Quickly realizing I was looking for sheep porn, I put my lenses away and hiked up to where my mom was eating lunch. Mt. McKinley decided to make a rare, cloudless appearance. With my blood sugar levels rising back to normal I was finally able to sit back and enjoy the quintessential, Alaskan view.
Robert Service once wrote of America's largest state, "it grips you like some kinds of sinning, it twists you from foe to a friend." My analogy is closer to Hotel California, "you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave." Maybe it's because the sun is out all summer, rendering the aurora-dominated winter a true twilight zone; regardless, Alaska is not exactly American. The landscape is harshly unique, while the culture is detached. The people are inexplicably, almost genetically different. Literally an outlier, Alaska holds almost as much land volume as the continental United States. So no matter how far south you go, it tugs at your inner tide with the gravitational equivalent of the moon, causing you to always sway back. Like the sand pipers who return annually to feed, many residents flee the nest "forever" on one-way flights. But their stomachs weren't built for trendy, urban diets. In no time these ambitious fledglings migrate home with indigestion. But some of us more adaptable creatures manage to break the fence forever, our wolf pack watching with their heads cocked longingly towards the lights of civilization, hoping we'll survive.