In 1996, after 6 years working there, I left Alaska. I'd been working as a Park Ranger, then a natural history guide, driving the tour buses at Denali National Park. Like many other women in oft-told tales, I met someone and decided to move with them to Montana. After my stint at Denali finished that season, I packed up and headed south, away from Alaska, or "Outside," as Alaskans call the rest of the US. On my way out of Alaska, I sat at the Yukon border, in my little Ford Ranger, watching a spectacular moon rise in a purple sky over the vast forest, lakes, and hills of the wilderness. And I cried. Something inside me knew that leaving Alaska was not the best decision. But, I wasn't listening to my inner voice.
During subsequent summers, while working as a naturalist on small ships, I spent many months exploring Southeast Alaska's Inside Passage. I love the region's forested mossy-green islands where black & brown bears wander rocky shores. I love the ever-changing blue ocean alive with myriad forms of marine life. Crystal-blue glaciers, flowing cracked & crevassed from jagged mountain peaks, cascade into the sea, carving the landscape into wondrous sights. Every time I returned to Southeast, I felt like I'd come home. Something in my very spirit feels right when I'm in Alaska.
But, I never made it back to the Interior. I yearned for the wide open expanses of tundra-covered hills where nearly every day I watched grizzlies, caribou, wolves, Dall sheep, moose, and other wild creatures go about their daily lives. How I missed the wide-open expanses rolling, rising, and reaching to the snow-capped peaks of the highest mountains in North America! Every year I promised would be the one in which I'd return...but I allowed the minutiae of life to block my going.
Twenty years later, I had to make it happen. I couldn't go another year without seeing Denali. One day, while visiting with friends, I casually mentioned my plans to get back to Alaska. I was, at the time, looking to buy a used RoadTrek van, one like my parents had for many years. My friends said, "we have a RoadTrek, and you're welcome to borrow it!" For 2 months and many thousands of miles? "Sure," they said, "It'll be good for it to be used!"
Suddenly, with my internal road blocks done, and a vehicle at the offering, things fell into place. My Mom (who'd driven to Alaska with me before) and her brother, my Uncle David (who'd never been to Interior Alaska), joined me for the journey North. Together, in our comfy home-on-wheels RoadTrek, we drove from our homes in the US, through Canada, and up to the official start of the Alaska Highway. Finally! I was nearing my beloved Alaska! I could feel my spirit lifting like an imprisoned creature leaving my chest cavity & soaring free.
Join me (and Mom and Uncle) as we make that journey North and explore (20 years after I'd last been on it) one of the greatest road trips in North America. You'll be glad you made the trip!