Remembering Peaceful Moments

April 2, 2011
It's been a while since I've written on here, so I thought I should add something special. Sometimes, I reflect back on peaceful moments or experiences I've had in life and this is probably the most common one I go to.

While I was at Isle Royale National Park (map) in the summer of 2003, I had a very small cabin to myself, tucked away in the woods on the shore of Rock Harbor, a 7 mile long narrow harbor or Lake Superior. Protected from the wind and waves of the massive lake, it was a very quiet and peaceful place when I wasn't being chased by cow moose with calves. The cabin stood only 10 yards from the shore, with an opening in the trees so the sun could shine on it in the afternoon. From my desk inside, a beautiful view out a large window that overlooked the shore and across the harbor is also a main component of it's place in my memory.
On most nights, the loons and waves would sing me to sleep, as a slight, cool breeze blew in the window above my bed. On a few nights that summer, however, it was so still and calm, I could hear the cabin moving ever so slightly, that the nails holding all the boards together would creak against the wood. My breaths, as I lay in bed, sounded like thunder booming in my chest. It was eerily quiet at times, but it was also the nights like this when the real magic of the place came out.
First, on some of these nights, it was the moon, shining so brightly in the clear night sky, accented with glistening stars that covered the sky from horizon to horizon. On other night, there was no moon. Blacker than black, a deep, vacuum-like darkness filled the landscape and emptied my vision. I, literally, could not see my hand in front of my face. So many stars I had never seen before would fill the entire sky that constellations disappeared into the masses, like an astronomical 'Where's Waldo?'
Then, it was the ripples of waves. In the overwhelming silence, just the sheer movement of the water as it reached shore in beautiful irregularity, gave a sense of distance and something to focus on as my ears begged for stimulus.
With the calm progression of the rippling waves, came the soft blanket of fog off the lake. Slowly, and ghost-like, it would creep in, first, through the entrance to the harbor, then spread east and west, up and down the channel. If the moon was out, there would soon be nothing visible. The sense of vision would be disabled completely, like on the black nights of no moon.
Once the mood was set and the props were in place, the loons would begin their introductions. Starting at the far west end of the harbor, the farthest loon would yodel his name, asking for his friends to accompany him on this lonesome night. The next closest loon would then respond, after the echoing of the first had finished travelling up and down the harbor in complete stillness, being perceived as successive individual calls, rippling with the waves, down the channel and back. So the chorus has begun, as the loons would each wait their turn as sentinels of the harbor, filling the night with their songs and flowing echoes, repeating like a musical artist using loops to make their own earthly melody. As each progressing loon would offer their voice, one could feel the connectivity between them, as if the other loons would smile and no longer feel alone upon hearing their friend's voice coming through the deep black.
Up and down the harbor, the performance would travel, until all the loons had shared their stories of the day and good night wishes. And as softly as the night's production came, so would heavy eyelids come upon me, as the loneliness had vanished from us all, while my neighbors sang me to sleep.

Solstice

June 21, 2010
It's the happiest day of the year in Alaska... for me, at least.
First off, it's the most sun we'll get all year: 21 hours, 49 minutes of sun today in Fairbanks. One must embrace it, because come December, it's definitely in short supply and probably 100º colder. But for now, we can hike and bike in t-shirts and shorts while we donate blood to the healthy mosquito population.
Second, in contrast, every day we gain more and more darkness back, starting with meager twilight, then full-on aurora viewing potential. Darkness means cooler temperatures, fall (the most beautiful time in Alaska), hunting seasons, and, eventually, the first snows and freeze-up, with the dancing aurora overhead.
Third, it's the perfect reminder that every season is to be looked forward to and taken advantage of, as they all have incredible features and benefits, as well as make many outdoor activities possible, especially so in Interior Alaska.
What do I do each solstice? The answer is almost saddening, but, nonetheless, I plan trips for the coming season, i.e., winter & spring/summer/fall.
Yes, 75º and here I am, planning biking and skiing trips for this winter. When I look back at winter solstice, I distinctly remember staring at maps and dreaming up hiking, biking, and packrafting trips for this summer.
I don't know what to say, but I know for now, I'll be out trying to capture every bit of summer I can, while it's still here.
Stay sane. Sleep outside.

A Cold, Dark Loss of Motivation

January 30, 2010
3 hours 41 minutes 29 seconds... the amount of light we had in Fairbanks, Alaska, on December 21st, 2009. You could nearly watch it get lighter, climax, and then get darker.
With so much darkness and temperatures averaging -20F, motivation to be active outdoors was all but a rolling boil. Small, short-lived excursions are more of the game in those conditions unless you are truly steadfast at making the most of life. It isn't the lack of motivation, necessarily, it's the fact that one must build up the motivation to do something outdoors every time the opportunity arises or when you can make time to do so. As a winter lover, myself, motivation is almost non-existent when the highs for the day are -20F. One must find it and not let themselves succumb to the dark and cold, because it's so easy to stay inside where it's warm and comfortable, especially if you have someone to share body heat with.
Lately, I've become all too sick of not taking advantage of where I am at present... Fairbanks, AK, in the dead of winter... one of the coolest places to be at such a time. With so many opportunities for enjoying the winter months, as the whole region is so aptly geared for, not to mention my own personal winter gear assemblage, all of us up here must help each other in staying active and keeping up morale.
Sleeping outside in my -40F sleeping bag, cross-country skiing, taking my dogs for runs, and ice climbing have been the excitement, thus far. I'm getting a new bike outfitted for winter that will allow me to ride snowmachine and dogmushing trails and commute to work on a daily basis. This is something I am VERY excited for and have recently done some work to my old mountain bike, while I wait for my new one, to get it back rolling for nighttime rides under the light of the moon.
I'm trying. The desire is there. All you have to do is capitalize on it.
Yet, amongst all this, winter has not been a complete stay inside and do nothing experience... I've been able to do extensive research and preparations for summer and plan many backcountry adventures around the state, spend time with friends, and just plain relax, which is a beautiful thing, in and of itself. Definitely something I don't usually make time to do. Not focusing on the summer to come has been difficult, though. I must always remember to live in the moment, at least to some degree.
So, while it may be challenging and complicated to do things in the arctic winter, especially with the low motivation to get all bundled up and be in the cold for hours, I've been waiting for years to experience a winter up here. I can't let it slip away!

The Pilgrimage

April 29, 2009
I'm making my way back home... to Alaska.
No other place in my travels has given me such an immense feeling of satisfaction, happiness, or true sense of being in my element. For the fifth year in a row, I make 'The Pilgrimage' north, to a place vastly untouched by Man; a place where when one asks what the world looked like when it was created,
we can say, "Let me show you."
I now travel North, into the 'Land of the Midnight Sun,' 'The Last Frontier,' and where exploration and adventure shall never cease to exist.
This is where I call home.

Another Season In Alaska

October 11, 2008
As the temperature hits single digits and the snow starts to fly in Eagle, Alaska, I begin my fourth trip returning to the contiguous 48 and, for the fourth time, I find myself asking, "Why am I leaving Alaska... AGAIN?" But, once again, I have come away from an Alaskan summer with many new notches in my belt... experiences, skills, friendships, and lifelong memories, not to mention a collection of photographs capturing the beauty I find in my travels and work in this great state.
The word "wilderness" is one of the most undefineable words in our language; many touched souls have encapsulated their experiences and mental image of a place in an assortment of words that attempt to put an understanding to the concept. For me, I have found that wilderness is not so much a thing as it is a feeling or maybe a sense of place. I believe wilderness, at its roots, is found in landscapes that still provide the sense of discovery, whether that be in a beautiful mountain vista, deep in the enormity of the tropics, or in the middle of a vast desert where the wind travels uninterrupted for hundreds of miles.
To feel as if you are the only being on two legs, if the image of the land was painted only for you, to feel so incredibly minute, whether completely at one with or alien to the land, or, most importantly, you find the feeling of virginity, discovery, or unaltered wildness, truly pristine conditions at your fingertips, between your toes, in the air, and painted on your retinas, is the wilderness in my mind. It has its own visual and physical texture, its own scent, and its own power, both on us internally and externally, for better and for worse. The fact that the word "wilderness" can be, and is, open for interpretation and application for anyone who is fortunate enough to experience such many a place, is the real gift that is offered to us. However great the experience, it is the memory that will be with you beyond this lifetime. To be able to substantiate that memory is where the real power in the word "wilderness" lies.
After 3500 miles driving from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Mammoth Lakes, California, I hope to have once again experienced the splendor of the grandiose Canadian Rockies, spent a spectacular week with friends and family in Wisconsin and Washington State, climbed to over 10,000 ft on Mount Rainier, and earned a few turns skiing backcountry slopes along the way. Winter now takes me to 8000 ft in California, where I will lead tourists on dog mushing adventures from November through March.In my free time, look for me carving turns down a wind-blown ridge or slope with two planks strapped to my feet, for that is my ultimate peace and happiness I find in this magnificent experience called life.
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