Geoff and I have started planning a spring trip to Utah. In the back of my mind, I'm thinking, "Do I really want to go back to Utah this spring? Why not save the vacation time to do something really cool ... like bicycle camp my way to Inuvik?" Despite the appeal of visiting friends and family, sometimes thoughts of Utah dredge up a 'been there, done that' sentiment.
I still can't deny - despite my current location in Juneau and 'born and raised' familiarity with my state of origin - that I'm completely enamored with Utah. I've become more lost inside myself within the shadows of towering sandstone canyons than I have in my wilderness treks through trail-less Interior Alaska. I've been gripped with more primal fear in the rushing rapids of the Colorado River than I have standing in the path of a grizzly bear. I'm always quick to defend my home state when Alaskans ask me how many 'sister wives' I had back home, or when they tell me how much Salt Lake City "stinks." ("You mean like that smell wafting in right now from the salmon hatchery?" I say.) But when people ask me when I plan to leave the land of snow and ice to return to the land of salt and sand, I always reply with a confused stare. What? Leave Alaska?
Sometimes I wonder if I'm here by the sheer pull of similarity. Utah is home to the many of the most remote areas of the Lower 48. Alaska is just remote. Utah has the suffocating heat and desolation of the desert. Alaska has the paralyzing cold and desolation of the tundra. Girdwood is basically Park City with a hippy problem. Anchorage is basically Salt Lake City with a moose problem. Homer could double for Moab if you replaced mountain bike and ATV-riding with halibut fishing. Even where I live, Juneau - which often seems like no place I've ever seen before - could find a lot in common with the Beehive State residents who live to ski and ski to eat (someone here told me once that Alaskans eat the most ice cream per capita. I had to dispute that one loudly, too.)
But there's something about Alaska - something that draws me further away, even as I spend my nights dreaming about redrock. Something that keeps me up at night, scheming about all the places I have yet to see. It's big. It's wild. It's full of life (Isn't that right, Anchorage tourism board?)
And it's my home.