Then I got personal. How long have you lived in Alaska? "I've been in Juneau my whole life," she said, eyes beginning to twinkle, mouth almost, just almost, forming a smile.
Have you ever wanted to live someplace else, someplace in the Lower 48? "Why would I leave? I've never had any reason to leave. Alaska is my home and it's magnificent." She went on to tell me about her parents, and about their parents, all of whom proudly raised their families in Juneau and worked on fishing boats and in mining and construction. She is deeply rooted in these snowy peaks and ancient glaciers.
And my new friend is right, of course. Alaska is magnificent. It's cold and rainy (and far worse in winter) and it's difficult to reach and maneuver, but it rewards visitors with unspoiled wilderness and views that quicken the heart and lift the spirit. This place is big and bold and ethereal.
Perhaps no one captures the vibe better than naturalist John Muir, who left us these words about southeast Alaska more than a century ago: "Tracing shining ways through fjord and sound, past forests and waterfalls, islands and mountains and far azure headlands, it seems as if surely we must at length reach the very paradise of poets, the abode of the blessed."
Yep, he nailed it.