This letter is written long after that wondrous DIYBTRT (do-it-yourself-book-tour-road-trip) of 2005-2006 was over. At the time, one friend told me to take copious notes so I would not forget ANYTHING. Well, I didn’t and fortunately, the emails I wrote during that time were enough of a push that I could much remember the gaps much later. I realize the perspective of looking back does not carry the excitement and immediacy of the present moment as I was living through it; but I hope to fill in those gaps and be more honest about the downs of an experience where I only drew attention to the ups. The downside of the original emails was that I was showing off.
So before the Blackburn Music Festival near the Kennicott glacier that I wrote about in these blogs here and here, Joe and I crossed paths with our mutual friend Ela while I was in Seward. Anybody who has ever lived in Alaska knows that this a small town in a huge state. Since there are a lot of seasonal nomads who go to various parts of the state to where the work is, I ran into a lot of people I knew from Juneau. Joe had been fishing out of the Alaska peninsula; Ela was working in Girdwood for the summer. Later, I would run into friends in Fairbanks, and then I would meet their friends who then became my friends.
Keep in mind this was before Facebook and other forms of social media.
So anyway, I knew Joe and Ela from Outdoor Studies - a program where we would learn about how to navigate the Alaskan outdoors – kayaking, rafting, glacier travel and crevasse rescue, ice climbing, rock climbing, as well as hiking, backpacking, and navigation. I broke my experience down to two years and Joe was in my first year, and Ela in my second. After we ran into Ela, we headed up to Girdwood with her and stayed the night in a squatter’s tree house where Ela had lived all winter – even with a broken back. She peed when she had to in a plastic milk gallon jug with the top half cut off, whereas able-bodied me and Joe went down the ladder to pee outside. She said we had to be careful going in and out because the town of Girdwood was tearing down the tree houses, so more people would have to pay rent, and this one was particularly vulnerable because it was close to Alyeska resort. So she always dressed as if she was coming out of a hike, and passed on the treehouse to us, as she was about to leave Girdwood.
I wish I could have taken her up on it. Later, Joe and I would stay the night with Pando in the treehouse (blog about Pando here). He may have claimed it because this was right up his alley. But I remember that night as being a challenge to my patience, because Pando and Joe were wasted, loud, and obnoxious. Perhaps if I had been drunk too, I would have been fine, but I wasn’t. So it was less than ideal to be in tiny treehouse in a loft with two drunks laughing at nothing on the floor below you.
I hope that treehouse is still there, but I doubt it. Girdwood has changed a lot.
Anyway, after the treehouse adventure – or maybe we stayed in the treehouse after this camping trip, I’m not sure – we met up with another friend from outdoor studies, Winter. She was staying with her father in Sterling, and her sister Brita was there as well. The five of us went on an overnight hiking and camping trip on what is now known as the Primrose and Lost Lakes trail – about 15 miles of hiking through beautiful rainforest and a stunning alpine ridge trail with stunning views.
Of course, it was a total blast and Joe loved nothing more than being the only guy in a group of girls. Even if he didn’t hook up, he loved being in the circle of how crazy and off-color women can be with each other with no men around.
Of course, I don’t remember the particular conversations from a camping trip I made more than 14 years ago. But I do remember how good it felt to be in such good shape that I could backpack at the last minute, and do a 15 mile trail with no problem. I also remember the beauty of Alaska and how much it hurt when it was time to leave that state. I also remember that I heard about Blackburn that would take place the following weekend from Ela on that camping trip. Once we arrived at how chosen place to camp, we sunbathed on the ridge, and chilled out in a warm sun while Ela told us about this really cool party. She was bummed out she couldn’t make it because of work, but Joe and I decided at the last minute to go.
The spontaneity and serendipity of that road trip were the headiest miracles about it. I was constantly amazed how a chance meeting led to an adventure, which led to another escapade and so on. I realize it’s not sustainable for most people to live like that all the time because I did this trip long enough to experience the exhaustion of it.
But it sure was incredible while it lasted. I still miss the freedom I had on that trip.