Something’s Out There
A Bicycle Journey into the Wild
D. S. White
CHAPTER ONE: WHEELS ON THE WATER
RIDING IN ALASKA
We arrived in Haines later in the afternoon on the third day. A warm breeze blew off the land and the sky was beginning to clear. The landscape was more beautiful, much more so than any place we had passed by south of here. I instantly thought I wouldn’t mind living here someday. But I’m sure a job here would be hard to find, so that someday might have to be well past when I retired.
Haines is located in the Chilkat Inlet of the Lynn Canal. The Lynn Canal, named by Captain Vancouver, had reminded him of his birthplace in England. Vancouver had been a student of Captain Cook on his legendary voyages around the world. Cook had charted the outline of Alaska in search of the Northwest Passage, but had turned back within fifty miles of finding a way around the top of the continent.
Then, in his place, Vancouver was sent to look for the fabled water route around the top of North America. Vancouver filled in many of the missing details on Cook’s charts, putting names on places in the Pacific Northwest that still stand today, but did not find the passage either. It was not discovered until Amundsen led the way in 1903. This is the same Amundsen who was the first person to reach the South Pole, making him the first person in the world to see both the north and the south poles.
I was shaking as the boat pulled away from the shore. And then I was alone in the north. As I rode my bicycle away from the water, at any moment I expected some terror to strike at me. When would I get lost and starve to death? When would a grizzly come out of the woods and eat me? They really try to scare you with all those stories about Alaska.
As I continued to pedal, I began to realize that I was not in any immediate danger. Nothing had gone wrong so far. There hadn’t been any unsolvable dilemmas or unpredictable events since I’d left home. Soon I warmed up to my surroundings and a sense of accomplishment flooded me. I decided to stay in Haines for the night. And then, after arriving at a campground, I completed my first bicycle ride in Alaska.