And so, it comes down to this. Not having written a word here for many a moon, I write now, largely to take my leave.
The wife, as some of you know, has taken a new job. Terrestrial mammal program manager for the A – S NF in Central Eastern Arizona. Mogollon Rim country. Trading one set of White Mountains for another. The house is empty, the truck is loaded and tomorrow we head for the border… on towards a very different border.
I write this on a new laptop, sitting in a bona fide, retro arm chair in one of the most classic Fairbanks homes I have ever experienced; on the banks of the Chena river, old school Blaze King woodstove fireplace insert, easily 50s era kitchen counters/cabinets/fixtures, etc. It is like going back in time being here.
Twenty-two years ago, in the spring, my sister and I drove north from San Diego, bound for Denali Park. That too was like going back in time, but in a different sense. I was just reminiscing about that trip yesterday in contemplating our departure tomorrow. Driving north in the spring, we went from the early days of a California summer to the late days of an Alaskan winter. We could not help but wonder what we were getting ourselves into; frozen lakes, snow covered landscapes, the cab of the 1972 Chevy pick-up we were driving getting colder as we went, the options for lodging getting fewer and further between. And the excitement built all the while. But that was just a seasonal thing. We each spent two summers working at “the Park”… for that is what Denali was, and often still is, called, never mind that there are 23 National Parks in Alaska…
Twenty years ago, I was in the midst of my first Alaska winter. I fancied myself a mountain climber (I have alluded to this previously), and as such had chose to settle in Talkeetna; a small end of the road town with a certain notoriety for harboring errant mountaineers.
The then owners of the…infamous? Talkeetna Roadhouse, had offered my room an board for the the winter in return for being their part-time, live-in cook. It was more than that though, they more or less welcomed me into their family, for a time. But that is all another part of the story.
I recall one day that winter, I had been invited on an outing with the Genet boys. It was an odd winter, early cold temps and very little snow. As such, we were bound across the river, headed for Trapper Creek… just because. Many of the rivers, glacially fed/formed as they are in Alaska, are braided. The channels wander back and forth across the landscape, leaving sloughs and low spots that trap little channels and such. Anyways, on our journey, we came across some of these dead-end waterways; shallow, frozen over, in the middle of the broad, three-rivers basin. Because of the odd winter conditions, they were frozen solid like little skating ponds, and the winds had blown over them coating grains of sand and silt in ice. These frozen granules had been deposited on the little frozen channels and, as we discovered acted like zero friction ball bearings; we had a grand time “skating” back and forth, seemingly in the middle of nowhere; in the wilds of Alaska… to me at least.
Well, that was a long time ago. The Wife and the Littledog and I will turn our backs on this place tomorrow and head East, and then after a few days, sharply South. We will chase the sun as we run down the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains. At some point we will hang a right towards Albuquerque (avoiding all left turns when we get there). Shortly thereafter we will arrive at our somewhat unexpected destination… for this has all been very rapid in its development… but more on that later.
Last week, a company sent a few guys to pack up most of our worldly belongings. Tomorrow we take the remainder; 1 chest freezer full of the food we had procured for ourselves for the winter (12, chickens, 24 sides of salmon, 20+ packs of smoked salmon, 12 or so gallons of berries, a dozen packs of greens from our garden, etc.), the clothes we deemed essential to get us through until we have all of our stuff in one place, dog toys, ammunition, safety gear, snowshoes, shovels, books, ad nauseum…
We leave behind more than can be accounted for here; the truest friends, the greatest memories, the most unlikely experiences, unexpected adventures, lives in the making. I do not know when we will return, but we must. I must. This has been home.
But, there is a whole, big, wide world out there to explore; new adventures to be had, new experiences to embrace, new lives to be lived.
Into the Great Wide Open!