view from the hill

A look at the elements and events that come into view from where I'm standing...
... the stuff that matters in this life. Some flicker and are gone in a matter of hours
only to live in memory, others become life long travelling companions, never far from reach.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Distant Lands

dlandsI had to get out of the house today so I headed off to B&N to find some tour books on Anchorage. As expected, the Alaska section was a tad thin, but the trip wasn’t a complete waste. I found a travelers’ tales book with a story called I Want to Ride on the Bus Chris Died In. What a title! Of course, it refers to Chris McCandless (from Into the Wild fame) I sat there on the floor and read it through. The writer goes into the whole phenomenon and allure of McCandless. Here we are over 10 years after Chris’ body was found in Alaska and the opinions are still flying and inspiring. The abandoned bus/hunters’ shelter where he spent his last days has become a bit of a pilgrimage site for travelers in search of the ever elusive authentic experience. The author goes to the bus herself and reads journal entries left there by backpackers. People are drawn to this place. They want to get closer to how Chris lived and understand why he died. Or they just want to throw in their two cents before moving on or hiking out to call their parents to let them know they’re ok.

dlandsintSo, in the spirit of moving on I left B&N for Pasadena and that Mecca of travel stores and mandatory way-stop at the head of any trail – Distant Lands Travel Bookstore. Forget Amex, don’t leave home without first paying a visit to Distant Lands. Yep, it’s that good.

roughguideI came away with the Rough Guide to Alaska, as well as some winter evening reading – Yukon Alone by John Balzar, and Tracks Across Alaska by Alastair Scot.

Yukon Alone is about the Yukon Quest, a race similar to the Iditarod but billed as being tougher, colder and with less support. The author pooh poohs the Iditarod, calling it too commercial with its corporate sponsors and TV coverage. The Yukon Quest is where the true grit play. We’ll see.

Tracks Across Alaska is by a Scottish guy who decided to travel, you guessed it, across Alaska by dog sled. The thing is, he didn’t know anything about sledding or dogs before he started. It’s always fun to read about others’ misadventures from the comfort of a well-heated home. I’m looking forward to heading out on the trail… virtually.



check out Tracks here

and Yukon Alone here


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