Saturday, June 29, 2013

Skagway homecoming

Here we are, in Skagway. It felt so good to come down the valley, back to this place I once called home. We saw some old friends, who I last saw in 2004. We wandered around downtown and ate at the best restaurant in town (still quite good even though they changed names and owners last year). We stayed in the fancy hotel downtown since the others were full. I had never stepped foot in their doors before- a place reserved for tourists and employees, not us trailer trash locals! Now, as a visitor here, the Westmark seemed like a perfect basecamp.

All the while, I felt deeply into this place, this valley with its throngs of cruise ship tourists walking down the boardwalk sidewalks and taking photos of each other in front of the mountains and the Red Onion Saloon. I had some of the best summers of my life here. I had some hard times, too. I knew most of the people in town... I thought that I would move here someday. I wondered what a winter would be like. Then I fell in love and reigned in my nomad ways, settling into a different kind of lifestyle in Boulder, Colorado. 
Skagway remained in my heart and I knew I would return one day, although maybe not for a full season, and definitely not without Dave!

Now, nine years later, only 3 of my community are left, replaced by a new group of 20somethings- most of my friends having moved on to the real world of having families and homes and careers in the lower 48. Me, too. So much has changed, but the Skagway streets are still lined with most of the same shops, and the same cruise ships drop thousands of people off at the docks, just as they did before.

We head out tomorrow for a week long exploration of the Tormented Valley by the Skagway/Canada border- something I would never have had time to do while working here. I'm nervous, since I know no one who has ever been up into the valley on the route we are about to take.
I expect bears, mosquitoes, wind, rain, and unspeakable beauty. This may be our greatest adventure yet!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The North Country is calling: Alaska road trip part 1

So here we are on the Alaska highway, curled up in our tent hiding away from the mosquitoes. Dave is sleeping peacefully beside me and I'm awake, hearing birds call in the night that I have not heard in 9 years. I miss this drive. I wait to hear the varied thrush who I know so well. But, I hear other birds that I didn't know the names of 9 years ago. I recognize them. I remember. Hermit thrush calls out clearly, 10:30 at night, and white throated sparrow chimes in as well as the familiar robin. The kiskatinaw river murmurs the refrain. Silence. I feel as though I'm heading home. Home. Skagway. Only a few days away. I've worked so incredibly hard in the last 2 months, preparing, cooking, packing, and working incredibly long days, so I can be ready for this trip. I had a few panicky, exhausted nights when I had no idea how I would be able to maintain this momentum. Now, I'm here. 6 weeks on the road. In less than a week, Dave and I will set out to explore a valley I've dreamed of... Via pack rafts, upstream on a swollen river, into the unknown. We have not used pack rafts on our annual river trips yet. I anticipate an incredible new level of versatility and freedom... As long as they are fun to paddle, I see the possibility of easy portages, ability to handle whitewater, and ease of transport and packing. Will canoes be a method of the past? We shall see.

The birds have quieted and my husband snores lightly. The river beckons to us with its soft murmur as I drift into dreamland, the silence of the Tormented Valley beckons, less than a week away.