I talked with a good friend last night; she asked how I was doing. I said great! She said, you’re always in a good mood. I had just been thinking of that earlier in the day—that if I’m not delighted or joyful, it’s a sub-par day. What a wonderful blessing in life, to have that much happiness in my days. There’s so much about Alaska that makes it easy to look around at our surroundings and just smile or want to clap my hands. Way to create extraordinary scenery, God! Good job!
Yesterday was particularly nice because I took a fun little trip to Talkeetna. I had a short meeting at Talkeetna Air Taxi. We could have done it over the phone, but I’m happy for any excuse to road-trip to Talkeetna. It’s a 75 mile drive that is breath-taking even in bad weather. I’m at home now, and an eagle just flew by the living room windows. My point exactly!
So, yesterday, I was driving along at 9:30 a.m. The air was clear and cold. My car thermometer said 11 degrees. The trees were frosted with hoarfrost and the road was frosted a bit, too. It was pretty much me, a couple beat up pick up trucks headed into town to the store and back, and a few double-long semi trucks hauling loads to Fairbanks.
As soon as you get north of Wasilla about 10 miles, there are several places on high rises of the road where you can see Denali. It’s too bad that so many visitors come in the summer—the best views of Denali are more often in the winter. The air holds so much more moisture in the summer, obscuring the view more often. It never ceases to amaze me that I can see that 20,000+ foot mountain from two hundred miles away. That’s a really long distance (you can see it from Anchorage, too, nearly 300 miles away). Think about it in terms of standing in St. Louis and looking at the Chicago skyscrapers or in Washington D.C., looking at New York City’s tall buildings—that’s how big this mountain is, that you can see it from those distances. Pretty amazing, taking into account humidity, curvature of the earth, cloud ceilings, and all that.
But I digress yet again. It’s such a thrill to crest a hill while driving and see Denali–boom, right there in front of you. It takes up the majority of the space of the windshield at some of those vistas. It’s like that out my living room window, too, seeing Pioneer Peak, but “my” mountain is only 33 miles away from my living room and is only 6600 feet tall. As the soft morning sun hit Denali, it was soft shades of pink, like cotton candy and ballerina tulle skirts and soft blushes. It never fails to just seize my heart, how beautiful that is.
So, I’m rolling along. In my peripheral vision to the left I saw something—an animal. I clenched the steering wheel and thought about evading it. Before I could think about a potentially deadly moose-car encounter, I saw that it was a wolf? Dog? Dogs! It was a dog team that came hurtling out of the woods on a trail and came within several feet of the highway, but instead of coming onto the highway, deftly swung Haw (Left) onto the trail parallel to the road. It was smooth and natural and graceful. That was a thrill, to see the team work so beautifully in motion. Then I thought, I know them! It was Vern Halter, an Iditarod race veteran who lived a couple miles from there, out on a ride. I called to Little Girl in the back seat to look that way, to see the dog team. She loves watching other dogs, especially Siberians. She’s a huge flirt around other huskies. That was really fun to see them “on the job,” out for a run.
Closer to Talkeetna, I saw small strings of smoke here and there. Rolling down the window as I drove, it smelled good. It was birch wood being burned for heat in the area cabins. A lot of Alaskans still use wood for a primary heat source. There is so much wood all around us, “utilities” only exist in the core, populated areas for the most part, and a lot of people choose to live “off the grid,” too.
In my meeting, it was nice to catch up with my friend Sandra who has worked for Talkeetna Air Taxi since 1996. She’s such a neat woman. We were looking through TAT photos, and she showed me some of last summer’s company party. They had always talked about doing this, and they finally got around to it: they took the all-year and summer staffers up to Base Camp on Denali for a pizza party! I’m no expert on Base Camp, but this had to be one of the first times boxes and boxes of pizza were flown up there! She showed me the Beaver that ferried them up, eating with Base Camp personnel who came to join them, and then playing in the snow for the afternoon. Neat, huh? What did you do this year for your company’s summer picnic?
Perhaps you can see why it’s so easy to be in a good mood in Alaska on a day like this.