When we moved from Arizona to Texas at the end of 2020, we made a stop at White Sands National Park. We had a great time sledding down the hills, ascending and descending various peaks, and collecting gypsum in nearly every seam of our clothes. White sands is a misnomer, the powdery substance covering the 115 square miles of the park is gypsum, a fine mineral that resembles sand. Believe me when I say I was vacuuming gypsum out of my car for over a year after this, and it’s still embedded in those shoes.
We were grateful to have an outdoor travel opportunity during our mandatory move amid the Covid-19 pandemic. It was incredibly stressful traveling during a time when vaccines were still in development, and nobody was really sure how susceptible children were, and how risky the symptoms would become. Every trip into the public was rolling the dice. Who else is relieved the darkest days of the pandemic are behind us? We still have not had Covid, and with 3-4 vaccines each, we’re hopeful we will never get it.
I highly recommend a visit if you find yourself in southern New Mexico or West Texas, and strongly suggest you also see Carlsbad Caverns!
I kid you not, I almost forgot how to log-in to this blog. I’m here, albeit sporadically. I’m currently caught up on all my paid-photography, so I’m finally chipping away at all of my personal work.
I think I need to get everyone up to speed on what’s been going on in my neck of the woods. First, my dear husband Isaac has been in the process of applying to Officer Candidate School (OCS); a process proven to be quite grueling in both the volume of paperwork required, and the demanding prerequisites required of all applicants. It has been about 8 months since he started the process. For months we sat around, twiddling our thumbs, waiting for our orders to Korea to come down (it was the only place with open slots for his MOS), or waiting for an acceptance to OCS.
Second, we recently we heard that he was accepted! Instead of the year-long waiting period for the class date to roll around, Isaac was notified that he would have only 6 weeks to prepare for his departure. Normally this wouldn’t be too problematic, however OCS requires a 3 month training period at Ft. Benning, Georgia. That’s a really long distance from interior Alaska, and a long period of time to be solo-parenting on my end.
Hence the solo vacation (the third order of business). Knowing a summer without Isaac assuredly means very few outdoor opportunities; remember when we attempted Granite Tors, a 15 mile hike while babywearing?Yea, not so successful, I wanted to take off on my own for a little bit, as a sort of motherhood Rumspringa.
I almost went to Ecuador, but I’m certainly glad I didn’t because the earthquake that hit there recently would have definitely occurred while I was there! I fortunately opted instead to stay closer-by, and headed south on a 5 hour drive to Talkeetna, Alaska; my favorite town in Alaska.
Far too much time was spent in my car (my new car, a 2016 Subaru Outback! – so much new information for you all if you don’t follow me on instagram) the first day. The Denali Park Road was open to personal vehicles to mile 30. Typically the park road is open to Savage River at mile 15. I was excited to go further into the park from the comfort of my own car as opposed to a bus, but I didn’t take into consideration the 35 mph speed limit. This added about 2 hours of drive time to my road trip. Well worth it since I saw three grizzlies and a small caribou herd and still made it into town in time to grab food and meet up with my dear pal Jo of Oma + Jo. We’ve bonded a lot over the last year and I count her as one of my closest friends. Anyway, I arrived in Talkeetna a little stiff, but eager to start my vacation.
Jo taught me how to play cribbage, an incredibly archaic yet fun game that probably had originally asinine, made-up rules. I caught on quicker than I would have expected myself to, given my poor math skills, and enjoyed playing rounds at the Pizza place patio over beers and Hummus platters. We had fun drinking, and chatting, and visiting the historical museum. Good company, and the only (temporary) company I’d have the entire trip.
I booked a room at the Talkeetna Roadhouse. Central to all town activities, I was able to watch the tourists and locals walk the town from my window. I was in walking distance to everything except for my massage which took place up the Spur road and in a blue Yurt, of all structures. So cool.
Despite a wonderful time at the local eateries, bars, museums and hiking trails, the main event was reserved for one of my final days in Talkeetna.
I purchased a flightseeing tour over Denali which included a Glacier Landing on the famous Ruth Glacier. The morning of I took a trail run along the river, ate a big breakfast at the Roadhouse, and got a call from K2 aviation about my flight; would I like to come in an hour early and get an upgraded flight for a longer tour with a glacier landing? Sure! I showered and rushed over to the ‘airport’, eager to gain some life changing perspective about the land I intend to call home for good.
I don’t want to bombard you all with a basketful of cliches about how my life has changed from a single flightseeing tour, but I really want to emphasize how mind-blowing this experience was. Alaska is vast, I knew that empirically before this trip, but I didn’t understand it in practice. Flying at low altitude, through the neighborhood of Denali, among the monsters like Mount Hunter, and Mount Foraker and then Denali, I finally understood the gravity of the mountaineering undertakings from the adventure books I’ve been reading for a year, and understood the zeal everyone holds for this mountain range.
Structures that looked to be the size of small stones were in reality the size of ranch style homes. Ripples in the glaciers were evidence of crevasses deeper than the the tallest skyscrapers in midwest cities. My mind still has trouble comprehending the scale and scope of the experience, but I’m still contemplating it regularly.
Of course I had all the confidence that our pilot would get us through the tour unscathed, but a naive (or pragmatic?) part of me felt I would probably die on this trip. I was super relieved to land safely on the glacier, to pose awkwardly on it for a photo, to walk around suspiciously on its crevasse-riddled surface, and ultimately re-board the plane, this time riding shotgun.
We flew back the way we came, over semi-frozen tundra. The twisted rivers, partially melted, gave way slightly to spring. The landscape has since turned lush and green.
Homesteads below spread far and wide, connected sometimes only by rivers.
I was exceedingly happy to disembark the small aircraft, if only from a place of self-preservation. I’m an anxious person, and prefer to have my two feet on the ground, fair enough?
I spent the rest of the day decompressing, playing over and over again the sights and sounds of the day in my mind. I went to happy hour, read a book and kicked around some local lakes for a quick hike. My trip ended with a cinnamon roll from the Roadhouse and a long, contemplative ride home to my family, presents in hand; ready to start my summer of solo-parenting.