I had already bought my tickets before I looked at the Google map of Alaska.
First, I followed the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry from Bellingham, WA, to Haines, AK. It is a four day trip, and I slowly followed the coastline up to Haines.
Then I looked at Anchorage. My brother Dave is driving from Anchorage to meet us in Haines. It is 800 miles! I tried to find the road and track his path. Couldn’t figure it out.
Next I found the Copper River, the border of a huge national forest, the Wrangell-St. Ellas Preserve and Wilderness, flowing into the Gulf of Alaska. But its path is difficult to follow too, around mountains and under snow.
Now, from Haines it would be a day and a half drive to Chitna where we would put into the Copper River. Chitna isn’t even listed in the AAA guide book, nor can I find the road we will drive on. But there it is on the Google map, clearly marked next to the river, how far into the interior I cannot exactly tell.
I can follow the Copper River on the AAA road map but not on Google. There are multiple streams, mountains, lots of snow. I can find Cordova, where we will spend the night at a motel and then catch the ferry to Whittier, sort of a back door to Anchorage, an hour’s bus ride away.
I’m fine at navigating road maps, but the Google map of Alaska overwhelms me. I am astonished every time I look at it that we will travel through this land and over these waters. It demands contemplation.