Part nine: Anchorage again

July 8. We are having a much needed hard down day today. Thinking back, the hotel in Midway was totally adequate for rest but making it to Anchorage was a better idea: in Midway people would go all out and keep exploring not realizing how tired they are, while in Anchorage by now everything seems familiar enough to where you feel you can afford to miss out for a day, simply rest and do nothing.

In the early afternoon, while just sitting in the hotel room and vegetating without any coherent thought in the head, I got a call from a friend who was in a similar state. After a brief conversation the call of duty took over and we decided that doing something important, like laundry, was our obligation to the rest of the crew, so we pulled ourselves together for that excruciating effort. We also stopped by the airport to make sure we are in the country we think we are in and our airplane is there, which it was, and drove to Lake Hood, an interesting seaplane port right next to the Anchorage International Airport resembling a set of piers for yachts but used for the float-equipped airplanes, and watched float planes take off and land.

Float plane heading out
Float plane heading out

Small airplanes are everywhere, parked on the grass, on the lots, floating on the water and sitting on truck trailers like the motor boats in the Southeast. What a lifestyle it must be, to drive up, park your car, start the motor on a small plane and fly away, landing on some remote lake or river with no other people in sight, and fish, or hunt, or just sit by a campfire. When the brain briefly turned on and intervened in the stream of outdoorsy feelings it became painfully obvious that most likely, it is not a colorful outdoor adventure that calls these people to the skies today, they are probably taking replacement hardware, food or fuel to their remote cabins, and will not be sitting by a fireside but instead will be working hard, repairing a leaky roof or a rusty door hinge, or stacking up supplies for the winter. But the heart wanted to see just the romantics of the remote wilderness, so we turned the brains off (again) and left it at that.

July 9. We are back to work, preparing the instrument payload for the flight to the North Pole tomorrow. A plan has been worked out on what to attempt to do during that flight, and at the same time we sketched a plan for the flight to Colorado on Monday, two days from now. The end of the deployment is in sight, and I have a dual feeling: I am glad to be going back, to see my family and friends, to do the favorite things we do together and visit the favorite places again. At the same time the Willowbank kiwis, the rolling waves of the Seven Mile Beach in Hobart, the flame trees of Saipan and the clumsy silly chicks on Midway all come up in my memory as if through a light veil of time, to say good bye, and it is sad to see them all go into the past. These fantastic places let me peek into their fragile soul and gave me an intangible, but unbreakable, connection to keep, taking in return a piece of my heart. Even though I may be gone physically I will never be able to leave these places completely. Sitting here in Anchorage and looking through the pictures from this trip that feels like a dream now, I am listening to the Green Fields track from Piano in Memory, vol. 6 and the music seems to reflect the moment of saying good bye to the green fields of the last three weeks. Here it is:

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