I traveled from Austin to Ketchikan, Alaska today. 2400 miles. I had a stop in Seattle; a place I’d never been. Based on the view from above, Seattle is spectacular. I fantasized about relocating. A thing I often do when I travel.
From Seattle, the flight to Ketchikan is a bit less than two hours. (Not counting the hour delay on the tarmac in Seattle.) I opted for a window seat. You do not need reading material for that flight. I was glued to the window. Snow-capped mountains. River valleys. So many trees. So much green. So much water. When everything dries up in the south, I imagine a great migration to these lands. As I watch the scenery, I feel like I’m watching a PBS special. Only it’s a window; not a tv.
The girl next to me on the flight, age 24, was returning to her post with the Coast Guard in Sitka after attending her brother’s funeral in her home town in Colorado. Liver cancer. Her brother was in his 30s. My brother did okay in comparison–dead from cancer (AML) at 52. I teared up as we talked about our dead brothers. She didn’t. I’m not sure what that says.
As we’re flying across British Columbia to southern Alaska, I’m imagining packing it all up and heading up to the wilderness. Me and three black cats. I wonder how much money I’d need to live in Alaska. I decide I’ll work hard and live an austere life until my mother dies, and then quit. Live out the rest of my days in solitude. Or maybe I’ll take up with a manly man. My odds are better up here. There are more men. I’ll live in the woods and write. Go to town on occasion for sushi. Who cares if all they have is sake. I wonder if the cats would like living in a big old drafty cabin. I wonder if they’d chase mice. Would it be like Northern Exposure?
We start to descend, interrupting my reverie. We land on an island. I pick up my bag off the lone baggage claim and cross the street to the ferry. It ‘s $5.00. $5.25 if you pay with credit. I wheel my duffel behind me and walk onto the ferry. It’s a 5-minute ride to the town of Ketchikan. From there the “hotel” shuttle picks me up and takes me up the mountain. (Maybe it’s just a hill–but to this Texas girl, it looks like a mountain.) The Cape Fox Lodge is quaint, albeit a bit worn. I check into my ocean room and deem it a dump with a view. (I have since softened my stance. It is clean and includes all the essentials. And the bed’s not half bad.)
After freshening up from the travel, I head to the front desk to get directions to the Irish pub I’ve chosen for dinner. My first choice, Trip Advisor tells me, is closed on Sundays. The girl at the front desk tells me the Irish pub is closed as well.
“Really?” I ask, incredulous.
“But it’s a holiday weekend,” I implore.
“It’s Ketchikan,” she explains, blandly.
I decide to take the funicular down to the waterfront and find somewhere to eat. The view heading down is lovely. I hop off when the car reaches the bottom and wander around the waterfront. The shops all are closed. Many are vacant. The stench of rotting salmon fills the air. They’ve spawned and died. The waterfront is nearly deserted.
I ride the funicular back up to the lodge, defeated. I eat mediocre lodge food, gazing out the window at the gorgeous view of the sun setting over the harbor. If I had to choose between good food or a stunning view, I’d pick the view every time.
My real adventure begins tomorrow. After tonight, my lodging for the next nine nights will be this. I can only imagine the number of stars that fill these skies.