I’m in Alaska. I’m almost to my destination! I’m in a hotel room with the heat way up, washing my dirty t-shirts in the tub. Tomorrow I hitch the last 200 miles!
I think the Canadian gods played a cruel joke on me today, on account of my pretentious blog title. Not afraid of winter, eh? And so then I had to hitch-hike in like the most wintry conditions this side of ten years ago. I would never, EVER set out to hitch-hike in this bullshit. I even brought extra stuff (I have a pack and a fucking SUITCASE and a bag of food) because I THOUGHT I had a ride all the way to Alaska. And then my ride rolled over in the snow bank and got all busted up, and that was that. I would never ever set out to hitch-hike in below zero weather, in the blowing snow, ALONE, in the middle of NOWHERE, with three pieces of luggage. Dear god! And so today was the universe’s cruel joke on me. And not only that, but the well-meaning First Nations folks who housed me last night, fed me moose meat and good conversation and a warm clean bed, in the morning they dropped me off at what they had described as a “great” place to hitch-hike- a gas station just a few miles outside of town. They dropped me off and drove away- and then I realized that said gas station was CLOSED. Just like two out of three of the gas stations in the Yukon, in wintertime. And so I stood there, sort of hopping in place, thanking god that my back was to the wind, and one car drove by, I shit you not, every twenty minutes. There were buildings here and there, off in the woods, but they were all shuttered, closed down, seasonal places. And the snowy wind just sort of drifted across the slick, icy road, and I felt my toes go numb one by one, and I stuffed my hands deeper in my pockets in their wool gloves but I couldn’t quite make them warm, and when a car would pass I would wave my hands in the air, like the boy in Hatchet when he is stranded and sees a plane and wants to be rescued, and the driver would just smile at me standing there on the blowing deserted roadside and wave and drive away, a cloud of gritty ice bits blasting me in their wake. And eventually I gave up and ran across the road and tried to break into a closed-up cabin via a window they had left open a crack, so I could make a fire and warm myself, but my hands were too numb to push the screen it, and so I started to cry, even though I had been trying not to, and I could feel the tears freezing on my eyelashes…
Finally I walked back to the road coming out of the village so I could catch someone local going back the other way, to a gas station I’d seen that was actually open, in Destruction Bay. A couple guys picked me up and I climbed gratefully into their ashtray of a car, packed with hockey sticks and a cute bug-eyed dog that cowered on the floorboards, obviously beaten. I took my hands from my gloves and found that I couldn’t uncurl my pinky finger. I rubbed it on my pants and pet the dog with my numb, cold paws. They dropped me off in Destruction Bay at the gas station/diner/motel, big gleaming log structure, and I piled my things at one of the tables and ordered a chili cheese burger without the bun. In the bathroom I peed, and afterward found that I still couldn’t use my hand well enough to button my fly. Almost crying again, I ran my hand under warm water in the sink until it finally felt normal. And suddenly there was a little bruise there, at the base of my index finger- my very first minor case of frostbite! It didn’t hurt or anything, just looked like a half-faded bruise. I looked at it in the mirror, proud. I had gotten frostbite while hitch-hiking! The most minorest of frostbites! Winter had bitten me!
The cheeseburger was mediocre and overpriced. I tried to hitch again in the blowing white, but the wind defeated me, and I plodded back inside the gas station to wait for northbound Alaskans to pull up at the pump so I could harass them at my leisure. The counter clerk and the waitress became my Yukon support team, cheering me on as I waited for a ride, and the waitress even let me use her phone card since my cellphone wasn’t getting reception in Canadia. A wealthy-looking couple in a pickup truck with a camper that was hitched to a boat pulled up and I asked them if they were going to Alaska. They said yes, and I could come along! The ride was beautiful, bright yellow winter sun-ball breaking through the snow-haze and gleaming on the blank white mountains, rounded and perfect in their winter coats. Below us stretched epic land-before-time style valleys, and herds of caribou, and there was even a red fox, stalking the roadside unafraid, which we stopped to take pictures of. The couple turned out to be wonderful liberals who hated Sarah Palin and didn’t believe in sport hunting or procreation. We listened to Cds of this guy who studies myth and religion talking about the traditional stories that you see in almost every spirituality of the world- the great hero myth being the most common, and the three different ways the hero character can manifest- as a person who dies and is born again, as a person who defeats some great evil, as a person who is a vehicle for the energy of Life itself. At one point we stopped at an overlook and startled a flock of ravens who were eating the eyes from a caribou head. It had small bone antlers that I wanted, and I waded into the snow and attempted to dislodge them. I wanted to send them to a friend in the lower 48, as a talisman against her sadness. But I couldn’t get them off the furry skull, and left the whole thing there for the ravens.
My ride was headed to Anchorage but not all the way tonight, and besides I want to go to the Interior, so after they took me three hundred miles they bought me this hotel room so that I might be spared from the freezing snowbankz. I opened a can of disappointing Canadian black beanz, and here I am. And for you tonight, dear faithful reader, I have wildlife and mountain picturez! And pictures of my travel-mates, before we split up. Not pictured- the coyote I saw crossing the road when leaving Whitehorse! (you just have to imagine it.)