Tarmac ribbons criss-crossing the landscape, dusty back roads twisting between the cool shadows of ancient pines, and less traveled pathways connecting present to past, all I wander, seeking, seeing, with my keyboard and camera capturing scenes and stories to share with you.

Now in its sixth year, this venue has become an important part of my life, a place where I can express my thoughts and feelings about the things I see and do, hoping the process brings me a bit closer to friends and family who enjoy sharing my sometimes chaotic and often nonlinear observations and ideas. A journal, I suppose, but one with which I find pleasure in thinking others are alongside me on my journey.

Comments, thoughts, or just a friendly chat, use the response box below or email me at patrickgroleau@gmail.com.

October 6, 2015

WANDERING ALASKA - THEN & NOW

... nunaka valley, anchorage, alaska ... this was my world from 1958 to 1962 ... our little house was near the tree line in the background of the picture ... from our back door it was only a few hundred feet to the edge of the forest, millions and millions of acres of primeval wilderness ... this little neighborhood was built in the mid-1950s ...

... as then, today it is still where mostly working class families call home ... the trees have grown (ma would be so happy about that) to the point it is difficult to see the modern developments reaching halfway up the flanks of the mountains (ma would be upset, she so loved her view of the chugach peaks) ...

... this was the winter of the deep snow ... most of the time, despite the cold temperatures, the normal winter was more of a drizzly slushy affair ... the little patch of turquoise in the window, that's ma doing one of her crossword puzzle while she kept an eye on us for signs of impending frostbite ...

... changes, but the house remains pretty much as it was ... probably too small to be the trees ma planted, i so like to think they're sprouts of the ones she so lovingly nurtured ...

... it was to be much later in life that i finally understood that "new" cars were made in factories ... my impression as a child was that the dads all gathered together on saturday afternoons, most of them wearing well-worn military fatigues, and, fed by an endless stream of snacks from ma's kitchen, they put together automobiles from scrounged, bartered, and, i'm sure, even "appropriated" parts and pieces ... as for the road—well, much of my memory of alaska is of mud, shoe-sucking nasty-smelling mud ... mud so deep at times that we all reverently whispered of "the kid down the block who took a wrong step and was never seen again" ...

... cars are made by robots nowadays, not something i'm sure is really an improvement, but, for sure, at least today's kids can come inside from playing without first having to be hosed down ...

... my dump, gone ... how sad ... under this little mound, now a little park, i'm sure are the remains of dozens and dozens of wrecked chevrolets, fords, oldsmobiles, even a nash or two ... if you dug them up you'd find no alternators, water pumps, etc., as most of those were removed on the frequent "shopping expeditions" upon which i had been dispatched by pa ... "a 50 or 51 ford alternator, make sure the mount holes aren't cracked," or, "a chevy carburetor, make sure you get the gasket" ... that line of trees, now the border to a more up-scale housing development, in my day it was the border between civilization and a dark, dark woods which required our constant vigilance since it was the abode of quite nasty very hungry bears ...

... "camp gorsuch," where my dad and brother enjoyed their yearly boy scout jamboree ...

... other than the addition of some new pavilions, and a modern cub scout camp, the area remains the same ... liz found the original flagpole ...

... from even before the snow melted until well into the fall, we picnicked ... 


... this beautiful valley was one of the places we visited often ...

... the ford's trunk packed full with all sorts of fascinating things, pa took me with him to downtown anchorage on one of his many "bartering" outings ... we lived against the edge of the mountains in the distance ...

... much of this part of 4th avenue was seriously damaged in the good friday earthquake ... the high rise building visible at the far end of the street still shows the huge steel plate repair patches that had to be applied to keep it from collapsing ...

... this was always one of our favorite stops in anchorage ...

... we were walking around when i looked over, noticed the outline of the logs that form the wall of the current chamber of commerce, and immediately recognized the building ... copper's gone, worth over $12,000 i'm sure it's now housed in a more secure location ... adrien did her best to make an "uncle mike face" ...

... anchorage is behind me, on the left of the horizon you can just make out a high-rise on 4th avenue ... i'm pretty sure pa took this shot from somewhere along the perimeter road at the west side of elmendorf air force base ...

... anchorage today, in the picture above i would have been standing on the bluff at the far left side of this photograph ...

... just above where the curve of the beach ends, that little notch in the rocks is where pa showed me several tiny stunted trees growing horizontally along the edge of the bluff ... "these are spruce, they would be hundreds of feet tall if they'd sprouted in the forest, but here, on this wind swept edge of the shore where there's little soil, they're barely able to grow ... from trees like these the japanese learned to make bonsai trees" ... from where liz and adrien where waiting up along the railroad tracks i don't think they could see my tears—but i'm sure they knew ...

... we would hike along the russian river to a deep woods fishing camp ...

... today there's a nice road leading to campsites ... neatly constructed staircases allow the fisherpersons to walk down to the river without creating erosion prone trails ... when we used to hike past this spot we'd marvel at the giant caterpillar bulldozer that had become trapped in the gravel, now it's probably buried beneath those trees in the center of the picture ...

... then alaska was a wonderful place to be a child ...

... but now, in this visit, it was perfect ...

Yesterday is but today's memory,
and tomorrow is today's dream.
KHALIL GIBRAN