’m very bad at blogging. I did OK keeping up during my first few weeks while traveling in Alaska, but as I started to fall behind with the nightly posts, the whole endeavor snowballed into a big backlog of photos I wanted to share and stories I wanted to tell…. and those 28 days of blissful travel steadily ticked away as I savored each new town and each new experience and each new person in that deliciously wild state. And now here I am, back within the tamed street grids of Cincinnati, watching leaves fall from my backyard trees while my dogs tirelessly hunt chipmunks tunneling along crevasses in rock walls, finding any excuse I can to procrastinate just a bit longer before finally getting everything lined up for my return to the classroom in just a week or so. And meanwhile my unfinished Alaska blog sits neglected in cyberspace, reminding me that I haven’t finished telling the story. So, here’s the rest of that story, my final week in Alaska: I left the wild and wooly Alaskan interior, driving south on Highway-3 for the last time (well, not the last time ever, I hope, but the last time this summer), retracing my tracks from numerous earlier drives up and down the Parks Highway. I’d put so many miles on that sweet little yellow honeybee of a car that it was overdue for an oil change (and, uh, coated in bug guts), so I swapped out rental rides in Anchorage (ooh, the cherry-red replacement had automatic windows! I’d been in manual roll-down mode for 21 days) before racking up the last big push of miles back down the Seward Highway (Hwy-1), headed for the Kenai Peninsula. Seeing those snow-drizzled Chugach Mountains again was like a homecoming–I’d studied them from so many different angles, at so many different times of day, so many times during my trip–but still the lure to stop and photograph them was too strong to resist. I cruised along the Cook Inlet coast, watching the fierce winds ripple into cascades of waves along Turnagain Arm, and then found myself swallowed up by the next thick wilderness along Highway-9. Here, the blue mountains wore thickly greened skirts and jaunty white caps, while fields at their feet erupted with colorful bursts of late-spring flowers. Clouds folded around the humpy shoulders of the range, obscuring entire peaks, except for the occasional peek-hole through the mist. Lillies languidly floated across glass-still ponds, while arctic terns and mew gulls careened and tilted over their nests on the marshy banks. Somehow, improbably, impossibly, it was the prettiest drive yet.

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