Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Toad River Lodge, Saturday 28 August - POSTSCRIPT

A collection of over 6,800 hats stapled to the ceiling throughout the restaurant....and growing.

One of the stories associated with the place is the origin of the name....The Alaska highway was constructed in 10 months, 1942-43. One version of "Toad River" is that the engineers had to tow supplies and materials across at that particular point, and it somehow got bastardized from "towed" to "toad." There are many such strange stories and origins to the naming of places in Alaska.
             (I mean, why was Denali originally called McKinley? (other than his recent assassination....he never visited the place.)

Dude, we're in Alaska

We were sampling Canadian beers (even visited the Yukon Brewery in Whitehorse), and now that we've crossed into Alaska, are doing the same here.

Over the Top, To the Border


Top of the World Highway, between Dawson City and the Alaskan border.

And, on the other side:

The road washed out during the summer, and they were still doing serious work (unbeknown to us). There was a ninety minute wait at Boundary (one building) a mile down the road, and then we were escorted by pilot car over the next thirty-five miles to the town of Chicken.  That trip took about two and a half hours.

And, why did they name it chicken? Because they wanted to call it Ptarmigan (the state bird), but nobody knew how to spell it.....And, ptarmigan are often called prairie chickens....

And, guess what? It was still raining/drizzling!

Dawson City, 30 August

We arrived in Dawson City about 8:30, Monday morning - in drizzle, of course. The only paved street is the highway running through town. However, it was necessary to make two pilgrimages. (Two of the three famous writers who lived and wrote there, the third being Pierre Berton, a Canadian author.)

Robert Service:

   
(Where he wrote the "Cremation of Sam McGee" and "Shooting of Dan McGrew," among other poems.)

















And, Jack London's cabin (half of it is here, the other half in Oakland!).

I started this post while still in Hailey. I still have a book - Jack London Stories (1960) - that my parents gave to me. I was a voracious reader (that quality has ebb and flowed through the decades), and my father also passed on to me books from his youth - which I still own. There were books like Lost Indian Magic (Grace and Carl Moon, 1918) and Rolf in the Woods (Ernest Thompson Seton, 1911). There is a penned note in the frontpapers of the latter from my father that reads: "When I was a kid, I must have read this book and Robin Hood a dozen times each. I think Seton's a swell guy."

London's stories of the far north, of the land and the people totally fascinated me.
They were more real than the Illiad, the Odyssey or the Dr. Doolittle stories....but they all fed into my love of the outdoors, animals, learning about other cultures....and creative thinking.


World's Largest Weathervane

Whitehorse, Yukon.


Dating back to the early 1940s, and having gone through several incarnations, this DC-3 is on permanent display at the Whitehorse airport.

World's Largest Tree Crusher

MacKenzie, B.C.


In 1964, this was built in Texas and shipped to what we become MacKenzie. After being assembled, it was used for six months in 1965 to clear over 2700 acres of trees for what would become the town of MacKenzie (inc. 1966), along Williston Lake - the largest man-made lake (by earthen dam) in the world.

That's Marshall's van in the foreground. The machine sits in "Tree Crusher Park."

World's Largest Truck

Canadians seem to like big things, especially the father north that you travel. Undoubtedly it is linked to the scale - immense valleys and mountainous hillside filled with trees (and no trails or roads), large lakes and rivers (many of them greenish with the silt of glacial runoff) and clear, bright blue skies.

In Sparwood, BC, we inadvertently found what was billed as the "World's Largest Truck."
Built by General Motors in 1974 to haul coal (retired in 1990) - 260 tons, with tires that are 11 feet in diameter.



.

Watson Lake, Saturday, 28 August


Over 61,000 signs - and more being added all the time!

 

Fort Nelson, BC, Friday, 27 August


A town best forgotten by us, for reasons I won't go into here....let's just say it was raining and incredibly muddy.

Chetwynd BC, Friday, 27 August


Chetwynd, BC, - Home of the International Chainsaw Carving Championship, June 2010
(There are about three dozen massive pieces on display around town.)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Kootenay, McLeod Meadows & The Milepost - and Beyond

These first few posts may have an uneven and somewhat scattered feel to the reader, as Marshall and I have both been finding a rhythm traveling (after all, we haven't done anything like this for a little over thirty years), and I'm getting acclimated to both driving and living in a vehicle the size of a small boat, and we're sussing out where we are going, and I'm trying to process all of this and take photos and write for.........this blog, which is as much for me as it is for anyone else.

I wasn't able to use the computer (write, process images) the first four days, and so I'm summarizing and cramming those into a few days when it is possible to do all those things.

The first thing we did upon leaving the campground at St. Mary on Tuesday morning was to stop in Babb at restaurant that Marshall raved about, to buy two pieces of pie to go. Then we headed over the border towards Kootenay National Park. It was wonderful to watch the landscape unfold, see the changes in the Indian Reservations, the towns over the Canadian border, the farming landscapes - but I had little impetus to photograph. Marshall began to religiously read "The Milepost," a compendium of information about the AlCan highway that has been accumulating for decades. He referred me to it at the end of the spring and I downloaded the whole massive pdf, but subsequently had few occasions to actually dig into it.

We overshot our destination, the campground immediately inside the park (adjacent to Radium Hot Springs, our actual destination), and drove about thirty kilometers into the park, and found a camp site at the MacLeod Meadows campground - our spot was twenty yards from the bank of the Kootenay River. A most enjoyable dine of marinated grilled chicken breasts ensued, accompanied by string beans other appetizers. It is a shame that neither Marshall nor I like cooking or eating….(just kidding, as most of you know).

So we got up early on Wednesday morning, and headed north through Kootenay to Lake Louise, and into Jasper National Park.  



 It looks just like all the photographs that you've ever seen, and is overrun with an international set of tourists, but is stunning, nonetheless.

Then we meandered through Jasper, stopping frequently at the icefields and lakes formed by the many glaciers, and appreciated the way the ice and water had carved the rocks.



I have always been fascinated with the idea of "tourism," dating back hundreds of years, and the need to both witness nature at arm's length - and try and "capture it" in ways that might be personally meaningful, but ultimately of questionable usefulness.

  On holidays, we all do whatever it is that we need to do.




Marshall and I headed to the town of Jasper, found several campgrounds full, and drove to the northern edge of the park to stay at the Pocahontas campground. Along the way, we watched deer and goats, and the campground was in the proximity of the Miette Hot Springs, where we got a good soak before dinner in international company, high up on a mountain, for the price of $5.50 apiece. 


Lake Louise

Bow Lake, at the base of Bow Glacier


Mistaya Canyon


Tourist at Athabasca Falls

 

The Trip Begins

The trip began without fanfare as I drove from Hailey to Helena, Montana on Sunday the 21st. Leaving the Wood River Valley in the morning, it appeared that the sky was beginning to get smoky (when I spoke with Deb at the end of the day, she said there were brush fires burning and smoldering throughout the area) - and then there was drizzle for most of the drive.  I decided not to stop in Butte to track down the Fairmont Hotel, at which Robert Frank shot one of his memorable photos from an upstairs room windows for The Americans.

I arrived at Bonnie and Marshall's house, caught up with them, and we shared a wonderful dinner with their son Greg. The next day, Marshall had to have some service performed on the Airstream sprinter, and we didn't get going until 2.



Since we got a late start, and with stopping for a beer at Bynum, and exploring the dinosaur fascination in the vicinity, our arrival at Glacier was around 6 - and the campgrounds were already full. However, that was entirely mitigated by seeing a grizzly sow and her cub at lakeside immediately upon entering the park, and we subsequently saw (from our car) another sow with three cubs and a black bear. So we wandered down the road to Babb and St. Mary campground, and spent the night there.  


We had a cold dinner of snacks on the picnic table, and went to bed fairly early...it was a glorious full moon...my sleeping bag would soaked in the morning by the heavy dew generated by the nearby river.

An inauspicious beginning to our travels..... 


The livingroom of Bonnie Lambert and Marshall Mayer in Helena, Montana


Dinosaur facsimile, Bynum, Montana

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cultivated Places, and Places Which are Not

Marbella, Spain

Marbella, Spain, on the coast of the Mediterranean. It seems a bit odd to try and search for "unspoiled" landscapes in this day and age.Still, as any photographer knows, there is great beauty to be experienced in any moment.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More Robert Service

(Everyone out there will be getting a good dose of his writing, as I just purchased a complete book of his poems for the trip. A romantic partner re-introduced me to his work around 1973-4, reading out loud his poetry every New Year's Eve. It is something that I have since carried forward.)

An interesting delivery of probably his most widely known poem.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lBkuz1TlVc



There was a good three to four feet of snow on the ground when Joe and I went to East Topsham, Vermont, in February, 2008. Joe was visiting Cone Editions to check in on the printing of the "West and West" photographs. I was tagging along, (staying with him and Betsy in Providence, before and after - and coordinating my visit with Anthony Hernandez, another old friend); Joe and I were the only inhabitants in a large house that Cone uses for students when they run workshop classes.

It was cold - not exactly bitter, but very cold - with three to four feet of snow on the ground. Joe and I spent most of our time at the "lab", watching Larry do his magic and talking about the prints. We'd wander out for dinner in the area, and otherwise play cards in the place we were staying - and photograph through the windows.

It is a special memory.

Front door, East Topsham, VT, February 2008


Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday Morning, six days to go

For some (unknown) reason, I woke up this morning thinking about one of my favorite quotes. From the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson:
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

Bonnie and Marshall, Halloween, Colorado Springs, 1976


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Search for the Real




Men of the High North, the wild sky is blazing,


Islands of opal float on silver seas;


Swift splendors kindle, barbaric, amazing;


Pale ports of amber, golden argosies.


Ringed all around us the proud peaks are glowing;


Fierce cheifs in council, their wigmam the sky;


Far, far below us the big Yukon flowing,


Like threaded quicksilver, gleams to the eye.

Images:


Top, Fort Hall, the casino parkinglot, just north of Pocatello, Idaho, 2010
Bottom, Gooding, Idaho, 2006

Robert Service

1st stanza of "Men of the High North"

Friday, August 13, 2010

Occam's Razor


I have 40 years of self-portraits and a number of ponytails that I have cut off (an ongoing artwork)....
this trip might be an appropriate occasion to bring everything together......
hence the reference to Occam's Razor, and the need and/or desire to making everything a bit more simple.

Keying Into a Place


I basically concentrated on photographing the cultivated landscape for thirty years.
Now, it is time to get back to something that is a little more elemental.
Marshall - and his brother Mark - are somewhere in South Dakota or maybe Iowa, traveling around in the van. Drive carefully guys. Marshall just bought a Weber grill, and I'm looking forward to doing some cooking.
Left, Museo del Prado (Madrid) & Garden of the Casa Pilatos (Seville), 1997
Right, Tokyo, 1986

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Scare Yourself




Clearly, I feel a bit in flux the past 10 months - it began last September. We lost a great artist, teacher, human being and friend of mine with the death of Jerry Burchfield. Subsequently, other photographer/artist/friends of mine passed - Larry Sultan in December, Ronn Reinberg (theatre/dance lighting designer extraordinaire) and Margaret Scott (my aunt) in January, and then my father and Joe Deal in June. Joe's photographs were the subject of my first book.
Maybe that is what spurred me to cut my hair, shave my mustache (2nd time in 40 years), in preparation (mentally) for this trip.
I always thought it was easier and cheaper to change appearances by growing and shaping and shedding hair; however, I got so freaked out by seeing my reflection afterwards that I immediately began to grow hair again. The updated look will be the next post.
Left: Self-Portrait, July, 2010 - looking like a fugitive auditioning for "Lord of the Rings."
Right: Self-Portrait with Joe Deal, at Cone Editions, East Topsham, VT, February, 2008.

sour toe cocktail




Well, one of the interesting side effects of doing this blog is all the feedback that I get from people.

My friend Ilona (http://www.openviewphotography.com/), who has been up to Alaska, sent along this link to an amusing story and place that she has visited: www.donreddick.com/tr_27.html The story of the sourtoe cocktail is something you won't want to miss.

Blogging. The word - "blog" - sounds like someone is about to be sick. The experience is like writing a diary, with someone looking over your shoulder. Luckily, I've done very little in either regard (writing a diary, or having someone look over my shoulder while I'm writing).
So this whole wrinkle ("blogging") on the trip to Alaska should prove to add another interesting dimension.

Self-portrait with the late Steven Stearman, the image for our first "Opening Night of the Opera" party invitation (he played in the orchestra and we did it annually for several years until he became too ill), in front of Pike's Peak, Colorado Springs, 1976.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

If Anyone Cares

This is my first blog, so there is a bit of a learning curve. I guess it is good to climb part of it before Marshall and I hit the road. I've stored a few posts that seem most appropriate for some time during the trip; however, I've (already) learned that they end up being posted in the blog according to the date when they were originally created.
So, if anyone cares, one might have to periodically scan back to the beginning - for new posts are likely to "pop up."

The late Jake, far above Bullion Gulch, fall 2004.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Getting that itch to hit the road


11 days (with more than enough to do: isn't there a corollary to Murphy's Law that before going on a trip and/or vacation you have to do all the work beforehand which would need to be done while you're gone?) and I'm itching to get on the road, although nothing has been packed.
The last time I made a month-long road trip was my Bicentennial Trip with Eric. We left Colorado and went to Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, up to St. Louis through Tennessee, Arkansas and then back through Kansas to Colorado.
This is a bus stop near Nogales, taken on that trip.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Raw Landscape


I have enjoyed most of the foreign countries that I've visited, and I've made multiple trips to Japan, England, France, Switzerland, Italy and Spain (I'm not counting the Central and North American countries like Canada and Mexico.) Digging into cultures and getting to know people and a place is probably something that I picked up from my father and mother.


But, for the most part, those are places which have been inhabited for hundreds of years, where the landscape has been cultivated and shaped by the people who have lived there.


Maybe that is part of why I'm attracted to the West, as the Native American populations never tried to change a place, but simply live in it.


It seems to me that very few of us know how to do that today. We want to add trees and shrubs and gardens around our homes, and are seldom content to accept the land the way it is, and may have been for many decades or centuries.


That is (to my mind) part of the dilemma about our species.





True North, our five-year old Golden Retriever, in a beaver pond at the Bar E Bar Ranch, owned by the Carneys, north of Cora, Wyoming, June 2010.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why Leave Idaho?







The Idaho that I know and experience today is much like the Colorado which I knew in the late 60s and throughout the 70s. I've had reason to drive through Utah and Colorado in the last few years and, while many areas are pristine, there are other sections that have been overcome with sprawl. There seem to have been fewer "changes" in Montana, Wyoming and northern Utah, although all of the major (the definition varies by state) metropolitan areas have gone through transformations. But that is inevitable. It is just startling for us to see the houses, streets, chain stores and activity in places that we remember as landscape, either bare hills, ranches or farms.

Something draws me to the West (I knew there was something special about it the first time Russ Bissell took me and five of my classmates to Colorado for a three-week camping/hiking trip in 1966), and I flirted with it - sometimes seriously - off and on for the next 17 years. Then I unexpectedly got sidetracked, and ended up in LA, for almost three decades (there was a six year overlap between Colorado and LA, spending time in each state for different months in any given year).

Today I breathe clean air, wake up and see the mountains through the sliding door in our bedroom (except in December or January when the snow is piling up!). Walk or bike to many of the things I need to do outside of the house (during the late spring, summer and fall!). We live four blocks from the Big Wood River and can walk down there and take our golden retriever to swim in it during the summer.

I like driving through the landscape, sometimes for hours, watching it slowly change - slow, because the scale is so immense. Just outside of the Wood River Valley, where Deb and I live, we can go for a hike, picnic and soak in the views, hike in various canyons and be alone for two or three hours, visit one of the lakes on the other side of Galena Pass - and canoe! - or, these days, bike through most parts of it.

Alaska always beckoned me as place, a frontier, that had all these qualities; however, I always knew the geography was immense, and I imagined all those qualities that attract me to the west would be equally exaggerated.

This particular image was taken in Salmon last year. For me, it characterizes much of the grandeur of the west (the lower forty-eight) - cultivated fields respectively tended against the backdrop of what (I hope) can never be touched.