Susitna Valley

15. South from Fairbanks

As I was leaving the Fairbanks area I spotted a sign that read Malamute Saloon. That rang a bell in my memory so I stopped to investigate. Yes, this was the Malamute Saloon, the one mentioned in Robert Service’s poem The Shooting of Dan McGrew (”A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute Saloon…”).

It was the middle of the day and hardly anyone was there, but I ordered a beer and sat at one of the tables trying to imagine the scene during the gold rush era. I know she was probably fiction but I tried to picture “the lady that’s known as Lou.” The image that kept popping into my head was Ms. Winnemucca of Ketchikan. I suppose that was apropos.

The scenery coming down through the Susitna Valley is spectacular, quite a magnificent setting, mountain chains on either side and very green at that time of year. At one point I rounded a bend and there in the middle of the road was a mother moose and two baby “meese.” I reached for my camera, but by the time I got it they were gone. Georgia missed them too.

I stopped at Denali National Park (Mt. McKinley). It was packed with tourists, and all the campgrounds were full. A system of shuttle buses took you on a tour of the park, but being packed on a bus with forty other people was not my idea of how to experience the wilderness no matter how gorgeous the scenery was or how many wild animals they had. In addition, there were all kinds of restrictions on where you could go with your vehicle, and permits with fees were required for this and that . . . I drove on.

I ended up at Byre’s Lake Campground which was pretty much a standard state facility, nothing special, but free and not crowded. I much preferred it to that institution up the road.

Denali at Talkeetna by R L Mason

Denali from Talkeetna

Georgia and I had a little disagreement that night. She wanted out about 1:00 AM, and I, wishing to leave early in the morning, wanted her to stay in. She threw such a tantrum that at 4:00 AM I finally let her out so I could get some sleep.

Two days later I was still waiting for her to return. I searched the whole area several times calling her name. In the process I came across the first bear I’d met face to face on this trip, a black bear, it ran and climbed a tree when it saw me.

I decided to wait one more day. I felt low and kept hearing sounds that I thought were her, but when I opened the door she wasn’t there. The weather changed and it started to rain, but still no Georgia. A gas station operator in Juneau told me he once had a cat, when he lived “out of town” that would disappear every summer and show up in the winter “all skin and bones.” I asked all the other campers if they had seen her, nobody had. That’s not surprising knowing Georgia, she always stays away from people.

While I waited I finished reading John McPhee’s Coming Into the Country. As far as I can tell it’s a good description of life and times in Alaska. It helped me keep my mind off Georgia. I didn’t see what else I could do. Finally, I went to sleep and had a dream. (Continued in Chapter 16)

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Monday, September 7th, 2009 Chapters 11 — 20 No Comments