On leaving Alaska

The home I loved in this largest state is starting to feel a little small.
The home I love in this largest state is starting to feel a little small.

On December 8, 2014 I turned 30 years old. To celebrate, my best friend took me to Las Vegas and I left Alaska for the first time in four years.

In January 2015, I visited my family outside of Memphis, TN and left Alaska for the second time in four in years.

Time with the "little" brother in Mississippi
Time with the “little” brother in Mississippi

In February 2015, I flew to San Diego with my friend Phil and got on a Princess Cruise Liner and experienced Mexico for the first time ever. It was then that I left Alaska for the third time in four years and it was then that I decided I needed to leave her for a little bit longer.

I first came to Alaska as a 19 year old girl in 2004. I found a job in Denali on CoolWorks after many restless nights looking for a way to escape the sleepy Memphis suburbs in North Mississippi. It was a transitional summer for me in many ways and one of the most important summers of my life. I left Alaska at the end of that season, but I knew I’d be back.

Three years later after stints living in NYC and Molokai in Hawaii, my little sister called me up and asked for advice in finding a job in Alaska. I was working as a vet tech in Midtown Memphis at the time, engaged to a nice guy and settling in, by all accounts, for the business of real life and growing up, etc. When Hannah asked me about Denali, I knew it was time to go back. I knew that was my last chance to experience that place I loved so much before babies and marriage and career, so I packed up and Hannah, my father and I drove North to Alaska.

At some point that summer I knew I wouldn’t be going back to Memphis, and I didn’t.

Hiking in Hatcher's Pass with my dog, Porkchop
Hiking in Hatcher’s Pass with my dog, Porkchop

Since then, I have lived in picturesque hippie ski town, Girdwood, and oddly sleepy former coal town, Sutton. I have spent most of my time in Anchorage, which many Alaskans refer to as being “close to Alaska.” I’m rather fond of it. I continued a career in journalism for a while, struggling through the deadlines and poor pay before finding my true calling as dive bar bartender at a sports lounge on the East Side.

Kayaking on Kenai Lake, May 2014
Kayaking on Kenai Lake, May 2014

I have built a tiny homestead on the more ghetto fringes of Downtown where at various times I have raised chickens and quail and rabbits and goats and lots and lots of plants. Through this venture, I somehow began to connect with the agriculture community of Alaska and followed an interest in animal husbandry and gardening and homesteading that I had harbored in varying degrees since early childhood.

Dipnetting for salmon
Dipnetting for salmon

I also found myself in an excellent position to fall in love with the outdoors in earnest and begin to fish, camp, kayak and hike when the weather was good. The rest of the time, I followed my old Memphis habits of earnest appreciation of good food, booze and music.

What I wasn’t able to do much of for the majority of my time here is leave.

Have you ever lived on an island? Where you’ve been down every road, and met every person you cared to meet, and watched every sunset and marveled over every vista…and just needed to get out? In the lower 48 you can do that relatively inexpensively. In Alaska, no quick get away can happen without a $600-$2000 plane ticket to kick it off.

Ouch.

So after experiencing the marvels of the Baja Peninsula and the, um…interesting travel means of cruising, I could not shake the need to see more.

The desert is calling and I must go, if you will.

The Dolphin awaits.
The Dolphin awaits.

Those who know me well know I can be singularly obsessive over things when I set my mind to something. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I buy a 1984 Toyota Dolphin mini motorhome, put notice in to move out of my house, and start charting the course between Anchorage, Alaska and Cabo San Lucas.

The road trip starts in August. The journey has already begun.

4 thoughts on “On leaving Alaska

  1. Very well written and similar yet different in so many ways to my own thoughts. For me, it is the onrushing doom of turning 60 in a few weeks. Putting off my ever-planned adventures for a little longer seems profoundly unwise. I have finally lost weight in earnest and started the active adventures I always imagined for a future day — taking my measure of life instead of giving until I drop.

    In fact, I just visited your old hangouts in Kauai, and am now enjoying Oahu. I have an ever-increasing number of adventures planned.

    Like

  2. I really like this post. Quite interesting.
    Did you end up doing this roadtrip then?
    It would be nice if you could write some more about Alaska. Going all the way from Alaska to Mexico is a big step – and both places are special and quite fascinating.
    Keep up the writing!

    Like

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