Mendenhall Glacier Reflecting
“To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.” – John Muir
I had lived in Alaska, seasonally and year-round for many years. Believe me when I say that Alaska is addictive, and you will want to go back. This June, as my flight approached Juneau, and I was looking out the window, I saw the low cloud cover lifting like a shade to reveal a tinge of sunset, lush green fields, and something in me just gave way.
Like when you release your shoulders after unknowingly holding them tight and drawn up for a long time. I was back and “home “again, at least for a short while.
It had been more than a few years since I returned to Alaska. While many things have changed there (more than 1 channel on the TV, bulk warehouse stores) the true essence of being an Alaskan, living and sharing this great lands stories, resources and amazing views hasn’t. We were there for a blink of the eye while the people we met live there.
From working on trails with Trail Mix in Juneau and with the National Park Service (NPS) in Dyea, to enjoying the 4th of July parade in Skagway, one cannot dismiss the unique personalities, pride, history, and cultural sensitivity of an Alaskan.
We had younger workers with us at Trail Mix, those who grew up and went to school there and are finding their way while working on trails. They were our trail crew bosses and a future generation of land stewards.
People we ran into were happy to speak with us, telling us stories of what it was like to live in a remote area, especially in winter after the tourists left. They told of the emergency airlifts for medical treatment, alternating openings of stores and restaurants so at least one of each is open while the other takes a break or goes” outside”.
Working with the NPS trails crew we heard of adaptation, raising a family, schooling and the challenges of the past year surviving with the loss of tourism during the peak of COVID-19.
Our lodge owners at Chilkoot Trail Outpost are so proud of living in Alaska and of their history of building that lodge, of working at the sawmill, prospecting, working on the North Slope, and now passing their work ethics on to their granddaughter. There is strength and personal ownership of this land with a heavy dose of sharing and story telling.
When someone on my river raft asked our guide about the origin of a name of a peak, he said that they don’t try and tell the story of the Tlingit, these are their stories to tell, and they respect that. We were guests in Alaska, as we are at all our work sites. I know we worked hard, and I believe we also engaged in listening, respecting, and cherishing our time in Alaska