Young, visiting photographer Christian McLeod from Ireland went looking for a taste of Anchorage’s big wild life on Sunday only to fall victim to one of the city’s oldest urban nightmares – the smash and grab.
With cars and people filling the parking lot at the Prospect Heights entrance to Chugach State Park on the edge of the Front Range above Alaska’s largest city, the 24-year-old McLeod decided it would be OK to leave a backpack containing more than $6,000 worth of camera gear in the back seat of friend Kimberly Jones’s car.
It was a bad decision. It cost him the tools of his trade.
McLeod figures he and Jones couldn’t have been away for more than an hour and a half hiking up part of the Wolverine Peak Trail, but that was long enough.
When he came back, he said, “I just noticed the window was open… but then I realized it was broken in, and then I immediately knew my bag would be gone, and it was.”
A check around the parking lot for anyone who might have seen the thief proved fruitless.
“There were people around the car park but no one knew anything and most people just shrugged their shoulders and walked off without passing much comment,” he said.
Alaskans turned out to be a little more supportive when McLeod posted about his loss on the Facebook page “Stolen in Alaska.”
It wasn’t long before people by the dozen were sharing the post with photos of his stolen gear, expressing their sympathy and offering what tips they could on how to catch a thief. McLeod does have some hope in that regard because his cameras weren’t the only things stolen.
The thieves also took Jones’s purse and then used her credit card to spend over $1,000 at two Fred Meyer stores, a Holiday gas station, an Office Depot and the Nordstrom in the Sears Mall. Several of those businesses are equipped with video surveillance.
Jones and McLeod have asked for copies of the tapes.
“I spoke to the clerk who served this person at (the) Holiday Gas station,” McLeod said in an update on his personal Facebook page, “and they mentioned it was a blonde female, and also at Nordstrom they purchased over $600 in women’s clothing, so watch out on Craigslist.
“I believe it may be a couple.”
The odds of recovering much in these cases are statistically low, and catching the thieves doesn’t usually result in much more than a certain sense of satisfaction. But McLeod is hopeful.
And given the nature of the 21st Century, he has started a GoFundMe page at the urging of friends. He admits to being more than a little uncomfortable with that, and so he’s offering photos in trade for assistance.
“So here I am asking for your help” he wrote. “However, I am not asking for money for free in exchange for my benefit. For every donation, you will receive a reward.
“$3500 is my goal, and this is all I need to have my (photography) business a chance of getting back up and running. I will sell some of my other clothing and wetsuit gear to make up (the money) for the rest of the gear.”
An old story
McLeod’s story is in some ways as old as Alaska. A young person comes north looking for adventure and ends up in trouble of some sort. Most struggle through the adversity, whatever it might be, and leave with a story that last’s a lifetime
Democrat President Hillary Clinton is still telling stories about her time on some sort of fish-plant slime line in Valdez 47 years ago. The way she tells it, she got fired. That is in some ways as traumatic as being robbed.
Clinton didn’t stay long in the north, although some do decide to stay and make Alaska their home. Every now and then, the unluckiest of them (think Chris McCandless) meet a sad and fatal end, too.
The best quickly put the worst of what happens behind them, accept the rest and move on. McLeod, for his part, seems to recognize this.
“My understanding in life is that those people who had a reason to take what wasn’t there’s must have had a strong reason in their head to do so, and I can’t do much to change that.
“So I try not to get too caught up in ‘what if’, or ‘why.’
“…I need to figure out another means of income for the time being unless this GoFundMe goes well, then I will be able to begin working ASAP.”
McLeod had spent the previous four months wandering north from California in a van with stops to take photos of scenery and people, primarily adventurers like himself.
The Anchorage theft, he wrote on his Facebook page, “funnily and officially makes me almost broke, semi-homeless after selling my van last week and (I) have no means for an income, even meant to have a meeting with a potential client here that day….
“Luckily my laptop and hard drives were at my friend’s house, and that’s all I have left.”
It’s not much, but it’s significantly more than the 37 cents a guy named Wally Hickel had in his pocket when he arrived in Alaska in 1940. Hickel took down-and-out as an opportunity; there was nowhere to go but up. He went on to become a successful businessman, Alaska governor and U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and lived a very rich life until his death in 2010 at age 90.
One can only hope things work out a fraction as well for McLeod after his rude introduction to the 49th state.