WORM BARN REDUX
JUNEAU, Alaska: The mist billows upward, revealing turquoise icebergs and basking seals. The cliffs resemble coal slabs, soldered into a smooth mass. Tracy Arm has an austere beauty that somehow eluded Glacier Bay.
We enter Ford's Terror, the fjord that rattled a gormless navvie back in 1889. He rowed a dinghy through the narrow entrance at slack tide. When the waters rose and boiled through the granite-bottomed bottleneck Ford cringed for six hours amid horrific currents.
The passage remains tricky and the timing rarely suits tour boats.
I agree. When my family moved from Cape Cod to the Pacific Northwest, my eleven-year-old self imagined such mass, such gravitas. The Skagit Valley foothills were a disappointment, long before I suffered my logging-town schoolmates' tales of cat-shooting and cousin-kissing.
Concrete, Washington: home of Smitty's Worm Barn. Tobias Wolff captured it far better than I ever could.
We moved downriver for some easy livin' on the estuary. Mexican restaurants with mariachi bands and deep-fried ice cream. A minivan in every country-club McMansion driveway. A relatively sophisticated place where I was no longer mocked for falling against the bullpen's electrical fence and having a convicted murder for a landlord.
But that dream of mountains remained, deep under the teased bangs and rural-teen resentment.
Here they are, at last. And how.