During the week that this posts, provided there are no more delays, I will find myself leaving Alaska. First I head north through Alaska, then south once I hit Canada until I enter back into the US at one of the 13 Montana border crossings. I have written about Alaska many times: Eating Whale in Barrow, What I’ll Miss, What I Will NOT Miss, Things I Never Did and My Favorite Hike. So you’d think I covered everything, but it turns out I have not.
I cannot help but feel nostalgic. And my thoughts lately have been reflections on this unique place. Here are just a few that come to mind.
- A friend took me clam digging several times. I know this isn’t an activity unique to Alaska but, I’ve only ever done it on the beach at Clam Gulch in Alaska. I will always think of clam digging as an Alaskan adventure. And when I eat Clam Chowder, I will think of the time we made it over an open fire with clams freshly dug.
- That same friend chartered a halibut fishing trip and invited my sister and I along. During the all-day excursion, we ate big fat shrimp pulled in live from the captain’s trap basket. And we ventured into deep water. So deep, we used button-push fishing poles to help reel in the bottom-feeding halibut. It was a memorable experience and one I will treasure.
- During one visit to Alaska, my dad, sister and I took the Alaska Railroad to Denali National Park. My dad left one morning only to return to tell us he had a surprise. We got dressed and walked over to a helicopter tour. I sat in the front seat next to the pilot. What made the ride amazing and special was that we actually got to see Denali, North America’s highest peek. That might sound weird but droves of people visit Denali National Park every year without ever actually seeing Denali because so many days it is lost in the clouds. That day was clear as water. Perfect.
Other Cool Things I Experienced
I was a tourist at the Musk Ox Farm, the Reindeer Farm, went to the very hippy marijuana-smelling Girdwood Forest Fair at least half of the years I lived in Alaska and won a blueberry liquor contest at the Blueberry Festival.
I drove a snow machine and learned I didn’t like it. Bought snow shoes only to return them without trying them even once because—what was I thinking—I do not like to be outside in the cold. I chased Northern Lights with my sister in the middle of the night. The most memorable was one work night about midnight. Because you really cannot beat or describe those dancing gossamer colored curtains of light. I saw the ceremonial start of the Iditarod, watched artists carve beautiful giant snow and ice sculptures.
There were places I visited not accessible by the road system: Juneau, Ketchikan, Klawock on the island of Prince of Whales. And of course, I spent four days at the Top of the World in Barrow (whose name recently reverted back to the original Inupiat name of Utqiaġvik), where I tasted muktuk (whale), wore a kuspuk and took a helicopter ride to see Alaska Natives on snow machines breaking trail over the iced-over ocean in preparation for a whale hunt.
My time in Alaska has been wonderful and I’m thankful to have experienced the beauty and grandeur of the place. Fall is my favorite time of year. But in Alaska, it always has come with mixed feelings. I love the crisp air and changing colors but am acutely aware that each passing day leads to a whole lot of dark, cold and often icy days. This year it has been lovely to experience pure joy during the season. There is no dread lurking beneath the surface.
No question I will miss Alaska. It offers so many amazing things. But, I enter this next phase with nothing but fully open heart and a desire to no longer live with regrets or fear from “getting lost in all this unused life.” (That’s a quote from the movie Shirley Valentine that I used in my launch post of this website.)