You Know You Are Home
Yesterday, I came out of the western Alaskan bush. Today, I am home in California. I have returned from foreign lands before, but never has a place had such impact. In the next few weeks I will try to process what I learned about the land called Alaska, United States, and take you on my adventure. For now its time to enjoy being home:
You know you are in civilization when your cell phone has reception for first time in 16 days, and you have 800+ emails on just one of your email accounts.
You know you are home from Alaska when you wash all your winter clothes, and your sleeping bag, while wearing shorts and a tank top, sweating.
You know you are home when the sun goes down at 8:30 pm and it's dark.
You know you are home when watering your garden at 11:00 pm it strikes you as odd there are stars shining.
You know you are home when sitting on a comfortable couch is wonderful.
You know you are home when you go to bed and you don't have to unroll your sleeping pad. Crawl into the bag, zip up the lining, the the sleeping bag and pull the hood over your head, then adjust your hat.
You know you are home when you go to the refrigerator and there are fresh vegetables.
You know you are home when the milk and eggs are not powdered.
You know you are home when it takes two hours to get home from the airport because it's Friday and everyone is headed to their favorite vacation place.
The Adventure Begins
This adventure began when I was young. My best friend and I were desperate to get to Southern California. We spent a whole afternoon trying to figure out how to get there. We called air lines to find out the best prices. When neither of us had enough money for a ticket we looked into shipping ourselves. We discovered the weight of a package determined the pricing so we weighed ourselves. It was about thirteen dollars for a passenger seat(1968). We were drawn to adventure even when we were young.
Every Friday we met in the library and collected four or five books to read over the weekend. You would have thought we had no life to read so much, but somehow we managed between chores, Campfire Girls and church to read book after book. My favorite was a book called "Mrs. Mike". About an eastern girl who traveled to the Yukon Territory. She meets and marries a Canadian Mountie, The story is based on the true life of Katherine Flannigan. It is a gripping tale of how how the best laid plans go awry and how even the hardest times can be overcome with determination, hard work and love.
Life has always seemed like an adventure.
We Know Some Adventuresome People
Lots of years ago we met some people who had adopted eight kids. They enfolded our little family of 3 into their big family of 12; we felt so loved. We moved to another city, then they moved to another state. We kept up on important events through Christmas cards and occasional letters.
Fourteen years ago, a letter saying they were going on new adventure arrived. They would be going to Alaska, to a kids camp, on the Yukon delta.
After they returned we got a letter telling about Alaska. I have waited for those letters every year since. Two year ago I called my friend. "Shannon, we are interested in joining you". It took some time to convince her we were serious. Well, that I was serious. My husband was greatly relieved he couldn't join me.
I sent in my application, I received my clearance from the state of Alaska to work with kids ... then I had to begin chemotherapy again. This new improved chemo had few side effects. Few side effects for most people, but not for me. I felt worse after every treatment until the day in June when I got the call. "Your blood work shows your platelets are low we can't do chemo".
Frankly, I had been wondering how I was going to make a grueling trip to Alaska when I felt rotten.
Each week for three weeks I did blood work and the platelets dropped.
The cancer story is another story for another time. Alaska is calling.
Packing The Advance Shipment
Weather in Alaska can be variable regardless of the season. Understanding weather conditions is vital when packing for any trip. I spent months going over clothing and sleeping bags. Do I take a bivouac sack and knife? Should I take the down sleeping bag good to minus 5 degrees, 30 degrees, or the fiber filled bag good to 25 degrees The temperature ratings on sleeping bags is for survival not necessarily comfort. The friend I was meeting said her bag was good to -35 degrees. It also weighs 20 pounds; she leaves it in Alaska when she goes home from camp.
When it came time to pack my box to ship ahead I struggled with everything from what size box to use to where to get the box.
I mailed that box a month before leaving, satisfied I was Miss Explorer exceptional.
Death Of A Dream
An adventurer I am, reckless I am not. Platelets help with clotting your blood. For once in my cancer walk I was up against something I couldn't exercise, or eat my way through. Platelets are low because of advanced disease or medication. In my case it seemed like the medication was the problem.
Shannon would be leaving for Camp on July 3. My husband said "You have to call and tell her there is a possibility you won't make it to Camp". I called. She wasn't surprised to hear what I had to say. As a mother of 10 kids my friend is not reckless either.
She said, "Judy, eight days ago God prompted me to start praying for your health... you need to get here, don't be stupid, follow your doctor's directing, but if you can, get here. God has something very special for you."
She went on to tell me about the doctor who was coming to camp this year and how she had diagnosed her husband's heart problem. After hanging up I told my husband what she had said. He said, "As I was sitting here the thought came to me, if the doctor doesn't say not to go, you should go".
The next day more blood work and worse results. Friday, another barrage of emails to my doctor. He called finally called me and said, Will you have internet"? I said, "There is a phone at camp". He ordered powerful pain medication. Then said, "Have a good trip".
Traveling To Alaska
Just before boarding my flight in San Francisco I posted on Face Book that I was really going.
Delta winged me gracefully from San Francisco to Seattle, Seattle to Anchorage. When I turned my phone on in Anchorage I had 49 likes and 12 comments. #feeling overwhelmed by love#
I was picked up at the airport as arranged. I was glad to discover I would be flying out with another gal. She would be in around midnight. I spent the evening trying to stay awake.
Off The Grid
Early the next morning I met Heidi. She had been to camp many times. Around 9:30 am our ride to the airport came and we were off.
When I checked my bag the guy said, "25 pounds is not much luggage for going to Emmonak". I proudly told him I had sent the bulk of my luggage a month before. We went to our gate and as we waited I got hungry. I looked in my bag and remembered most of my munchies were left at home. I decided going into the middle of nowhere without food was just stupid. I am the seasoned traveler remember. We had passed a small snack bar on the way to the gate. We were on a weather hold, so I ran there. I was delighted to see hard boiled eggs and packs of almonds. I ran back with my purchases as they began to board. Heidi was delighted I was not an air head who would travel into the wilds without food. It was a long time between meals and she wasn't the only one who glad I had food.
We arrived in Emmonak, Alaska and my box was not there. It was 100 degrees when I left home. It was 61 degrees and raining when we arrived in Emmonak. My 25 pound bag contained rain boots, waterproof snowboard jacket, one long sleeved shirt, one pair of long pants, a swimming suit, two fleece hats, a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, inflatable pillow, flannel sheet, personal items and tennis shoes. On a whim I grabbed my winter running jacket instead of a light weight sweat shirt when I was leaving for the airport.
Miss Seasoned Traveler learned a lot about pride that day.. Layering the snowboarding jacket and running jacket kept me moderately warm on the 17 mile ride up river to camp. The boots are warm to below zero and my feet were never cold.
The box got to camp 8 days late.
You Know You Are Home
You know you are home when the dogs you hear barking are your dogs and not foxes.
You know you are home when the phone rings and H.J. says," Jammy, Jammy can I come over to your house and play with my digger"?
You know you are home when baby RA sits in your lap instead of Pa's lap.
You know you are home when your heart is yearning for all the discomfort of the Alaskan bush while following the Camp building project on Face Book.
You know you are home when for a few days you don't want to go anywhere, let alone think about your next trip.
Stay tuned for more of tireless travelers Alaskan adventures.
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