Thursday, June 17, 2010

Going, going, gone

This week has been one of those rare instances (for me at least) where life is happening faster than I can write about it. I'm the kind of person that puts journaling before things like eating and sleeping; after all, memory is fickle and life has a way of getting away from you. Well, life is getting away from me right now. I don't even have time to post this particular blog post, but I figured it was important to let my family know that Geo and I have made to Banff, Alberta, so only a half day of driving on a high-traffic highway with lots of services lies between me and my new home in Montana. (My family will be ever so happy to hear this bit of news, as the old Geo was never intended to make one trip between the Lower 48 and Alaska, let alone four.)

Yes, I've left Alaska. Right now I'm in a state of mourning that has been partly tempered by excitement for my new opportunities in Montana, and further numbed by 42 long, long hours behind the wheel in a 60-hour span of time. Despite the endurance driving, the trip has gone quite well so far. It's about 2,100 miles from Anchorage to Banff, and with a loaded-down Geo on the narrow Alaska Highway under heavy summer construction, I'd be surprised if my average was over 50 mph. (Also, I have a cat with me that hates to travel. Luckily, she is also a world-wise animal and knows when to resign herself to the inevitable.) Together, the old car, the irritated cat and I just ground away at it, and when I wasn't driving, I was trying to squeeze in a few last-minute adventures.

My last official Alaska adventure was a simple camping and clamming trip in Ninilchik. I went on the trip because I wanted to spend one last weekend with my good friends and their daughter. I'd never before been interested in clamming - to me it looked like wallowing in mud, soaking up a stiff seawater chill and wrestling sharp, slimy objects that really aren't all that tasty even when fried up in butter. But clamming actually is fairly fun. Those slimy little creatures really do fight, and you really do have to get in their with your hands and dig fast.

I had all these hopeful Chugach plans on the burner, but they were swiftly pushed out of reach by the realities of packing and moving. I left Anchorage on Tuesday morning, picked up my passport that had just arrived (just in the nick of time) in Palmer, and hit the road. By Tuesday night, I was 750 miles away in Whitehorse. I delayed my Wednesday start so I could enjoy one last Yukon mountain bike ride with my friend Anthony. We stayed out for nearly three hours and I didn't get back on the road until after 1 p.m. From there, I've pretty much drove straight through to Banff, more than 1,350 miles down the bumpy, winding road. I took a car nap for a few hours outside of Grand Prairie (it was by that time 7 a.m., full sunlight, and hot.) I also stopped on the Icefields Parkway for a hike up Parker Ridge, a place that I had hiked in January. It doesn't look all that different in June - still snow covered, rocky, and mountainous. But the big push was worth it. I now have a full two days to spend in Banff before I have to return to the United States and, ahem, start working for a living.

There's really not much I can say right now about leaving Alaska. My fatigue is cutting through my sadness and anticipation. It's almost as though I rammed in the long miles and cranked up the iPod just to temper the runaway freight train of thoughts and emotions about it all. Now all I have left on the surface is a vague sense of forward motion, and a sparse handful of pictures ...

From the mountains,

To the prairies,

To the icefields, white with snow.

God bless Canada; I'm almost home.