It’s 11:18 pm, but still plenty light out. Hard to settle down when there’s a beautiful sunset happening over the Yukon River. I’m in my National Park Service seasonal staff cabin, “Tent Frame #2,” trying to unwind and go to bed. The cabin is at the end of the air strip, and is in a little group of buildings with a sign out by the road saying “National Park Service Air Operations.” Three staff cabins, three storage cabins, a maintenance shop, a hangar, and a couple of bunkhouses back in the woods that belong to the BLM fire crew. “Air Operations Village” doesn’t really have a ring to it, but that’s how I’m thinking of it for now. Only two of us will be living here this summer.It’s been a long Alaskan day today, started out in Fairbanks at 6:00 am, packing up. At 8:00 am my friend Corinne and her daughters Taryn and Fiona dropped me off for my flight to Eagle. As soon as they left the airport I found out that my flight was going to be delayed by six hours. So I suddenly had a whole day to spend in Fairbanks. The air service gave me a ride to the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) campus, and I had plenty of time to wander around the student center, bookstore, library, and finally the Museum of the North. They have a wonderful collection of dinosaur bones, photos by Michio Hoshino, art by Fred Machetanz and Sidney Laurence, and natural history displays of Alaskan wildlife. Then I finally got my flight to Eagle. It takes about 90 minutes, cutting straight across the mountains in a Piper Lance. I was the only passenger (the rest of the plane was packed full of mail), and got to sit in the front seat. I spent the entire flight scanning the landscape for bears, caribou, wolves, but didn’t see any. Two of my co-workers finally showed up, having just returned from a trip to Fairbanks for trainings. I could actually have gotten a lift with them, on the nine-hour drive — but then I would have missed the museum and the plane ride.
Sam, my neighbor in the next cabin, is from Vermont. He plays chess, carves wooden spoons, hunts and fishes, reads philosophy and Russian literature, and has created a big garden by turning up the soil with the loader. He’s already planted greens and cabbage, and wants to plant potatoes. I think we will get along just fine.