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Tourist Season


Maggie Mae

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I know I promised mountain goats. 

This is that story. Please don't leave because of the title. 

As long as I have lived here, I've been able to "group" the tourists. (Well, the ones that make themselves known as tourists.) They show up. They help our economy. They drive us all mad. 

We've got the cruise ship crowd

 

Wealthy, elderly, generally happy and slightly clueless. Most of these tourists are harmless. Fun story; last year we went on a couple of whale watching/glacier viewing "cruises" that I won through work. Very lovely experience, saw TONS of wildlife. Met lots and lots of tourists. One in particular stands out. Family of normal people, plus one older "gentle"man who was presumably married to one of the women.  This guy... 

Was basically Richard Gilmore. If, of course, Richard Gilmore was not a fictional lovable character, and instead was a rich man with an east coast accent claiming to be from a wealthy suburb of San Diego. This guy was unreal. He complained about his hotels (fair enough, my state isn't known for it's 5 star resorts.) He complained because he likes to travel and stay in his hotel room and smoke cigars. He complained because he can see whales at his local beach. He complained because the cruise was non smoking. He complained that we had to share a table for lunch and lunch was just random sandwiches. He complained that he was in a beautiful place and no one was listening to him complain about the lack of accommodation for his "needs" - needs being fancy scotch and cigars. Damn, it. Look at the orcas that are breaching two feet away. Look at the glaciers. Look at the dolphins and the jellyfish and the sea lions and otters and the puffins and the scenery. I don't know why I thought "Richard Gilmore." Grandpa Gilmore is a nice person. This guy was nice and actually pleasant, just, I guess, demanding. Also, he had the same accent and cadence with his voice. 

But I digress. 

The other group of tourists tend to be Asian. Someone told me that Japanese people come to [my state] to try and conceive under the Northern Lights. I'm not sure I believe that. Regardless of the reason, we got a LOT of East Asian tourists. This is fine with me, as I find the winter outfits (coats, sometimes snowpants, usually boots) while I am running  and sweating in tank tops and short shorts to be charming. I also like the girls who go on the nature cruises and terrify me with their snapchats/instagrams/selfies and lack of care with holding their devices over open water. 

The third group of tourists are the least annoying and that is the European Backpackers. I like these people because I never see them. They come in, they backpack in Denali, maybe climb a couple of mountains, they talk to us locals in bars and they have a great time. These people are the best. 

The worst tourists are the Americans who come here after reading a book about a guy who lived in an abandoned bus and died.  They backpack to the bus, and about 50% of them need rescue. WHY? Why is a book/movie about some guy who was unprepared for the wilderness "speaking to you"? Why go on this pilgrimage? Why is this a thing? 

There are also the young Americans who come here, maybe backpack a little, go to the tourist places, and then have a nice story to tell to their friends. I like these guys/girls too. Mostly because I do not see them and only hear of them. 

I forgot about the crowd of Team in Training peeps who show up twice a year to run our marathons. I like these people, wish they wouldn't litter. 

And finally. This new group of tourists. 

We (Me and some friends) went backpacking. It's a popular trail. I had no expectations that I would be alone in the wilderness like so many times before. I was, however, surprised when we got to the "top" and found our desired campsite occupied by a village of tents. Matching tents. Tents that had a troop number printed on them. 

So we bucked up, said "whatever," and found a spot across the lake. 

In the morning we assessed the situation. The situation being that it rained all night and everything was still kind of wet. So instead of packing up and hiking through the pass, we decided to stay another night at the lake, boy scouts be damned, and do some day hikes. We hiked around a bit. I thought about swimming in the glacier fed lake (I always have this debate with myself. I love swimming and I can swim in cold water. I know better and I never swim in these ice water lakes.)  We heard some of the boy scout troop talking about seeing a Grizzly. I perked up. 

After a while, one of the troop leaders asked us if we saw the grizzly. 

I said no, and asked them to point it out. 

We discussed where it was and one of the teenage boys passed me a pair of cheap binoculars. (Side note: I thought boy scouts stopped after jr high.) 

I looked and the SO used his camera to take a photo. 

First thought was "this isn't a bear." 

SO said "that bear has the skinniest legs I've ever seen." 

I said "Well, could it be a mountain goat?" I listed off the reasons that it was not a dall sheep.  (Sheep stay in groups, goats are more solitary. Sheep suck, Goats are awesome. You know, strictly the facts.) 

I pointed out that it's white, and in south-central [my state], it's unlikely to see a polar bear. Everyone, include my SO tried to convince me it was a light brown. 

I rolled my eyes. 

They told me it's a bear. 

I asked where they were from, not rudely, of course. Although this recap makes me sound rude. 

They told me all about how they were a boy scout troop from.. somewhere. Virginia maybe? Carolina? Fuck if I know. 

They said they don't have bears. I told them that there are, in fact, black bears all the way from Michigan to Florida. They laughed and told me "not grizzly bears" (brown bears, I think, is a term only used in my region.) 

Eventually we wandered off. 

Later that day, we overheard a conversation. 

"ITS A DADDY BEAR! HE HAD SOME BABY BEARS IN THE CAVE AND THEY CAME OUT AND NOW THE DADDY BEAR IS BEING A DADDY!" 

um. 

I don't even know where to begin with that. 

For fun. 

When we got back to our tent, we looked at our map of the state park. The mountain that a large portion of adult chaperones and a handful of teens were staring at was called...

....

wait for it...

,,,

Goat Mountain. 

 

I uploaded some pictures. You can make your own choices as to what the white animal with skinny legs and a goat like disposition is. 

Also, I'm disappointed that the troop leader didn't seem to have any actual activities planned for these boys. For two days! At least plan a day hike, or self rescue class on the glacier or something. Don't just hiking a crowd of teenage boys a few miles from the road, set up camp, and leave them to their own devices for 2-3 days. 

 

 

 

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MarblesMom

Posted

I hope to be one of those tourists you interact with and like :)

That looks to me like a mountain goat.  

Or ... I could go all conspiracy-theory on you and say that the animal is question is clearly an albino Yeti.  Rare sighting, indeed!

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Maggie Mae

Posted

12 minutes ago, MarblesMom said:

I hope to be one of those tourists you interact with and like :)

That looks to me like a mountain goat.  

Or ... I could go all conspiracy-theory on you and say that the animal is question is clearly an albino Yeti.  Rare sighting, indeed!

I hope to interact with you also. 

It's a goat. 

Or maybe a Yeti. But most likely it's a goat. 

I actually love all of our tourists. Even the ones that ask stupid questions like "what altitude are we?" AS THEY GET OFF A CRUISE SHIP AT SEA LEVEL. or "Do you like living here?" (YES). 

Tourists are amusing, even when they drive slow/stupidly. And they bring money into our economy. 

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WhatWouldJohnCrichtonDo?

Posted (edited)

I hope I'd be a desirable tourist if I ever made it up there. Who knows? :)

Boy Scouts have until they turn 18 to try to earn Eagle Scout, the highest rank. Some of the troops around here get their scouts to Eagle by 14. One or two kids might be that exceptional, but when almost every Scout in a particular troop does it, I wonder if they're really doing all the work themselves.

Plus, boys are supposed to start being mentors and leaders to the younger guys as they rise through the ranks. How much of a good leader are most 14 year old olds?  (Sorry. My brother and nephew were scouts and I guess I remember more about it than I thought.)

Sounds like the group you met could use some better leadership. Or at least a few wildlife guide books and good binoculars! :my_biggrin:

Edited by WhatWouldJohnCrichtonDo?
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Maggie Mae

Posted

15 hours ago, WhatWouldJohnCrichtonDo? said:

I hope I'd be a desirable tourist if I ever made it up there. Who knows? :)

I like all of our tourists. (Except for the ones who want to find that stupid bus. Or the ones who don't know their own abilities and get hurt/have a bad experience.) I get frustrated sometimes with the ones who can't be assed to look at a map or use critical thinking. 

I also have a love/hate relationship with cruise ships. They are good for the economy and they bring much needed income into small towns, especially in Southeast. It's also a really economical way for someone to see a lot of the state. I don't like some of the tactics that the big companies use to get the "guests" to use "preferred guides." Or how they threaten people with being left behind if they use a kayaking/climbing/whatever guide that isn't on their list of preferred vendors. Everyone knows when the ships leave and they will make sure you get back in time. 

They also cause issues with infrastructure when they break down and have to stay in one place. They are ugly. The people on them vary in their ability to realize that the towns have actual people that live in them. And towns like Ketchikan (population 8,000, i think) can't really handle an extra 2,000 people all at once for 5 days non stop. 

It's just a fine line. I want the tourists to keep coming and have a great time. I also want them to respect nature and just be respectful in general. There's only so many times I want to explain that we use American money, we don't have penguins, no one lives in an igloo, yes, Midnight Sun is a real thing, no, it's not a problem because we have curtains, don't pet the moose, etc. Yes, moose are herbivores. They will still kill you. I mean, there's a difference between asking "How do I get to [city not on the road system]" and having me explain that roads don't go there but accepting the answer of planes, vs "I want to drive to Nome, why isn't there a road on this map?" 

Oh and if you DO go on the cruise ships, I recommend not going to the places that close when the ships leave. Look for longer hours and stuff that's open year round instead of seasonal. 

 

15 hours ago, WhatWouldJohnCrichtonDo? said:

Boy Scouts have until they turn 18 to try to earn Eagle Scout, the highest rank. Some of the troops around here get their scouts to Eagle by 14. One or two kids might be that exceptional, but when almost every Scout in a particular troop does it, I wonder if they're really doing all the work themselves.

I don't know what kind of scouts they were, actually. I assumed Boy Scouts because the guy said "scout troop" and the markings on the tent, and they were all guys. What do they have to do to make Eagle? Is it a lot of work or is it like Girl Scouts where you just sort of age up? 

 

15 hours ago, WhatWouldJohnCrichtonDo? said:

Plus, boys are supposed to start being mentors and leaders to the younger guys as they rise through the ranks. How much of a good leader are most 14 year old olds?  (Sorry. My brother and nephew were scouts and I guess I remember more about it than I thought.)

14 year old boys are well known for their leadership skills and maturity levels. 

 

15 hours ago, WhatWouldJohnCrichtonDo? said:

Sounds like the group you met could use some better leadership. Or at least a few wildlife guide books and good binoculars! :my_biggrin:

They seemed okay, actually. They were polite, well mannered, not overly loud or obnoxious. The bear thing was pretty funny, especially considering that the goat was in no way behaving like a bear. Bears don't just stay in one place like that, unless they are sleeping. And they wouldn't just hang out watching people. (also "daddy bear" lol) 

Beyond that, I just felt bad for them once they started to get kind of bored. I would have probably broken them into groups by hiking ability and taken them on day hikes up the mountains. Or had them do some sort of wildlife identification photo scavenger hunt. Or, you know, Ron Swanson - ed it and told them to make a shelter out of a box and some rope. 

I wondered if maybe they thought the lake would be suitable for aquatic activities, or if they were just expecting something different. I think they had a pretty good time, regardless. 

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ALM7

Posted (edited)

@Maggie Mae, your story made my day, thank you for sharing. You're very patient!

A couple years ago, a neighbor mentioned to me they were vacationing in Washington, then headed to Alaska. I told them if they weren't flying to Alaska, on a US airline, they would need a passport. Long story short, they were driving, they informed me Alaska is a State, and they didn't need a passport.  I said fine, good luck getting back into the US (post 9/11), from Canada, without a passport.  

Here's the kicker, they told me they would just drive up the coast, and wouldn't be going by way of Canada!  I have no idea how their trip went, or where on earth they ended up.  I'm so glad they finally moved! 

I think PBS had a special on McCandless, absolutely bizarre. 

Thanks again for the bear story.

Edited by ALM7
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WhatWouldJohnCrichtonDo?

Posted (edited)

@ALM7--your ex neighbors sound like they could either be very entertaining or very irritating!

@Maggie Mae--I'm glad the scouts were doing better than I assumed from their lack of wildlife identification skills. :) My understanding of Eagle Scouts is that it can be almost the opposite of aging up. A 17 year old who has gotten to Life Scout (last level before Eagle) is kind of on a deadline to get all his badges and other requirements done before he turns 18. The last requirement is an individual project. That's where my brother got stuck. His (very good) troop leader assigned him a project involving a great deal of dealing with other people (including strangers), which was not his strong suit. He ended up as a Life Scout for life.

My nephew's project was a good fit with his abilities, but he still ended up in a time crunch and almost didn't get it finished in time. It was the same troop, 30 years apart. Different leaders, mostly. (My brother and dad still volunteer with the troop.)

I would love to visit all the wonders of your state, someday. It's probably always a good idea to find out something about a place before you go. That's a good reason to delve into some travel books from the library. I'll be doing research! :my_biggrin:

Edited by WhatWouldJohnCrichtonDo?
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laPapessaGiovanna

Posted (edited)

I hear you re cruises. The disregard shown by big cruises companies for the most elementary fairness is astounding. I don't even care for the money they bring when they wreck our treasures. Venice's lagoon is an extremely fragile environment but they just seem unable to grasp it and with them our bribed politicians. _DSC26601.jpg

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BTW I hated the movie Into the Wild and after that I didn't bother with the book. I love wilderness, wildlife and lost places, should I ever visit the US I'd definitely put Alaska, the Rockies, Yosemite and the canyons on my list (and then I'd moved on to Canada that is on my visiting list since I was a child). I also usually like spiritual quest stories, but that one was just so pointless and sad.

Edited by laPapessaGiovanna
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Grimalkin

Posted

        My daughter's boyfriend just got back from Denali he went with his family and visited the state parks. I am in awe that she would date such a nice dorky boy because I liked the bad boys at her age. 

         Alaska looks amazing and the weather in the south doesn't seem too terrible, it actually seems not bad at all, and you probably don't have mosquitos which makes it perfect. 

@laPapessaGiovanna those cruise ships look wrong there in the background of such a beautiful place! My dad lives in Aruba and owned a car rental business. It was a big deal getting a booth near the cruise terminal and I am sure he paid an arm and a leg for that right. Tourism is really the only industry they have there.

       When you mentioned 'lost places' it reminded me of going to France as a teen with my family. My favorite thing was exploring castle ruins. I would love to go back and explore ruins all over Europe.

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Maggie Mae

Posted

30 minutes ago, Grimalkin said:

         Alaska looks amazing and the weather in the south doesn't seem too terrible, it actually seems not bad at all, and you probably don't have mosquitos which makes it perfect. 

Summers can be lovely, but the mosquito is the unofficial state bird. I believe we have 17 different species of mosquito. 

Mosquitos in Southcentral aren't as bad, as, say Prudhoe Bay. Here is a video taken by surveyors. 

 Prudhoe is where the oil fields are located. All the way north. Like where Ice Road Truckers is filmed. 

 

Mosquitos in Southcentral aren't quite to that level, but a good portion of Anchorage is swampland. They drained it and filled it and built buildings. I have something like 7 lakes and two "creeks" within walking distance of my house, along with the ocean and a protected marshland. There are days when I can't use my yard without deet. It rains a lot. It's not humid, but when it rains it's rarely a downpour or a storm. It's just wet and grey. For days. 

 

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Grimalkin

Posted

          I would never of thought that. I asked about mosquitos in England once and they made fun of me saying the summers are to cool for mosquitos. 

      

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church_of_dog

Posted (edited)

I hear you re the tourists -- I live in a teeny village-size town and the few scattered rockhounds or hot springs seekers don't bug me much.  The big influxes we get are hunters (fall for deer and spring for the ground-squirrel shoot which is not hunting per se but still lots of shooting) and then folks on their way to/from Burning Man.  I rather enjoy the BM folks but I also enjoy that it's a limited time and then town gets quiet again.  I would have serious trouble adjusting to constant influxes of tourists, especially of the "parade scenic views before me while I sit in luxury" type.

I'm one of those who was totally fascinated with McCandless, but

1) my fascination does not compel me to go see the bus or to directly experience his story.

2) my interest in him is/was based on a fascination with the true isolationist/survivalists, not just him, but others such as Everett Ruess, Marshal South, and others.  In fact what interested me most about McCandless was not his fateful AK trip but the successful trips he made, such as heading into the Mojave Desert for a month carrying only a knife and a bag of rice (possible exaggeration or possible actual event, not sure).  Furthermore, while I enjoyed the book (never saw the movie), after reading his sister's account of their family dysfunction, he shifted in my mind from being a true hermit/wilderness person, to simply someone reacting to their problematic history, and he holds no further interest for me.

Also, while I've been to Anchorage twice and made day trips to Seward, etc., I haven't actually been to Alaska.  Always had a fascination with the place, though, as I favor very small towns, located in rugged terrain isolated from urban centers, primitive living, and harsh winters.  But now having found a location "sufficiently close" to that in the lower 48, and not feeling it to be environmentally ethical (nor personally appealing) to make many discretionary travel jaunts, I don't imagine I'll be back.

Edited by church_of_dog
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Maggie Mae

Posted

Fun fact: No one actually needs to hike to the bus if they just want a picture. The bus from the movie is in front of a brewery in Healy. 

 

4 hours ago, church_of_dog said:

Also, while I've been to Anchorage twice and made day trips to Seward, etc., I haven't actually been to Alaska.  Always had a fascination with the place, though, as I favor very small towns, located in rugged terrain isolated from urban centers, primitive living, and harsh winters.  But now having found a location "sufficiently close" to that in the lower 48, and not feeling it to be environmentally ethical (nor personally appealing) to make many discretionary travel jaunts, I don't imagine I'll be back.

Sorry, but I really dislike this attitude which is usually repeated by various grumpy old people who live in Wasilla/Big Lake/Palmer. Anchorage is still Alaska. It's different than living in, say, Wrangell or Bethel or Fairbanks; but it's still Alaska. Alaska is a big place. We have room for Anchorage and Juneau and Petersburg. A village in the interior will be a vastly different living experience from living in Unalaska or Unalakleet or Barrow. There is no "Real Alaska" because all of Alaska is 'real'. You've been to Alaska, you just haven't been off of the road system. 

ETA: I totally get what you are saying, though. Anchorage is too urban for a lot of people. 

 

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church_of_dog

Posted

@Maggie Mae, I totally get it -- I had heard that meme of "you haven't really seen Alaska until you've been outside the cities" and I assumed (there was my first mistake!) that you shared it, because (as someone who doesn't enjoy cities) if I  lived there I  would probably share it -- just trying to acknowledge that there is so much more to the place and I would never presume to think I had a comprehensive experience of a place just because I whooshed through on the freeway or went to the tourist attractions.  Anyway, I apologize -- thought I was being clever but the assumptions got me again...

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Maggie Mae

Posted

8 minutes ago, church_of_dog said:

@Maggie Mae, I totally get it -- I had heard that meme of "you haven't really seen Alaska until you've been outside the cities" and I assumed (there was my first mistake!) that you shared it, because (as someone who doesn't enjoy cities) if I  lived there I  would probably share it -- just trying to acknowledge that there is so much more to the place and I would never presume to think I had a comprehensive experience of a place just because I whooshed through on the freeway or went to the tourist attractions.  Anyway, I apologize -- thought I was being clever but the assumptions got me again...

Oh, it's a popular meme. It just kind of annoys me. 

And I totally get the intention behind it, it's just indicative of that "real women have x,yz" crap. No need to apologize! 

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