We see many tourists come through the Yukon River Camp, a few locals — if indeed locals they are — Stevens Village is a good 30 to 40 miles upriver with no road access.
A few people have gold mining claims farther north on the highway, and occasionally truckers will stop here, but for the most part, these are people who have come to visit the Arctic Circle, Coldfoot (halfway up the highway) or occasionally the Arctic Ocean, and they come from all over. I drove up here from Fairbanks with some folks from Thailand, and I’ve seen many people from Germany and Great Britain, and from many states in the lower 48.
I waited on some folks from the small town of Madbury, N.H., which is where my elementary school was when I lived in Durham. I met three people who graduated from Cornell three years before I did, and now I have a free place to stay in Fairbanks and in Seattle. Perhaps the most powerful evidence that it really is a small world were the four people I met on June 23, my 22nd birthday.
A large tour going to the Arctic Circle and back to Fairbanks came into the cafe for dinner that evening. It was pretty quiet, and I had little to do but chat with the people on the tour. Four of them were eating together, so I asked about the trip and where they were from. One man responded New Hampshire. Having lived there until I was 11, I asked where specifically, and he corrected himself indicating that the other couple was from Maine. I turned to them, and when they responded “Bangor,” I couldn’t believe it (though I might have seen it coming given his blue flannel shirt). “No way! That’s where I’m from! I went to Bangor High!”
We had a long conversation about home, and where we were from. As it turns out, Paul DeGrass was born and raised in Bangor, went to John Bapst, and now lives in Hampton, N.H. (half an hour from Durham), with his wife, Dale Smith, who went to the University of New Hampshire. My father taught there when we lived in Durham.
Dawn Spencer and Ed Conery have lived in Bangor their whole lives, both went to Bangor High, and Dawn went to Husson, where my dad now teaches. She grew up near Lakeside Landing in Glenburn, a stone’s throw from where my parents live now. They left Maine around March and have been “motor-homing it” since. They are getting married in August, so they have to be back to plan for the wedding. (Congratulations, you two).
As they left, Dawn came over and said,“Oh, I just have to give you a hug from Bangor,” which I eagerly accepted. To be honest, I have never been so thrilled to get a hug from someone I met 20 minutes earlier, and it was my birthday, so in some way I felt that this hug came from my mom back home.
Mostly we kept saying how crazy it was to run into someone from your hometown clear across the country. Practically on another planet, because, let’s face it: Ya cahn’t get theyah from he-ah.
P.S. As of 4 p.m. June 27, I have killed 967 mosquitoes.
Editor’s Note: Catie Ziellinski graduated from Bangor High School in 2007 and is a recent graduate of Cornell University. She is working this summer 120 miles north of Fairbanks, Ala., at the Yukon River Camp.