Here’s a movie that came to a local theater the month I turned ten, in 1960. It prompts good, if limited, memories—of Willamette Street in its pre-improved hey-day, tall slender neon signs climbing the fronts of three movie houses (the Heilig, Fox, and McDonald, where North To Alaska played) and, on-screen, muddy streets and a sense of wildness farther north (even if it was really south, on a movie lot). Kids like to dream.
In the years since John Wayne tamed the woman Alaska passed through my thoughts many times, but other places always seemed to come first. And then in May, before leaving for England, friends invited us to meet them in Anchorage, in late July, and here we are, and what do you know?—tomorrow we fly north to Alaska to begin eleven days dwarfed by that immense place. I’m taking a smallish amount of photo equipment, fewer clothes, and hope for a glimpse of Mt. McKinley across Wonder Lake, and a grizzly bear (or caribou). Photographers like to dream, too.