AK 2010, Day 2: Walking
I wake up early and it is sunny. I do not know it yet but this is the 28th day. All the Alaskans say it. The 28th day. I walk to New Sagaya’s city market and pick up the paper to solve the mystery. Two pages into the front section, I find the weather report and now I know. Yesterday was the 27th day and that’s what set the record for consecutive days of rain in Anchorage’s recorded history. They’re all asking: When will it stop?
The first thing I feel in Alaska is the air, the way it lifts me up instead of pinning me down. This Pacific air—it might as well be my skin. It is the air of home and when I die this is the kind of air I will become.
After espresso, the obvious next step is to see the Pacific Ocean. Anchorage is fantastically organized and so I walk, without fear of getting lost, heading slightly downhill toward Cook Inlet. I parallel to the train tracks at the edge of town, following the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. It is only me, my two feet, and a small daypack. Behind me, the city is still waking up. Within half and hour, I’ve glimpsed the glassy surface of the ocean, seagulls shouting their impatience across the inlet. In the distance, I see the base of the Alaska Range, their high peaks shrowded in clouds like shy, old men.
When I turn to head east into the city, this is what I see: a panoramic view of the Chugach Mountains guarding Anchorage, blessed by parted clouds and slices of sunlight. The world splinters away from me and there is nothing but the ocean at my back and these fantastic beasts ahead of me. I cannot say it any other way than to tell you that for the next few hours, the only thing I want is to get as close to those mountains as possible.
And so I walk. And walk, and walk, and walk. I walk for so long that I think I could almost reach out and touch the Chugach. I pass the federal building and the tourist shops. I pass the warehouses and Army surplus store. Further, further: past the Food Bank of Alaska, past the junkyards protected by concertina wire, past the Correctional Facility, past the homeless shelter, past the commercial air traffic tower, and so far that a few hours later I have found myself in a different city.
Later, I look at a map. I have walked 8 miles. It doesn’t matter: when I come to Alaska the voice inside of me that says Go! Go! Go! rings in constant chorus with my heartbeat. It was all I could do to turn around, but I did.