Things will be a lot more crowded this summer in Southeast Alaska with a more robust cruise ship season, but it won’t be impossible to enjoy some quiet solitude. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)

Things will be a lot more crowded this summer in Southeast Alaska with a more robust cruise ship season, but it won’t be impossible to enjoy some quiet solitude. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)

I Went to the Woods: Here they come

Tourism isn’t all good and it isn’t all bad.

Here they come.

Here they come to ask ignorant questions about elevation (I hope they mean latitude), currency, and tell a stale joke about Russia, Sarah Palin or the Bridge to Nowhere.

Here they come to take, take, take then go home to tell everyone how, in their 10 minutes here, they were able to conquer Alaska.

Here they come to annoy locals by trying to fit in, or not even exercising a basic level of self-awareness to know their obnoxious behavior is not welcome.

Eh, maybe that’s too harsh.

Let’s try the opposite.

[2022 cruise season begins]

Here they come to be gracious, helpful, pleasant guests who happily contribute to the richness of our summer landscape.

Here they come to look upon land that is pristine and wild compared to their polluted, urban homes where recreational anger has spoiled their quality of life so badly they must seek refuge in our home state, even if only for a week. Welcome to our backyard of healing!

Here they come to stoke our economic furnace and make year-round living possible.

Here they come to remind us of how lightly we take the gravity of abundance. Even our crumbs are an abundance to them. They have no frame of reference for the way things were, they only see how things are, and that recalls for us the pride of being local. Things aren’t what they were, but they are pretty good.

Still, here they come to remind us that we can’t use modern efficiencies to take as we did in the old days, otherwise nothing will be left.

Here they come to take the blame for fish populations, deer populations, garbage, pollution, rudeness and other problems, when the truth is they are just convenient targets so we don’t have to look at our own role in any or all of those conflicts.

Yes, it is the season of chaotic good living, with the crowds from around the world trying to get in on the action.

People are motivated to visit Alaska for as individual a reason as those of us who live here continue to live here, so to apply a generalization or stereotype to who they really are and what they represent, is to miss the mark more often than not.

It will be odd to see scale return to the tourism season, as there is a decided difference between the robust return of anglers with a sprinkling of cruise ships and a return to pre-pandemic pandemonium downtown. But good for them. And us.

Sure, it might be funny to see someone sitting at a bar drinking an Alaskan Amber while reading the brand-new copy of White Fang he bought at the bookstore, but good for him. So what if to us it’s a little cliché. Are we to pretend we’ve never been a tourist or got caught up in the gravity of being in a place with noteworthy history?

(However, if I could recommend people bring a good rain jacket to save themselves the indignity of those clear ponchos, I would.)

So here we go. Another year with the unique opportunity to show off where we call home. There will be questions, interactions and even incidents. But it’s also an indication that the uncertainty of two years ago has been replaced by at least the ability to make our own choices.

That is something to celebrate, even if our commutes get a little longer and the local trails get a little more crowded.

Tourism isn’t all good and it isn’t all bad, so enjoy the summer for what it is, because like it or not, here they come.

• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His book, “A Miserable Paradise: Life in Southeast Alaska,” is available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. “I Went to the Woods” appears twice per month in the Sports & Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire.

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