My Life Stories
Welcome, wanderers! For reading convenience, I've created the following About subpages, which I refer to at different points.
Note: 12,000+ photos from my walks, hikes, and climbs, from 1980 to 2023, are now accessible through my Flickr account. The link to my account is in the menu navigation bar above. Although my photos on Flickr only represent 1/4 of my total content, they're tagged for searching, grouped into albums, and might be faster to access.
The remaining narrative on this page takes ~12 minutes to read, not including the time to read and/or view the content via the external links I’ve embedded. I've chunked the first half of my text below into life-stage sections of varying lengths.
Please forgive any disjointed text or incorrect grammar you see. I’m not a professional writer. I'm also trying to shake off some of the writing habits I acquired when I worked in IT and was in grad school.
I've framed my narrative by photography, so I reference the film and digital cameras I used at different points in time. As an introvert, I've found photography is one way for me to communicate what I "see" and think.
My photos on Flickr that I link to here typically include descriptive text, for additional context.
On my website subpage, I describe some of the limitations I've had with the product I'm using for this site. Page access speed is still problematic.
Finally, when I make significant changes to the pages that include narrative, I change the 'Last updated' date at the bottom of each page.
Parents, Digitizing Project
I’m going to start by recognizing my mom and dad [photo]. My dad grew up in Montana and my mom grew up in Washington. They were children during the Great Depression. Their parents were impoverished.
My mom and dad were salt of the earth people. They were honest, caring, hard-working, independent, and excellent parents and role models. They were also small business owners late in life.
In the 1940s, when my parents were teenagers, they moved to the Territory of Alaska [photo]. In 2020, when I was preparing materials for my mom's remembrance event, I came to better understand my parents as young adults.
Before my mom became ill in 2010, I promised her I would continue her family genealogy and archival work. My first step was to collect, organize, and digitize her [photos], films, and videos to share with family members. I completed these activities in October 2021.
I also plan to digitize my parents' birth announcements, handwritten (love) letters, articles of appreciation, and drawings.
After I’m done with my digitizing work, I'll share the results with my family. I intend to store the physical items properly. I'm using Margo Note's informative Creating Family Archives book for overall guidance in my work.
My sisters and I dearly miss our parents.
1955-1980: Alaska Grown, EAHS, UAF, TAPS, USA Road Trip
Another step in my family genealogy project is to document some of my life stories to share with my children and grandchildren [photo]. This narrative is my start. It will be ongoing, as time permits and I discover more to share. Some stories will only be for my family.
I was born in Anchorage [photo] and spent my youth and years as a young adult in Alaska. Alaska was and will always be a special place to me. I enjoy returning to visit family and friends.
After the Great Alaska (Good Friday) Earthquake [photo] in 1964, our family moved from our house in Valdez to temporary housing in Copper Center.
In December 1964, after the cabin [photo] we were living in near the Copper Center Lodge flooded and froze during a stretch of -60 below zero [photo], our family moved into a Red Cross trailer in Glennallen. Several months later, we moved into a new double-wide trailer [photo] in Copper Center, where we remained until we moved to Anchorage in 1970.
My mom described our family’s experience during the 1964 earthquake in the book The Days the Trees Bent to the Ground. She mentions the Copper Center flood at the end of the chapter.
On my education page, I mention the two-room elementary school I attended in Copper Center and the high schools I attended in Glennallen and Anchorage. My two years at Copper Valley School, where I lived when I was 14 and 15 years old, were among the most memorable in my life.
When I was digitizing the photos my mom took from the 40s to the 70s, I came to appreciate that she had “an eye” for photography. I’d like to think this is one of her traits that I inherited, in addition to being a tidy boy [photo].
My first experience taking photos was with a single-use (disposable) camera on a bicycle trip from Copper Center to Valdez in 1972 with a good friend from East Anchorage High School (EAHS). Our ride down Thompson Pass in the rain and fog, wearing backpacks, was a memorable experience.
My next experience with a single-use camera was in 1973, when my friend from EAHS and I completed a 1K+ mile bicycle trip from Calgary to Seattle. I recall riding over the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park was especially challenging without granny gears. Our bicycle trips were the start of many outdoor adventures in Alaska over a fifteen-year period.
My next camera was a 110 film cartridge camera. I used this camera in 1975 when I took a semester break from my studies at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks [photo] and worked as a Teamster 959 driver/fueler on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) project [photo, video]. As I moved with the construction crews and equipment from Franklin Bluffs (south of Prudhoe Bay) in August to Atigun Pass in December, I took a few snapshots from the haul road.
When I digitize my family’s prints this year, I plan to include the ones I took with my single-use and 110 cameras. I've only been able to find 15 prints so far, but I'm hopeful I'll find more in my storage boxes.
My first “real” camera was a 35mm Konica Autoreflex TC SLR. My mom gifted the camera to me after I took a photography class at UAF and graduated in 1978. I bought a Vivitar 70-210mm telephoto lens shortly after.
I used my camera and telephoto to capture what I saw on a solo four-month, 21K mile road trip (literally) around the USA and Canada that same year. During my trip, I took 966 photos (35mm slides).
In July 2021, I digitized my road trip slides and posted a large collection on my family-only Flickr account and a small collection in this public Flickr album. I enjoyed seeing Canada and the USA again through my 23-year old eyes. I had not looked at my photos for 40+ years. During my trip, I camped in the back of my new Toyota SR5 pickup, which conspicuously shows up in my photos throughout my trip.
In a nod to my children and especially my grandchildren, who might read this later, I never did the math to calculate what my carbon debt was from my pipeline work and road trip in the 1970s. As I grew older and scientists came to better understand climate change, however, I strived to be more responsible.
1980-1985: OSU, UO, Alaska Wilderness Studies
In 1980, after a short-lived stint in the hospitality industry in Alaska, I decided to explore other career options. After faithfully completing all the exercises in the book What Color is Your Parachute, I learned I was better suited for a left-brain career. That led me to move from Alaska to Oregon and then take steps to return to school.
After working in Portland at the Benson Hotel for six months, I moved to Corvallis and completed two terms in the Industrial Engineering program at Oregon State University (OSU). In 1981, I decided to switch to computer science and transfer to the University of Oregon (UO).
Portland, Corvallis and Eugene were good places for me to live when I was in my mid-20s. I enjoyed meeting new friends, living off campus at OSU and UO, running, and exploring the surrounding areas on my bicycle. I now regret not taking any photos when I lived in Oregon from 1980 to 1983.
I graduated from UO in 1983, moved back to Anchorage, and took a job as a programmer at Alascom, a long-distance telephone company. Several months later, my EAHS friend and now roommate prompted me to enroll in the Alaska Wilderness Studies (AWS) program at Anchorage Community College (ACC) | University of Alaska in Anchorage (UAA). AWS was similar to the Mazamas organization. The AWS program promoted safety, education, and respect. Peak-bagging was not encouraged.
Now, back to photography. Since my 1978 Konica and telephoto were heavy and not well suited for my backcountry AWS trips, I purchased a compact Olympus XA 35mm Rangefinder. The Rangefinder was bombproof, to use a mountaineering term, during our harsh Alaska weather conditions.
I also have many fond memories associated with my Rangefinder: my girlfriend [photo], now wife [photo]; our friends [photo]; our backcountry trips and climbs; and our bring-your-own-slides shows. Social media had a different meaning in the 1980s. We met in real life, insta and selfie were not words, and influencer was not a job title.
In 2023, I contracted ScanMyPhotos to digitize many of the 35mm slides I took when I was in the AWS program. ScanMyPhotos also digitized the slides I took on other Alaska, Oregon, and Montana outdoor trips with good friends and family. My Alaska trips included treks in the Gates of the Arctic, Denali National Park, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; climbs in the Alaska Range, Brooks Range, Chugach Mountains, Talkeetna Mountains, Kenai Mountains, and Seward Peninsula Mountains, an ocean kayaking trip in Prince William Sound, and a bicycle trip on the Denali Highway.
You can see selected photos from the trips above in this 1980-1992 Alaska, Oregon, Montana Outdoor Adventures collection on Flickr, and all of the photos in this collection on this website. Other than me and my wife, I didn't tag any photos with names, although I mention a few people in some photo description.
1985-2000: Marriage, Children, Relocations
Shortly after my wife and I got married in 1985, my employer relocated us from Anchorage to Portland. Once we got settled in our new (1931) house, where we still live, we spent the next fifteen years raising our family, helping out at our children's schools, being good neighbors, fixing and improving our old house, and advancing in our careers.
In 1998, my wife and I took temporary job rotations and moved our family from Portland to Monroe, LA. For the next year, we enjoyed our time and the experiences we had living in the South.
As our three children grew up, like many parents, we took many family photos and videos. Our daughter previously digitized ~4K of our prints. I plan to digitize the remaining (found Louisiana) prints this year.
I contracted the digitizing of our family's analog videos, as I did with my mom's films and videos.
2000-2010: Digital Age, Bicycling
In 2001, we purchased our first digital camera, a Canon PowerShot S100. I appreciated the savings in film costs, but I missed waiting to see the results. I used the PowerShot to take many family photos, including photos on a trip with my mom to England in 2002. It was my first trip abroad and a wonderful experience. We enjoyed exploring London and the Cumbria region, where my mom’s family is originally from.
I also used the PowerShot to take photos of bicycle trips with my children and extended bicycle rides with friends. Bicycling was a big part of my life for many years. When I lived in Oregon in the early 80s, I explored Portland, Corvallis, and Eugene by bicycle. The Peugeot I rode was the same bicycle I used on my trip from Calgary to Seattle in 1972.
From 2000 to 2010, I commuted year-round by bicycle [photo, photo] to my workplace in downtown Portland. My round-trip ride was 10 miles. I used my wife's bike [photo] because I found it was better suited for city riding than my road bike. Over time, like with my Peugeot before, I swapped out many of the components. Other than the frame, forks, headset and handlebars, it's now a Bianchi in name only. My wife plans to purchase a new bike. When she does, I'm looking forward to joining her on rides. Look out for us in the seniors' slow lane :)
Back to photography. In 2008, my wife purchased our next digital camera, a Panasonic DMC-TZ5. I used this camera when I started photoblogging as WalksInPortland in 2010, which I've continued to this day. See my Themes page for more details.
If you've made it this far in my long narrative, thanks for reading and I hope our paths will cross in the future! If you have any comments, questions, or requests, please don't hesitate to contact me.
- Mark McClure
Last updated: 12/26/2023