The sensations of a particularly hot Alaskan day were deposited in my memory-banks--a day we all climbed Willow Mountain, near one of the large pipeline construction sites. Our way was made easier by a road cut through the brush on the side of the hill--not a proper mountain, actually, when compared with the Wrangell or St. Elias ranges. We scurried up the road and savored the view of Willow Lake in the distance, nibbling on raspberries. Who remembers those reusable, squeezable camping tubes? And the satisfaction of chomping down on a slice of apple with a dollop of peanut butter, with an appetite made keener by the breeze of altitude?
Willow Mountain was one of the many locations where the Pipeline was built above ground, to save it from being buckled by permafrost. The 48 inch diameter pipes were insulated and hitched onto elevated, finned supports with connecting crossbeams that allowed for movement, and thermal devices to prevent the melting of the permafrost. At Willow Mountain, the Pipeline is close enough to reach out and touch, if one ignores the No Trespassing signs. In August, 1975, over 21,000 people were busy employed digging holes and raising the pipes onto these beams. They arrived in a hurry, and after they made their piles, they left behind scrap-yards full of steel desks, Blazo boxes and tins, and 50-gallon drums, which were quickly picked over by the locals. For the resourceful, a Blazo box can serve quite satisfactorily as a sock drawer, or a kitchen shelf.
It would be difficult to comprehend the magnitude of what the Pipeline has meant for the state of Alaska, unless one had spent time there before the influx of stoplights, fast food chains,box stores, fancy schools, or concert halls. In its hey-day at peak flow, all of its Rolls Royce gas turbines were roaring at full-bore, blasting like the jet engines they were at every pump-station along its route. But every voice and mechanical contraption associated with mankind must eventually fall silent.