I depart from the womb of the ferry into the coastal gray of Juneau. My wild lands brain lurches as I come to a string of fast-moving cars. Juneau is my first city since Boise. Around 30K folks live here. I am relieved to pull up to my friend's home hidden away on the mountainside.
Juneau: a thin strip of humanity at the base of major avalanche chutes. Steep mountains rise at the backside. Mountain goats graze high above the house. A Super Wal-Mart sits between La Perla and Auke Bay. Water is everywhere...lakes, streams, cascading falls and ocean. It envelopes me in clouds and falls gently on my skin as mist. I have traveled from 7500 feet in Mancos, Co to sea level; from lands that rarely lose the sun to lands that feel rain 222 days a year.
The first thing (well, almost) my friend does is hand me a pair of new neoprene rubber boots. They are knee high brown with felt liners and bottoms like hiking boots. They're called 'Xtra Tuffs' and Alaskans do everything in these boots 'cept make love. And that's only a guess.
It takes a half day clad in those boots and rain coats for both of us to power wash the mud and squashed bugs off La Perla and the truck. A rain front settles in over the next few days. I ply my host in green chile cheeseburgers and red chile pork stew, my cool, wet weather comfort foods that brand me as a true south westerner. He takes venison from the freezer, slices strips and fries it up in a homemade batter to-die-for. Where did you shoot the deer, I ask, wondering what part of Alaska.
"In the head," he answered.