Saturday, July 10, 2010

Alaska Days Twelve and Thirteen...





Yep, THE MOUNTAIN was out yesterday. First time in six weeks THE MOUNTAIN was out, and let me tell you, when THE MOUNTAIN comes out, Alaskans make as big a deal out of it as the New York Times did when Jim McGreevey came out. Fortunately, I was there to see THE MOUNTAIN come out. Just as fortunately, I wasn't there when Jim McGreevey did, as that whole scene was kinda creepy, with his wife smiling and nodding behind him and all. I suppose she was thinking about her book deal.

And yes, that's what people up here call it. THE MOUNTAIN. Perhaps that's because it's name has been in dispute since it was christened Mt. McKinley in...um...well, sometime before Grover McKinley or William McKinley or Chester Arthur McKinley (or whatever President McKinley's first name was) was assassinated (which I remember from the musical Ragtime). In any event, THE MOUNTAIN is officially named Mt. McKinley, unofficially named Denali (as that's what the natives call it), and always called THE MOUNTAIN to avoid the problem altogether. Ironically, "Denali" means "High One" in Aleut, so the Natives have basically called it THE MOUNTAIN since time immemorial.

Some more about THE MOUNTAIN. One of those pictures was taken from Talkeetna, about 60 miles from THE MOUNTAIN, while the other was taken from the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge, about 40 miles from THE MOUNTAIN. (You can't get very close to THE MOUNTAIN by road - even the Denali National Park Road is more than 20 miles away from THE MOUNTAIN at its nearest point). You can of course fly to THE MOUNTAIN and even land on THE MOUNTAIN in one of these:



...which, if you know my love of them newfangled flying machines, tells you everything you need to know about why I didn't fly to THE MOUNTAIN.

A little perspective: those itty-bitty foothills you see in front of THE MOUNTAIN? They're 8,000 - 10,000 feet tall themselves. THE MOUNTAIN itself is 20,320 feet tall, and there are currently 202 idiots...er...climbers...trying to summit it. Apparently Hollis French, whom you may have seen me refer to in an earlier blog here as he's my law school classmate running for governor of Alaska, has summitted THE MOUNTAIN twice. (Thanks, Hollis, for making me feel more inferior by the day up here...) They took one guy off THE MOUNTAIN yesterday as he was running around naked at the camp at 14,000 feet and saying that he was going to paraglide off THE MOUNTAIN. To the best of my knowledge, it was not Hollis, just someone they say had "altitude sickness." Funny, down home we call that "DRUNK." But it's handy information for those of you who want an excuse for drunken behavior. Next time you puke on yourself while dancing on a table with a lampshade on your head, just call it "altitude sickness."

Today, THE MOUNTAIN was doing what it usually does -- being invisible. I can't show you a picture of that because, well, you can't photograph invisible things, and also because I left my camera up at the Lodge. D'oh! It's cellphone pictures from here on out, folks (but that's just one more day).

One last thought for the day: Alaska is supposed to be slow-paced and stress-free. It's hard to be "stress-free" when every hotel you stay in has this combination of:



STRESS INDUCING HOTEL BROCHURE "IN CASE OF EMERGENCY" INFORMATION, TAKE ONE


STRESS INDUCING HOTEL BROCHOURE EMERGENCY INFORMATION, TAKE TWO

AND

UBER-CHEESY HOTEL ROOM DECOR DESIGNED TO MAKE YOU DREAM ABOUT THAT WHICH THEY WANT YOU TO AVOID!!!!!










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