Moose watching in Suburban Anchorage


After a supper of chicken a jus,

The workplace had turned us loose.

     We went for a walk

     We had a good talk,

And got close to a young spike bull moose.

Anchorage is not Barrow.  There are divided highways and McDonald’s and Starbucks and strip malls. 

But there are also green belts with pedestrian trails and signs telling you what to do if you encounter moose, black bears, or brown bears.  The newspaper sports section talks about mushing and fishing along with baseball and basketball.  Football in southern Alaska starts in the first week of August.

Les, an Anchorage doc who did the same residency I did, and I took his dog for a walk last night, down suburban streets to a green belt.  On the way we saw a twelve-year-old boy standing in his driveway, clicking away with his camera.  “What are you taking pictures of?” we asked.

He looked up, and then looked back to the place behind the hedge he’d been photographing.   “Moose,” he said.

We stepped into the driveway to see, sure enough, a spike moose chewing his cud on the well-kept suburban lawn, about three paces away.   Mute cement lawn deer looked on.   I hadn’t brought my camera.

We got to the green belt and Les pointed to where the four-lane crosses and said, “That’s where the big boar brownie was killed crossing last year.  Hit by a car.” 

We walked on a bike path, occasionally hearing “On your left!” from behind.  I hadn’t realized how quiet bicycles can be because I usually am the one riding the bicycle.

After a while I looked to the right and said, “Those spruce are looking a little scrawny here.  They just got planted?”

He said, “That’s taiga.  That’s as tall as they’ll get.  Probably a pocket of permafrost under there.  Roots can’t penetrate very far down.”

Further on the path crossed a clear, turbulent stream.  “Are there any salmon?  You see any?” he asked.  We stood on the bridge and looked, and I allowed as how I didn’t.  “A couple of days ago  I heard there were salmon running here,” he said.

I said, “Here, Les, look at the signs here.”  Posted at eye level were three signs advising the dates that fishing was not permitted, and that outside those dates non-residents weren’t allowed to fish, and residents were permitted catch-and –release using artificial lures only.

We walked through the long sub-arctic twilight.  I talked about the positive parts of the Barrow experience.

The doctors have functional communication with no back-stabbing.  If Doctor A and Doctor B have a problem, anyone who tries to enlist Doctor C will just end up looking bad.  Call means twelve hours.   Five days a week the docs meet for thirty to sixty minutes to discuss patients, which results in a lot of learning. 

I also talked about the painful transition from paper-based medical records to electronic medical records, and our discussion turned to practice management.

I told him how great it was to work at the bottom of the totem pole and not have to worry about making systemic decisions.

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