Stopped on a mountain pass
We stare at an afternoon rainbow
burning an arc
into green tundra
…drive over there
find the pot of gold
in Indian voices
and along rainbow colors
out of swirling clouds
and booming in a wind
the Great Land’s reply rings round
you are already
you are alreay in
the Pot of Gold!
~Touring Alaska – a poem by John S. Allen (see footnote)
The beauty of Alaska is tenacious and relentless – it never lets up. Going anywhere in the Great Land – whether by foot, car, boat or plane – brings the traveler in constant contact with spectacular landscapes. This is a place of superlative natural beauty.
But there are moments, I call them fleeting moments, when Alaska goes from awesome to mind-blowing. These moments don’t last long (thus the moniker “fleeting”), but during that instant, Alaska is transformed into something heavenly. One of the most powerful of these fleeting moments: rainbows.
I have no hard data to back this up, but Alaska has more rainbows than anywhere on earth. Hours of horizontal summer light and frequent rainy days make this a rainbow breeding ground. Rainbows rarely seem to last long, but in the fleeting moment that they exist, they are transformational. Rainbows are just as likely as bears or moose to create a traffic jam, as tourists and locals alike pull over and take photos.
Take the rainbow in the photo below:
While driving into a blinding sun and trying to see through my drizzle and bug smeared windshield, I looked into my rearview mirror and slammed on the brakes. What was merely a ho-hum drive through the pot of gold was suddenly enhanced by this perfect rainbow. I took a couple of photos before the arc vanished into nothing, departing seemingly as quickly as it formed. When I got back into my car to drive off, another motorist sped by, oblivious to the magic that had just transpired. I believe I am the only person to have seen it. The Great Land made this rainbow for me.
Footnote: John S. Allen is a retired tour bus driver, world traveler and poet. He is Denali’s most interesting man. He is famous locally for jogging and picking up trash, and there is a John Allen Clean-Up Day in his honor each year where the community picks up trash and then has a big party. You can buy his book of poems here. He is also the source behind Bear Spray Story #1.