Tim and I drove a cherry red Chevrolet HHR Panel Van, exactly like this one -->
up to Cantwell, AK. The whole way I couldn't stop thinking about what city douchebags we must've looked like. I'm extremely grateful for the loan of the car, but still.
"This really is an ugly shithole," Tim said as we rolled through Wasilla. Immediately after he said this I pulled over so that we could sift through piles of junk that people were selling along the side of the road. We found engine parts, old camping gear, and a lacquered picture of a unicorn rearing up on its hind legs in front of a rainbow. Tim almost bought the unicorn, but I convinced him that he would regret it when it sent his baggage over the weight limit for Alaska Airlines.
Once we passed through the rickety wooden strip malls of Wasilla we were fully in the thick of some gorgeous land. Jellyrolls of trees and shrubs fenced on either side by sloping treeless green mountains and a big broad sky of dramatically heavy clouds. Yesterday we took a walk along the Savage River in the front country of The Denali National Park. Our walk turned into the "cute tour" starting with a fluffy, frolicking, bouncing baby marmot; followed by two unconcerned snowshoe hare; and ending with a flock of Willow Ptarmigan.
I got overly excited about the Willow Ptarmigan. It's the Alaska State Bird and I had never seen one! They looked like short puffy chickens. At this time of year they were a mahogany color, but in the winter they turn snow white. I remember being really upset as a kid that the Willow Ptarmigan was the state bird, because: 1. They're really stupid. 2. You can kill one by throwing a rock at its head.
Are they stupid and easy to kill? I don't know. But that's what I was told, and I'm a sucker, so I believe it.
We have one more day in Weebee's cabin on the edge of The Denali National Park. On the docket: hot-tubbing, walking, bluegrassing.