I walked around the chain-link fence of Pump Station 12 of the trans-Alaska pipeline, apprehensive about the human encounter to come.
It was time to send a weekly column. I needed a Wi-Fi signal or a cellular bar or two. I had walked more than a week through air devoid of communications waves.
With Cora on a leash and me having not spoken to anyone all day, I reached the gate of the pump station. No one was there. No guard at the shack behind the fence. The green buildings, which looked like an occupation base on Mars in their best days, bled with rusty stains. The place had a post-apocalyptic feel.
There was a phone inside a box near the fence. I picked it up. Before it rang twice, a security guard named Jeff answered.
Jeff was sitting at a desk in Anchorage. He did not laugh when I asked about Wi-Fi, but he might have smiled.
“You’re in the Big Lonely,” he said. “There’s not much around Pump 12.”
The decommissioned pump station was quiet, its turbine engines no longer needed to push a smaller volume of crude oil down to the Valdez terminal. There were two heavy-equipment operators inside the compound moving snow with loaders, but there seemed to be no one in the buildings.
The stunning mountain-and-waterfall country between Valdez and Glennallen was a lively place 20 years ago. The last time I walked this path, I met people and stopped to chat every day. This time, there have been days I have not talked with anyone but Cora.
Is that a product of timing, with me starting my hike before summer visitors arrive? Or have people moved out?
Since 1997, Alaska’s population has increased, from about 613,000 then to 737,000 today. But most of those people have moved into Alaska’s cities. In the Valdez-Cordova Census Area through which I walked, there were fewer people in 2013 than in 2000, according to researchers with the state of Alaska.
“It’s the bleeding of the Bush,” said my friend Doug Vollman, whom I sought out near Copper Center. Vollman and his daughter Taylor hosted me and Cora for an enjoyable day and night on his farm. It’s a hay-scented place of open fields and darting swallows, with a resident great gray owl.
Vollman, with whom I golfed on his homemade muskeg course 20 years ago, thinks the lack of jobs in the area have led to people moving out. His wife, Marnie, is in Jackson, Miss., for a two-month training program with her employer, the Bureau of Land Management. He grows vegetables for area farmers markets and drives a travel van from Glennallen to McCarthy.
From Vollman’s house, I hiked one day to the aspen hilltop home of Mike and Lanette Phillips. The Phillipses, whom I also met 20 years ago and wrote about in my book “Walking my Dog, Jane,” said a good barometer of population change was the health of local schools.
Lanette, who worked in the home-school program with Copper River School District for 18 years, used her fingers to count area schools that had closed in the last two decades due to enrollment dropping to fewer than 25 students: Chistochina, Copper Center, Gakona, Paxson and the Lottie Sparks School in Nelchina. Only schools in Glennallen and Slana remain open.
So maybe the quietness of this stretch is the real deal. In a world of 7.5 billion people, expected to increase to more than 11 billion by the end of the century, a place going the other way seems significant.
But my solitary stretch seems to have ended, with visits to friends met by chance 20 years ago and a few spontaneous meetings. Thanks to LJ and Logan for the coffee at 46-Mile, bear hunters Josh and Fred for another mug at a highway crossing, my friend Elizabeth Schafer for feeding me lunch on her way to McCarthy from Anchorage. And whoever left me the bag of snacks near the Tonsina River.
And, of course, Doug and Taylor Vollman, along with Mike and Lanette Phillips.
These guys haven’t seen me in 20 years, but they pulled me in like a lost brother. They have fed me, let me shower and wash clothes. With a few phone calls, Mike even enabled my crossing of the Tazlina River, finding a loaner packraft on deadline (thanks to John Rigo).
Staying with these friends the past few days, I’ve appreciated what they like about the Big Lonely: It’s full of good neighbors you don’t see all the time, but always show up when you need them.
Sandeson on trial in Halifax for 1st-degree murder in death of Dalhousie student Taylor Samson
A large amount of evidence has been introduced at the first-degree murder trial of William Sandeson, who is accused of killing fellow Dalhousie University student Taylor Samson. The prosecution alleges Samson was killed during a drug deal at Sandeson’s south-end Halifax apartment. Samson’s body has not been found. Pictured below are some of the exhibits from the ongoing trial in Nova Scotia Supreme Court, which began last month.
The first are photos taken by police following Sandeson’s arrest on Aug. 19, 2015.
Police photo of Sandeson. (Court exhibit)
Police photo of Sandeson’s back. (Court exhibit)
Police photo of an abrasion on Sandeson’s shoulder. (Court exhibit)
Evidence so far in the trial points to Samson being killed in Sandeson’s apartment on Henry Street in Halifax.
This is a diagram of Sandeson’s Halifax apartment. The room on the left was his bedroom. (Court exhibit)
Police found a duffel bag full of blood-stained cash in Sandeson’s bedroom when they searched his apartment.
One of the blood-stained $20 bills found in Sandeson’s apartment. (Court exhibit)
The Crown has said Samson went to Sandeson’s apartment to sell him 20 pounds of marijuana.
An image from security video at Sandeson’s apartment showing Taylor Samson arriving. (Blair Rhodes/CBC)
Following Samson’s disappearance and Sandeson’s arrest for murder, the marijuana was turned over to police by a lawyer. Court has heard Sandeson had left it at his younger brother’s apartment.
This marijuana was turned over to police. (Blair Rhodes/CBC)
Police also found a 9-mm Smith & Wesson handgun, along with ammunition, in a safe in Sandeson’s bedroom.
Police told court that they found several items inside Sandeson’s safe, including a 9-mm Smith and Wesson handgun and a box of ammunition with two shells missing. (CBC)
Police say the gun was found with one bullet in the chamber. (Court exhibit)
An RCMP expert analyzed photos of the gun and has testified that minute droplets of blood on the weapon indicate it had been used to shoot someone at a very close range.
An RCMP expert said the droplets on the gun were blood. (Court exhbit)
Police also searched Sandeson’s family farm in the Truro area. There they found an abandoned ice-cream truck with a number of pieces of evidence inside.
A police photo of the ice-cream truck. (Blair Rhodes/CBC)
Inside the truck was a sports bag. There were also garbage bags containing a shower curtain, blue tarp and towels. (Court exhibit)
Inside one of the garbage bags was a shower curtain. A DNA expert has testified that victim Taylor Samson’s blood was on it. (Court exhibit)
A tarp inside on the garbage bags also tested positive for Samson’s blood. (Court exhibit)
This duffel bag was found inside the sports bag. It had Samson’s blood on it and a police officer also testified it had a rotten smell. (Blair Rhodes/CBC)
The trial has heard the towels inside one of the garbage bags were wet. (Court exhibit)
Police seized a backpack Sandeson was wearing when they arrested him. Inside was a new shower curtain.
This backpack was taken from Sandeson during his arrest. (Court exhibit)
Police said they found this new shower curtain inside the backpack. (Court exhibit)
More from CBC News
Andre De Grasse has unfinished business at Prefontaine Classic Preview
Tell us what you think
Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering
Agriculture and Food Security
Air Transportation and Distribution
American Sign Language – ASL
Anthropology / Archeology
Applied / Commercial Art
Astronomy / Astrophysics
Biological and Agricultural Engineering
Biology / Biological Sciences
Biomedical and Medical Engineering
Cellular Biology and Anatomical Sciences
Child Care / Child Psychology
Clinical Laboratory Science Professions
Communication Disorders Sciences
Comparative Language Studies and Services
Computer and Information Sciences
Computer Systems Analysis
Cosmetology and Related Services
Counseling and Guidance
Criminal Justice, Law Enforcement, and Corrections
Culinary Arts and Culinary Services
Curriculum and Instruction
Data Entry Processing
Design and Applied Arts
Digital, Radio, and Television Communication
Drafting and Design Engineering
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Educational Administration and Supervision
Educational Evaluation and Research
Electrical Repair and Maintenance
Electronic Communication System Technology
Engineering – Architectural
Engineering – General
English Language and Literature
Enterpreneurship and Small Businesses Development
Ethnic and Gender Studies
Fine Arts and Studio Art
Fire Safety and Protection
Foreign Language and Literature
Forestry and Wildlands Management
Funeral Related Services
Geography and Cartography
Geology / Geophysics
Health and Fitness
Heating, Air Conditioning, Ventilation, and Refrigeration Maintenance
Heavy Equipment Maintenance
Human and Social Services
Information Technology Management
International and Comparative Education
Latin American Studies
Leatherworking and Upholstery
Legal Research and Professional Studies
Legal Support Services
Library Science and Related Professions
Management Information Systems (MIS)
Massage and Related Therapeutic Professions
Medical Administrative Services
Medical and Health Preparatory Sciences
Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
Medical Ethics and Bioethics
Medical Informatics and Illustration
Microbiology and Immunology
Natural Resources Management
Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering
Networking and Telecommunications
Optometric and Ophthalmic Services
Osteopathic Medicine – DO
Parks, Recreation and Leisure Studies
Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration
Pharmacology and Toxicology
Photography, Film, and Video
Phylosophical Foundations of Education
Political Science and Government
Precision Metal Working
Precision Systems Maintenance
Psychology and Human Behavior
Public Affairs / Public Policy
Public Health and Safety
Rethoric / Debate
Sales and Merchandising
Software and Computer Media Applications
Teacher Education for Specific Levels and Methods
Teacher Education for Specific Subject Areas
Therapeutic and Rehabilitation Professions
Urban and Regional Planning
Vehicle Repair and Maintenance