Before my trip, thinking of Alaska conjured up images of bears lolloping after salmon in shallow, bouldery rivers; splashes and startled salmon shooting in all directions. Beyond, mountain peaks dusted with snow stand out against a cloudless sky. I knew there would be more to Alaska than that but — apart from an image of a moose nibbling leathery leaves — I just couldn’t picture it.
After 48 hours in Anchorage, a week on Kodiak Island and five days winding my way south on the ferry to Washington, things had changed. Now, Alaska is floatplanes, camouflage clothing, wind-chapped skin and sweeping car headlights. It’s fishing boats and forests, kindness and hardship. It’s blue cloudless skies and also savage rain and whistling winds. The salmon I picture now are stacked in polystyrene boxes, and the bears… well, you’ll see.