Tuesday, 23 February 2010
Alaska: Then and Now
While intellectually I know that Alaska's changed a lot since 1949, it's sometimes hard to realize just how much. I've been looking at old topographical maps, which show Alaska as it was 50-70 years ago, looking at village locations to see what went away, what the surveyors missed, and what popped up since then. In the YK, the BIA had more effect on where villages ended up than almost anything else - I suspect that might be true on the North Slope, too, but I don't know for sure.
When Goldstream didn't have a road, or anything, I couldn't help but notice this little CDP called "Happy." It's just to the east of Ester Dome. Right now, it's where Sheep Creek Rd. crosses the Goldstream Creek. What happened to Happy? Did they become sad and leave? Right now, there's a small collection of homes there, on the less cheerfully named "Aurora Borealis Drive." Bring back Happy, I say!
There's something else I've noticed, but it isn't on this map I've shown you. When I drove the Parks Highway back in July, I realized that there was an air strip right after you leave the Denali area, when you start getting into the very edge of the Susitna valley, in the Chulitna headwaters. It's called "Summit." It's a very lovely area, and there's a large lake (Edes Lake), and a couple random cabins over there. Oh, and wind turbine. I started wondering what was the story behind Summit - I tried googling it, but I can't find anything.
When I looked at the area in a 1951 topo, even ignoring the highway, Summit looks very different. It had roads going up and down a bit - rare in that area, for that time. And there are a lot of black dots that indicate cabins... more than Cantwell. Even back then it had an Air Strip. What was Summit? I don't see any signs of mining either in person, or on the map. It's a very pretty area, but it's a very inhospitable area. I really want to know what the story behind Summit was.
Edited to add: Looking at these old topos, and just thinking about challenges 110 years ago in general, I can't help but feel like all of us alive now are frauds. We're not our grandfathers and grandmothers. We have it so easy it's laughable.
On the other hand, I'll trade being a fraud for having a mean life expectancy of twice of 1900s. That's 2x the time to feel like a fraud.