hiked up a gravel road half a mile from my beach
and encountered a moose grazing in tall
grass. She saw me, too, and we stood staring at
each other for several minutes. I was ready to turn
and run if she charged me, and she was apparently
undecided. I kept a respectful hundred yards from
her, snapping a few photos. She concluded I wasn't
a threat, and after a while sauntered across
the road, disappearing into the woods.
waited a few minutes to be sure she'd gone, made
some noise to be extra sure, then continued
cautiously up the narrow road. I was scouting for
a way into the mountain forest that flanks my
beach. There's a glacier up there I can see from
my campsite, and at least one prodigious waterfall
below it that I'd spotted through binoculars from
the Fourth of July Creek riverbed.
after seeing the moose, I came upon a much more startling
sight. The narrow gravel road ended abruptly and across a
shallow ravine was a great, shiny, new-looking prison. The
modern complex seemed completely alien to its natural
surroundings, like a fallen spaceship. Layers of tall,
gleaming steel fences topped by thick coils of razor wire
enclosed several rectangular, two- and three-story buildings
with gray facades and few windows. In between and around
these structures were patches of open ground, small fields,
some of them partitioned with more fences and wire.
had no idea there was a prison barely a mile from where I'd
been living these past weeks. At first it looked empty. I
didn't see anyone at all, but there were at least a dozen
cars parked in an adjacent lot at the far corner. I pulled
out my binoculars and scanned the eerie scene more closely.
There, way in the back through the multiple layers of
fencing and wire, I saw men walking in a sort of courtyard,
strolling, some alone, others in pairs and threes making
conversational hand gestures. Inmates enjoying their
above all this was the watchtower, its tinted
windows staring blankly like the eyes of some
deadly predator. The entire complex was encircled
by two concentric roadways with a row of mowed
grass bordering each inside and out, a clear field
patrol pickup truck came racing towards me along
the outer perimeter road, braking
across the ravine from where I stood. Without getting out, a
burly, uniformed guard with a flat top haircut and a square
jaw barked in a sharp, military voice, "Sir, what are
you doing here, sir?"
on my most non-threatening, easy going, not-too-bright
Southern drawl and replied, "Well, I was just out hikin'
and came down this here road and saw that," pointing to
the prison. "I was kind of surprised. Didn't know there
was anything back here."
this is a maximum security prison and we don't appreciate
visitors. I'll have to ask you to move along, sir."
I said," no problem. What's this place called
Creek Correctional Facility, sir." He didn't seem
inclined to elaborate.
well, thanks. Ya'll have a nice day," and I turned and
walked back the way I'd come. Glancing over my shoulder I
saw the guard was sitting in his truck staring after me, and
I'm sure he continued staring until I was out of sight. I
imagined someone in the guard tower would take it from
there, tracking me through powerful binoculars to be sure I
didn't double back, which I didn't.
I think I must have been imprisoned in some previous
lifetime. The idea of being locked up like that - caged in,
shut off, ordered around, virtually buried alive - spooks me
to the bone. I can't imagine, don't want to imagine such a
fate. No doubt most of the inmates I saw through the layers
of steel fencing deserve to be where they are, need to be
there so the rest of us can live with some semblance of
security and peace of mind. Still, I always find jails
disturbing to contemplate.
weather remained balmy and sunny, perfect for
hiking, but the prison had cast a shadow on the
day and my mood never quite recovered from it. I
made a half-hearted effort to work my way up
Fourth of July Creek towards the glacier from
which it emerges, but that prison watchtower
remained visible above the trees. After a while, I
turned around and headed home.
this summer ends I find my wanderlust has, for the moment,
been sated. Rather than continuing to explore and hike the
Kenai forests, I have been content this past month to live
quietly on the same beach on Resurrection Bay. I get into
town at least twice a week for supplies and wi-fi. Out here
I write, read, fuss with digital photographs, and work on
the RV. I have a long list of things I want to do before
storing this camper for the winter. I'd like to come back to
a clean, dry, ready-to-roll vehicle next spring. The work
list keeps me busy on & off.
compounded and waxed the entire exterior, giving it a layer
of protection from the elements. I scrubbed the rubberized
roof and re-caulked all the seams to ensure there is no
leaking while I'm gone. Many of the Walkabout's lockers and
their contents were coated with dust from my travels, some
heavily. I have cleaned that up, re-packing at the same
time. Meanwhile, I've secured safe storage for the RV in
Anchorage, arranged for my insurance to switch to a lower
rate the day after I put it away, and even found a warm
place to leave my guitars and aloe plant. Mundane
accomplishments, to be sure, but necessary. Nevertheless,
there remains much more to do. Because I'm still living
aboard, most things need to be done within the last week,
like cleaning out the refrigerator and winterizing the
camper's pressure water system. Some, such as final engine
and generator oil changes, must wait until the last day.
accounts the warm, dry, sunny weather that prevailed
throughout Alaska this summer was abnormal. I'm lucky to
have been here this year to experience it. That seems to be
over now. It has rained almost steadily these past three
days. When the mist clears enough to reveal the higher
mountainsides I see it has been snowing up there, maybe a
thousand or fifteen hundred feet above my sea level
campsite. Temperatures drop into the high 30's at night now,
and barely reach 50 during the daytime. Summer's over, dude.
Time to leave Alaska to it's long, dark winter.
Next Entry: 09/30/04