Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A is for Alaska

As a mere lad back in the day when economies were small, recessions were big and long lasting, and there was no internet, my Dad took on a job as the manager of a remote gold mine in Alaska. One of the conditions of his employment was bringing me, the mere lad referred to above, along to be the camp gofer, aka lowest worker bee on the totem pole, as opposed to the more glorious and better paid gophers, who exceed at digging holes and watching for hawks.

Anyway, I went along and did the gofer thing. I guess I have to say it changed my life. Pretty much every day, as a cocky young punk going into my senior year of high school I got to see this every time I looked down the valley

Work was a 24/7 affair, which fit in with the daylight we had for most of the summer. Work looked like this:

This is a grizzly, the top part, which acts to "sort" the boulders off and shunt the to the side. Smaller "stuff" goes through where it is shaken and washed and further sorted. Large stuff going off to the left side, while the smallest fractions fall all the way through to the bottom and begin their trip down the sluice which comes out of the shot to the LR corner of the picture into a headbox and then into riffles lined with carpet. Every two weeks the top four feet of this riffle was covered with an inch+ thick layer of solid gold, ranging from dust up to nuggets the size of a thumb joint. To this day, I've never seen anything quite like it. Nor will anyone. This was by far the most destructive thing I have ever seen. At the time, even as a mere lad, I was surprised that pillaging and destruction of this extent and scale was legally allowed. It is somewhat ironic, that destruction on a much larger scale was visible in the valley head. What those three glaciers did was vastly more destructive, but that is natural and therefore OK. right?

At day's end we would vacate the machines for the next shift and proceed back to camp, which was this set of three Alaska pipeline surplus trailers. While the trailers were scrungy and not worth description, they all had million dollar views of three glaciers which within a few miles of camp, all came together and melted, creating the Middle Fork of the Chistochina River. A superb, once in a lifetime view, that I was too dumb to recognize as anything special. This was in 1983 and we were poor, so cameras and films were semi-precious. This picture is pretty much the only one.

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it. Hard to say how I got here from there, but I'm sure it had some effect on me.

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