Alaska is stunningly beautiful, breathtakingly expansive, almost unbelievable in its raw beauty… and yet, there is a sense of sadness. Like a powerful and majestic symphony played in a minor key, it leaves you with the feeling, after the music has died away, that something feels… odd.
Behind the cheery facades and the tourist souvenir stalls filled with cruise passengers there was an undercurrent of loneliness, perhaps because of the isolation or the lack of sunlight in the winter. Perhaps because the majority of people are only there temporarily, working the summer season and those who have stayed, or still stay, through the winter are forever changed by the harshness of the experience. Perhaps it’s because of the never-ending rain.
In spite of the stunning natural scenery and the fact that this land is one of the last truly wild places on earth, there just seems to be a huge contrast between the land and the people. The level of homelessness was unexpected and it was hard to miss the empty eyes of those in the line for food at the shelter. I walked down a dirt road winding into the mountains and each inhabited plot of land that I passed looked more like a junk yard than a front yard. Houses with picture-perfect postcard views onto snow-capped mountains had piles of scrap metal and rusty cars knee-deep outside the front door.
It was like there were 2 Alaskas, the wildly beautiful one and the one that people lived in, and the juxtaposition wasn’t easy on the eye… or the soul.