Husband and I recently returned from a two-week tour of southern Alaska on a boat with about 50 tourists plus staff. Alaska seems to be one of those places that some people are absolutely crazy about, but after this first visit there I am not one of them. I knew very little about this state before our trip. I certainly didn’t know that much of southern Alaska is in the Tongas National Forest, which is a temperate rain forest. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. What that means is that when traveling in a rain forest you should expect lots of rain and that’s what we got. The sky was overcast and there was a cold drizzle most days. The tour company knew this of course and provided rain gear. But since it rains most of the time, shore activities were not cancelled because of rain. We hiked in the rain, we rode in a small open boat that could get nearer to the shore in the rain. Some brave souls kayaked in the rain. We rode all terrain vehicles in the rain.
I know it was probably just a coincidence that a number of people on the boat developed a respiratory illness with lot of coughing and wheezing. In the confined area of a tour boat viruses spread fast. Some got sicker than others and I was one of the sicker ones during the last week. I stayed in bed several days watching the scenery from our cabin window. When I tried to participate in some of the outdoor activities, I then felt worse again. But one passenger had it much worse than I. He developed a ruptured appendix, A doctor among the tour group diagnosed it. But good medical care is so sparse in that region that he had to be flown all the way to Seattle for treatment. I don’t know if he survived.
But even in less ideal surroundings an artist is going to see things. I have a small digital camera that can fit in my pocket and I take lots of photos. When I put them on my computer after we returned home, I saw several that could be the basis for paintings. In fact I’ve already finished one, which is shown above. To me it is a good example of what I saw in Alaska, dark forests, cloudy skies, and a sense of remoteness from the outside world. I know that for some people that is the kind of space they want to inhabit. But when someone back in Lawrence asked me what the best part of our trip was, I said emphatically, “Returning home.”