Lowbush Cranberries || Hitchhiking to Heaven

You’ll Have to Ask Spike

I’ll be away for three weeks and I’ve decided to leave the porcupine in charge. He’s an industrious dude, perfectly capable of watching over the few posts that will appear here while I’m gone. Besides, if I don’t give him something to do, he’ll chew through everything in sight.

Seriously, this guy and his ilk live all around our cabin in Alaska, which is where we’re headed until mid-September. Stewart took this photo of him on the back porch last year, near one of his favorite chew toys — plywood. Anything made of plywood.

We were going to drive from the Bay Area to Alaska this year, but life and death intervened. I stayed home to help care for my beloved grandfather. He passed away on August 12, at the venerable age of 86. My mother, bless her, was determined that I wouldn’t miss my time in Alaska. After his memorial service, I caught a plane to Fairbanks, where Stewart was already gathering our food and supplies.

Today, a helicopter will deliver us, along with 1,500 pounds of stuff, to a spot way out on the taiga — far from towns and roads and other folks.

Then the helicopter will fly away.

Then everything will get very, very quiet — and we will finally be home.

Here is our front yard. In this direction, there’s nothing but wilderness for 900 miles. After that, you fall into the Bering Sea.

And this is what our front yard will look like at sunset in about two weeks. That’s how fast the colors turn from summer to fall.

On a clear day, this is what we see when we hike up the ridge behind our cabin. It’s the highest mountain peak in North America. Sometimes when I search the sky for the peak of Denali on a cloudy day, I become disoriented. I scan the horizon at the height where I’m used to seeing mountaintops. Then I remember to look up where I’d expect to see a jet plane flying. Seeing the top of a mountain way up there always makes me feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. In a good way.

There’s an excellent river a few miles away from our place. It’s close to a glacier, too cold for any fish but the smallest grayling. I think of it as our playground. We hike down to the riverbank to check out all the tracks and scat — grizzly, moose, caribou, wolf, and lynx.

And of course there will be berries to pick. We’ll have wild blueberries, rosehips, and these lovely low-bush cranberries. Once again, I’ll try my hand at canning on our propane stove. Last year I made two little half-pints of rosehip butter, and it took me only three days to do it. Rosehips. A little bit of flesh, a whole lot of seeds. Sigh.

See ya mid-September. Until then, take it up with Spike.

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