Generally, before I go somewhere new I like to go headfirst, with a mind full of limitless possibilities and very little actual knowledge (like, for example, the year I went to New Zealand without a raincoat). By quelling my racing imagination, raging expectations and bottomless hopes I find I am always pleasantly surprised by what greets me once I arrive.
My summer in Alaska has started out exactly like that. The flight from Seattle to Anchorage was chock full of tourists excitedly chattering about their vacation plans. The men sitting behind me regaled each other with rough and gruff hyperbolic tales of the enormous fish they had snagged, the fierce animals they had tagged and stories of life and limb, the ones in which they always narrowly escaped in tact. The kind of stories that are just too insane not to be, at least mostly, true. After an hour of eavesdropping I had surges of that uncomfortable feeling, the one you feel before you make the leap, those hollow pangs of realization, that maybe you are in too deep. Two words. Bear repellent. BEAR REPELLENT!
The plane passed over vast snowfields, jagged mountains pushed through the earth like shards of glass in gravel, their peaks painted a glaring white and harshly contrasted against their granite bottoms. Precipitous cliffs met the deep green blue oceans dotted with sprinkles of amorphous white waves. The landscape is harshly beautiful and coldly comforting. Alaska, from 30,000 feet seems not for the faint of heart.