One of the things I love about life in the 21st century is the convenience of travel. Traveling to other places opens my eyes - to the unique beauty of wherever I'm visiting and to all the things I'm grateful for - both in the visiting location and at home.
We just came back from a visit to Alaska. The tour, led by Linda Cortright via her Wild Fibers Magazine, took us from Anchorage to Fairbanks and back - visiting wonderful locals that work with unique fibers. And all along the way, I was reminded of the wonders around us every day and how grateful I am to be a part of this world.
First stop Palmer:
First stop was to Palmer and the Musk Ox Farm
How can you resist these cute little faces? And why would you want to when they grow up to produce some of the warmest fiber in the world??
And how incredible is it that we were given the opportunity to actual feel the fiber on a living representation of the ice age? One that weighs in over 800 lbs?
I'm grateful that Mark and his staff are passionate enough to keep this herd going. And that they are mindful of animal welfare, the unique nature of the beasts in their care, and that they are willing to share their knowledge and love with the world.
Second stop Iditarod:
Our second stop was at the starting line of the Iditarod Sled Dog race.
A beautiful day weather wise... we were even treated to a peek of the peak, Denali, which was miles away from this venue.
This race is not without its controversies and this year included the presence of PETA. Like so many other issues in our lives, this one is complicated. The men and women who race these dogs love them and care for them above and beyond the phrase "responsible pet owner." And these dogs want to run. They want to be on the move. They were bred to the sled.
It was an honor to spectate and to marvel at the feat of traveling 1,000+ miles, by dog power, over the snow and in some of the harshest conditions known to man.
I also had the incredible opportunity to talk to this woman . What an honor to speak with someone who still, really, lives from the land. And respects those gifts. Our conversation that day was a gift to me.
Stop three: Knik!
And then there was GB Jones. This musher was in the Iditarod seven times, finishing the race three of those times. Total prize money? just over $3K. But the size of the heart of this man, the love he has for his dogs, his swans, his land. Oh, and his patience with us. Incredible!
Next Stop - Denali
There's a reason everyone says this mountain's name in hushed tones. If you're lucky enough to visit here when the clouds part (as we have), you get an amazing view of the tallest peak in North America (20,310). This shot, below, is only the foothills!
We'd been here before in the summer but to see the winter landscape was just magnificent. We felt like we were on the top of the world, staying at the Touch of Wilderness lodge.
The snow was high, the sounds carried incredibly, and when we just stood still to take it all in, this little one came by - a northern hawk owl.
On another day, we visited with Brenda Mowery - who creates the most amazing hats of dog fur and wool, some lined with fur.
Not all of us could live as Brenda does (imagine an outhouse at -20F?)... but the generosity she and her family showed us during our visit was just incredible.
Some of Brenda's creations (right). We were also treated to a great snowmachine ride looking out over the Cantwell River. Thanks Harold and Tanner!
One week in the grandeur of the Alaska was still impressing us daily. We went snowshoeing in Denali and then drove up to Fairbanks where it was actually hard to adjust to a city - a commercial hotel - and a sit-down, out-in-public, everyone-try-to-behave fancy dinner.
On the way from Fairbanks back to Anchorage we travelled courtesy of the Alaskan Railroad. Thank you, ARR for taking care of us and allowing us to count 70+ moose in our travels!
And so now we're back home. It's been more than a week and the routine of the day job, and the regular errands, and catching up with our friends is starting to return to the norm. But Alaska will always stick in my heart in wonderful, curious memories - of the beautiful space, obviously. But also for reminding me of the things I'm so very grateful for:
running water and indoor plumbing
my relationships with all the furry friends we share our earth with
the good in people who are willing to share their stories and meals with complete strangers and
winter - pure and simple
And you? Are you like me, finding that travel away sometimes makes you that much more grateful for what's back home? Or, also like me, do you find that travel to places wild just opens up your heart a little bit more to gratitude for this whole, wonderful, wide world we get to live in?
Thank you, Anchorage. Au Revoir.