Thus began my first ever packrafting adventure with Ari. What a joy to discover I now have a new river rafting companion, as Ari and I crammed into the same packraft for the short float down Portage Creek.
We went less than a mile, but that was enough to remind me what I love about Alaska’s glacial rivers: the turquoise water, reading the braids, avoiding the sweepers, looking up at lush hillsides and hanging glaciers—especially seeing it all through my son’s eyes.
Ari has definite potential as a trip partner. When we pulled out, I asked him which direction he thought the road was, and he pointed in the right direction! Then I asked him whether we should try to walk straight there through the brush or look for a trail, and he demonstrated uncanny bush savvy for a 4-year old by voting “trail” (albeit it was partially visible only 30 feet away).
I showed Ari how to skip stones across the water, but he was more interested in finding the biggest rocks he could lift and dumping them into the river.
When we got back to the road, I taught Ari another indispensable packrafting skill: hitchhiking (to get back to the car). He now knows you look for cars going in your direction, stand on their side of the road, hold your thumb high so they can see it, and make sure they see your paddle so they know you’re a friendly paddler. A very nice man named Ryan from Paddler’s Dream Kayaking Company in Whittier was nice enough to pick us up.
It’s a good thing I remembered his name. When we got home, Mommy reminded Ari that we never take rides from strangers!
I'd always wanted to learn to fly--but could never make the time. I wasn't sure it would ever happen. It took a combination of blowing my ACL in the middle of ski season (sudden free time) and being inspired by a film called One Six Right to finally make the commitment. You put in all those hours in ground school and flight training, and one day something arrives in the mail...
Alana has never been more excited. Her dear friend Sue Ann (who she's never met) was sweet enough to hand knit a sweater for her. Sue Ann is the busiest person around, so Alana doesn't know how she did it. The sweater is a masterpiece, featuring a hood for the long, winter months ahead and a row of bears (since Alana is an Alaskan baby).
Like most Alaskans, I was thunderstruck by news earlier this year that the FBI had secretly videotaped the Veco hospitality suite at the Baranof Hotel in Juneau as a part of their 3-year undercover investigation into political corruption in Alaska.
Ever since then, I’ve wondered: How was a federal agency 5000 miles away able to get a hidden camera installed in Suite 604 of the Baranof Hotel without someone local tipping off the most connected and powerful men in Alaska politics? Who knew about the planted camera and installed it? How did they keep it a secret? And how did it go undetected for many months under the nose of these men as they exchanged conversation that would ultimately shatter their lives?
This week, I had other business in Juneau and was dying to find out.
For the third year in a row, the National Park Service has permitted bear hunting near some of the world's most famous bear viewing areas in Katmai National Preserve. Their view is that the bear populations are healthy enough to sustain a hunt and that we shouldn't humanize or personify the bears--they're just animals, just numbers in the "science" of game management.
Iris and Ari spent most days together over the course of the first two years of Ari’s life. In February of this year, Iris slid out of the picture after we took the above photo of the two of them. But today was a very happy day. Iris and Ari saw each other again for the first time.
It was tearful and beautiful. Ari impressed us to no end, when, in the midst of reminiscing with Iris, he said “Do you remember Jason?”—Iris’s boyfriend whom Ari had neither seen, heard of, nor spoken of in all these months.
Ari used to come into the bathroom when I was taking a shower. He would stand right up to the glass, looking in. One time, I crouched down to give him a kiss through the glass. He was a little confused, but slowly, he brought his lips right up to the shower door. It was so intimate. He loves to play in the car, and I was able to get him to do the same through the car window.
Some day, when Alana grows up to be a woman, she'll go to a fancy spa for a luxurious, relaxing bath treatment with essential mineral oils and soothing salts. In the meantime, we plop her into a flimsy plastic tub on the kitchen counter next to the sink, turn on the dish sprayer, and hose her down. Oh well.
Ari has just started a janitorial service. Let him know what you need done, and he'll show up with his supercool new housekeeping cart, complete with vacuum, mop, broom, and cleaning brush. Ari prefers small, short attention span cleaning jobs, and customers who don't mind the house being much messier when he leaves than when he showed up. Rates are negotiable.
I'd long anticipated that moment when Ari would meet his sister. But it didn't turn out like I thought. Yael and I had carefully rehearsed the plan, the main feature of which was that she would not have the baby in her arms when Ari entered the hospital room.
Yael was lying in the bed with open arms. Ari walked through the door. He caught sight of the balloons and never even acknowledged his sister. All he could exclaim was "aloon, aloon!" Yael kept saying, "Yes Ari, look at the baby and the balloons."
After a couple minutes, Yael shrewdly asked, "Can you point to the baby's cheek, Ari?" And that was the first time he ever really looked at his sister. He then even agreed to give her a kiss--their first kiss--though Ari's kisses are more of a nose tap.
Well, the time has finally arrived. Ari is about to become a big brother. According to the doctors, it was supposed to happen two days ago. It's hard to believe how much the tiny baby we brought home from the hospital 21 months ago has changed--and how much our lives have changed. It's also hard to picture our little baby as a big brother!
Ari knows we are having a baby ("his baby," we tell him). But I'm quite certain he doesn't understand what it means. We don't know yet whether it will be a little brother or sister. But it will be a moving moment when we bring Ari into the hospital room to meet his sibling for the first time.
To Ari, that moment may be nothing more than a curiousity. But to a parent, it will be a profound moment. When I see Ari with his sibling later in life, I will try to recall that image of the two meeting for the first time. For Ari, life is all about the present. As parents, we get to glimpse both the future and the past.
Yael thinks she looked at 80 houses; I looked at at least 20. What we were looking for was hard to find: a home that was a part of a neighborhood but also had open space. I was so frustrated with the process (most developers up here build generic houses and put them too close together), I almost didn't look at this one. Yael had already seen it. We were told someone else was about to make an offer on it, so I agreed to stop by one day on the way back from skate skiing.
I knew when I first drove up that this was a place I could live in! To make a short story even shorter, 4 hours after first laying eyes on it, our offer had been accepted. It's set against one of Anchorage's larger parks, has a creek running through the front lawn, is in a good neighborhood, and yet has the feel of "country living" (and comes with its own moose, as you can see in the photo.)
Here's a picture of him using the computer--except it's off. And a picture of Ari, the correspondent, discussing his next book with his publisher. Only problem is, he's got the wrong side of the phone to his ear.
For the past several weeks, the ice skating on lakes throughout Southcentral Alaska has been superb (cold snap with no fresh snow). For the first time in 5 years, Portage Lake has set up for ice skating. I went down last weekend, and there was just a handful of us.
Of course, Ari is about the most challenging subject you could want to shoot. He won't stay in the picture, and he won't face the camera. It took all our inventiveness to come up with a solution.
In the first picture (the three of us), I'm dangling my car keys in my right hand, and he's begging me for them. In the second picture (of Ari alone), we produced at least the semblance of a smile by tossing his teddy ("white bear") through the air to the left of the camera.
Finally, we gave him white bear. You hand Ari white bear, and just like clockwork, he puts his first two fingers in his mouth, snuggles close to white bear's mouth, and closes his eyes. White bear is Ari's most cherished possession, and Clark's photos are among ours.
Ari was once again a lion for Halloween. (While we may not be overly-creative, at least we did buy him a new outfit this year; he outgrew last year's.) Just like last year, I took a shot of him and Yael before we headed out for trick or treating. When I uploaded the picture, it dawned on me that it looked strangely familiar to last year's picture. When you compare the two (last year's is on top), it's uncanny. Some day, I'm going to have ask Ari what was he thinking when we took these pictures--this year's particularly. He doesn't exactly look a year wiser or less confused!
In 20 years of travel around Alaska, I had never visited Glacier Bay National Park until yesterday. I flew down for an overnight at Aramark's Glacier Bay Lodge. After hearing about Glacier Bay all these years, it was nice to finally see it.
I began by flying an Alaska Airlines jet from Anchorage to Juneau. The jet doesn't continue to Gustavus this time of year, so I took a small plane. That was good fortune; the scenery was as captivating as a flightseeing trip.
We arrived in Gustavus--which has to be one of the most charming towns in Alaska. It's about a 20-minute drive to the lodge, a series of wood buildings in the forest connected by boardwalks and set right on the bay. As soon as I arrived, I found myself wishing I had more than one night to spend there. It would be a great place to read a book, write in your journal, and relax with friends.
Dan, Cara, Eli, and Adella came up to visit this weekend. After months of deliberation, we decided to take them to Talkeetna since there's such a wide choice of things to do. In fact, prior to their arrival, we had a hard time deciding what to do with them every day. There are so many options: rafting, flightseeing, dog mushing, jetboating, etc...
As it turned out, the most major flood in decades hit Talkeetna while we were there--and it became a question of what could we do. The answer was basically nothing besides check out the flood, run around inside the Talkeetna Alaska Lodge, and play with rocks. We had fun with family, but Dan and Cara's two adventure trips to Alaska (this and the Copper River years ago) have to rank as two of the worst Alaska vacations ever mounted by two human beings.
Ari and I went over to the duck pond today. Whenever he gets near water, you can't stop him from trying to go into it. He'll crawl over to the shore then slap his hands on the surface until his shirt gets soaked. It doesn't matter how cold the water is.
Well today, after begging him in vain to stay away from the water's edge, I decided to just let him go for it. I guess he needs to learn these things for himself. I hovered close as he waded out into the lake. We were having alot of fun--until he fell on his butt. As you can see, he was not very happy with me...
This year, I helped my friends Howard and Diane Zack and their family plan an Alaska trip. It so happens, they were going to be at Camp Denali on June 24. It also so happens that Howard and I share the same birthday. We're "birthday buddies"as Howard likes to say. And this year, he is celebrating his 50th while I am celebrating my 45th!
The southbound passengers on the Alaska Railroad got a special treat today as Ari decided to moon them. Forget moose or bear sightings, there's nothing quite like the tender butt cheeks of a 14-month old.
Sometimes you gotta wonder about the kid's judgment...but wait...what's that?...is that his mother putting him up to it? Some people have no class.
Poor Ari got bitten by a mosquito--and it swelled his eye shut. It's too bad it had to occur when Ari met Aunt Lorna and Uncle Gordie for the first time. We had a cookout on the beach at Kincaid Park amidst a howling sand- and rainstorm.
Sporting his big eye, I can't tell whether Ari looks more a homeless kid or a mongol. His woeful appearance belies the fact that Alaska mosquitoes are not nearly as bad as most people think. It's just that babies are particularly susceptible.
Of all the things a father doesn't want to see when he comes home one day from work...is that his 14-month old son has joined a motorcyle gang. So you can imagine how shocked I was today to discover he had tattooed his arm and now peels around the neighborhood in his way-cool, "Step 2" plastic, human-powered "motorcycle".
One of the most amazing places in the world--just 60 miles from Anchorage--is Prince William Sound. I've been to Glacier Bay and glacial regions of South America and Europe, and I've never seen such a concentration of tidewater glaciers, wildlife, waterfalls, and green hillsides.
In years past, the 26 Glacier Cruise has dropped me off deep in the Sound to film and photograph. The idea of waking in my bed in Anchorage, camping that night deep in the Sound, and being back in town for dinner the next day is something I cherish.
So when they kindly agreed to drop me off at Black Sand Beach in Barry Arm, I vowed to be on my best behavior.