Wilder by Far

A look at life with the Wilder family. Updated most weekends and some vacation days. You can contact me at movingnorth@gmail.com..

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Location: United States

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

"I remember a gentle visitor from the heavens who came to earth and then died only to be brought back to life again. His name was: E.T." -Rev. Lovejoy

Above is yet another picture of Denali. When The Mrs. saw it in the Visitors' Center at Denali National Park, she said, "I thought it would be bigger." The Mrs. is used to disappointment that way.

Well, for that matter, I thought it would have been, too. I was unaware on all of the times that I'd flown over this massive mountain in jet airliners traveling at 300 miles per hour that it was actually in the Visitors' Center. They must roll back the roof when planes fly over. You can click on this picture, or any of them, and you can view them in WilderVision. Okay, you can just look at a larger version.

Actually, it's a scale model of Denali. On a big round table. It was nice, because this was going to be the only picture that I would get to take of Denali all day long, what with the clouds and all. That's the problem with having a huge mountain as a big tourist attraction: sometimes you don't see it at all. I'll bet David Copperfield could have undisappeared it, but he's been banned from Alaska for introducing Celine Dion to the world. Or, maybe just because he's David Copperfield.

I apologize for the mislabelling of Denali as McKinley. It would appear that Ohio still wants the name of the mountain to be McKinley, and we won't be able to change it until Ohio isn't looking.

We wandered about the Visitors' Center for a bit. It was nice and touristy. You could get a road map of Alaska, signed by Governor Frank Murkowski himself. You could also get pamphlets telling you not to annoy the bears. Obviously, Charles Darwin was not in charge of writing the pamphlets. Had he been, the pamphlet would have encouraged you to annoy the bears. Maybe with pictures for those that couldn't read. Thin the herd. Darwin would have wanted it that way. Besides, we need more "Bears Eat Dozens of Tourists" stories in the papers. Keeps the weak away.

Anyhow, we wandered about the exhibits. There were stuffed bears and moose. One exhibit, though, actually irritated me quite a bit. It is shown below:

This is a microphone station that Federal scientists (that you pay for) use to measure sound in the park.

You read that right. Somehow, they got a government budget line item to listen to a forest. News Flash: "Federal Scientists Listen to Forest: Still No Man On Mars." So, in the interest of science, a quick quiz:

A forest sounds like:
a. An office building.
b. A construction site.
c. The inside of Terrell Owens' head.
d. A forest.

If you answered a., b., or c., you too could be a Federal forest listening scientist. This thing looks like it was designed for NASA, maybe to listen to Saturn's rings. I have no idea what one cost, but it was probably more than the tape recorder you or I would have used had we really wanted to hear what a forest sounded like. I mean, if we weren't there, listening.

Above is an eagle, getting ready for a midnight snack. One thing I complement this particular Visitors' Center for was a model of a carcass of a moose being fed on by lots of different critters. Rather than the Bambi kind of cute animals that talk and have big emotion-filled anthropomorphic eyes. No, this place showed that wolves don't pick up take out meals at the local Taco Bell and that eagles eat cute and fuzzy voles. Actually reminded me of dinner time at the Wilder house.

Another thing I liked about the Visitors' Center was the map above. It shows a polar view, to scale. It really points out that Alaska is really damn far away from the rest of the U.S. We're quite literally within about nine hours' air time from 90% of the industrialized world - a very strategic place. This explains why the airport at Anchorage is continually filled with jumbo jets slinging I-Pods from Shanghai to Moscow or New York. It's a great big gas station for your Chinese-made goods. I'm not advocating that all maps should show Alaska at the center. All maps should show Alice Cooper's house at the center, because, you know, Alice Cooper rocks.

Anyway, we stopped at Nenana on the way back. Nenana is home to the Nenana Ice Classic. You might think that was a hockey tournament or a figure skating competition. No. The Nenana Ice Classic is where they put this tripod (which is actually a quadrapod, but who's counting) on the river ice. They tie a string from the tripod to a clock. When the string pulls the mouse door and the mouse eats the cheese that allows the bowling ball to trip the match which lights the candle that burns the house the clock is housed in down, someone takes the time down. If you bought a ticket and guessed the date and time that the ice in the river melted enough for this to happen, you win some portion of the money put in for the tickets. In 2005, 46 people split $285,000. It would probably been fewer had the time not have been 12:01PM.

As you might have guess, like many Alaskan things, this was devised by a group of bored and probably drunk engineers. A group of railroad engineers in 1917 bet $800 on the outcome, and it has become a popular local tradition. The records generated since 1917 have even been used to suggest that global warming is here. Here is another viewpoint. I read today that global warming has been seen on Mars. I'm scared - our SUV's are killing them, too.

Anyway, we got home. Despite our inability to see anything more than a few hundred feet off of the ground, our relatives were quite pleased with the trip. Hey, what's a Visitors' Center for, if not to visit? Maybe the picture below explains why they weren't disappointed.

You be the judge.


Blogger Duck Hunter said...

If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Now, thanks to the feds, we will have an answer!

7:43 AM  
Blogger Garry Nixon said...

Duck hunter got there first: I was thinking the same thing. I reckon the people who thought up this forest-listening gig were rational souls really pissed off by unanswerable Zen conundrums.

And thanks for more fun with the bears-eating-people motif.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Woofwoof said...

I didn't know that Denali has those convenient steps that take you right to the top. Not hard at all. I think I can make that climb in about 30 minutes.

8:51 PM  
Blogger Carl Oberg said...

Curious: do you get your $845 this year? How is that going to feel?

12:25 PM  
Blogger the Witch said...

If a talking moose duct tapes a pellet gun rigged to fire when jupiter is directly over Alice Cooper's house, will the sound be recorded by the federal govt?

6:05 PM  
Blogger John said...

Yes. For extra credit, figure how many years of your tax dollars were spent noodling that one out.

Well, Alaska is so far west it's almost east . . . still bugs me that I can't find the west pole or the east pole. Perhaps because it's been years (and years) since I've been to a strip club . . .

Race you to the top . . . ready . . . go!


I will begin getting on the dole next year.

Oh, wow. That IS Zen. I think my perceptions just increased by at least 30%. I think the answer is yes, but only if there's a budget item for it.

9:45 AM  

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