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MIT staff blogger Chris Peterson SM '13

Alaska, part I by Chris Peterson SM '13



<url=”>Blogger Application 2010 is due to me by email by Monday, August 2nd! Snap to it!


Unlike Snively’s “Alaska” post of a year ago – which read, in its entirety, have decided that today I will operate under the assumption that I am in Alaska. Not because it’s cold or anything, just because it’s a change of pace. Your thoughts on Alaska are welcomed. – I actually was in Alaska earlier this month. My family, while not tremendous travellers, has managed to vacation together during the summer before I and each of my two younger brothers went to college. Since the youngest Peterson will be leaving for school in the fall, and since it’s unclear when we’ll have the time to vacation as a family again like this, they decided to make it a big one, and so we went to Alaska.

Two nights before we left, though, I was back in my hometown in NH, playing a knock-down-drag-out game of ultimate frisbee with my friends from high school, as we have every Tuesday night of every summer since our senior year of high school. We’re all a bit older, slower, and fatter than we were then, but we’ve kept it going, and I’m pretty proud of that.

Anyway, at the end of the game, I dove for the frisbee at a full sprint. I came up with the game-winning catch, but at the price of torpedoing myself neck-first into the turf.

I’ll save you the story of my (entirely satisfactory, as always) visit to MIT Medical, but suffice it to say that several xrays and a diagnosis of torn neck muslces later I was boarding a plane to Seattle in a neck brace.

I have to say, though, a neck brace is THE way to travel. Know those overpriced horse collar pillows they sell for $900 in Hudson News?

It’s the same as a neck brace! So while my brothers tossed and turned and fought each other for sleeping space in the cramped confinement of coach, I slept like a baby with my head propped straight up in a brace. If it wasn’t for the shooting pains in my neck, back, and shoulders, it would’ve been the most comfortable I’d’ve ever been while traveling.

We landed in Seattle, rented a Jeep that had been designed by someone specializing in the art of the physically uncomfortable, and drove to the space needle. But we didn’t go to the space needle. First, we went on a duck tour of Seattle.

Now, duck tours aren’t all that weird. We have them here in Boston. But I’ve never before been on a duck tour captained by a man who wore a decorated aluminum trash can lid for a hat and introduced himself as “Bob LaBlaugh.” Of course I immediately asked him about his law blog (if you don’t watch Arrested Development, you will not get this), and he looked at me in complete bafflement. He then started talking about his mom as he drove us at profoundly unsafe speeds through the city, exhorting us to yell “KA-CHING” every time we drove by a Starbucks and blasting the chicken dance out of earshattering speakers on the bus.

Despite Bob’s best efforts, I still managed to enjoy the trip, which gave us beautiful photos of Seattle:

as well as Fremont, which, with its public art, ironic Soviet memorabilia, and bicyclists, rather reminded me of a more overcast Cambridge.

From the top of the space needle, the first thing you notice has nothing to do with the city and everything to do with Mt Rainier, which just dominates the landscape:

We then had dinner down on the wharf, packed (and I use that word advisedly) into our Jeep, and drove two miles into the wilderness, to the town of Leavenworth, WA.

So here’s the deal with Leavenworth:

Back in the 1800s, it was founded as a resupply shop on a major railroad line through the mountains, catering to all the things railroads required: wood, coal, taverns, brothels, etc. But when advances in rail technology allowed the railway to save hundreds of miles of travel by taking more direct routes, it left Leavenworth out of the picture, and with no railroad to support it, the town slowly began to shrivel and die.

From the 1920s to the 1960s, Leavenworth was in the throes of a deep depression, and in the early 1960s the town began to reassess its very existence, and how it could continue on existing and not become an abandoned ghost town in the woods somewhere.

I wish I had been at this town meeting, because apparently someone stood up and said something to the effect of “you know, we’re in the mountains, and there’s snow everywhere: I know, we should become a mock Bavarian Village. So they did. “Barry’s Biker Bar” became “The Bar in Berlin”, they exchanged leather for lederhosen, and so forth.

So now you go anywhere in Leavenworth, and it’s unbelievably kitschy mock-German-village chic. It’s like a low budget Disney world where you’re exploring Austria in the 1800s.

That said, it is unbearably beautiful:

My brothers went white-water rafting in some class 4 rapids down the road:

And I stayed in and iced my neck while reading Achewood.

The next day, we drove back to Seattle, through the mountain passes that had sustained (and then foiled, and then sustained anew) Leavenworth for so long:

got back to Seattle, and boarded a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship heading north through Puget Sound:

We were on our way to Alaska! As for what happened there…that will wait for my next blog entry…

13 responses to “Alaska, part I”

  1. Anonymous says:



  2. Anonymous says:



  3. Piper '12 says:

    Wow, those photos are amazing!

    I still haven’t gotten the hang of using a neck brace comfortably, actually. I’m wondering if it has to do with shoulder width or something… raspberry

  4. MadSkills says:

    Ahhh, I do love Washington. This reminds me of the camping trip that I have every year over in Eastern Washington; passing through those beautiful mountains on the way over there is awe-inspiring. So you passed through the San Juan Islands!! The place that I live.

  5. Stanley '11 says:

    Breathtaking photos you’ve got there.
    I’m tempted to visit Washington next summer! =)

  6. Cam says:

    I had that shirt in middle school, Chris. Thumbs up.

  7. This comic made me think of you and is even a tiny bit relevant to this post!

  8. Ben '14 says:

    Jealous! great pics–looking forward to Alaska, Part II wink

    AND I’m really impressed with your use of “I’d’ve”

  9. Ben '14 says:

    Jealous! great pics–looking forward to Alaska, Part II wink

    AND I’m really impressed with your use of “I’d’ve”

  10. Anonymous says:

    When do you think will we find out results of the 2010 Blogger Application? smile

  11. Jason(: says:

    Nice pictures! I’ll be waiting for part two! smile

  12. Anonymous says:


    In the pic, Leavenworth looks a little bit like towns in switzerland – refreshing and relaxing…

    Did biking in the wilderness find a slot in the vacation plan?