Alaskan Bush Adventure With Tirelesstraveler
Alaska is one of the most fascinating places in the world. There are more misconceptions about this state than any other state. What do you know about Alaska? Do the words freezing,snow covered, constant night come to mind? Perhaps C.S. Lewis' "Always winter but never Christmas"?
If you have cruised the Alaskan coast you might think of Glaciers and mountains like Denali, also called Mt. McKinley. Do you think of, beautiful blue sky, Prince William Sound, historic towns like Haines and Skagway?
Do you think of Eskimos? Oil fields? Moose? Fishing? Freedom? Dog sledding? Many of these things are history.
Like sled teams. Not so many of those these days with planes snowmobiles and four-wheelers to do the work without so much care. Many parts of the state, while indeed remote, are not isolated from the outside world. The biggest misunderstanding is with the people of Alaska. Not all Alaskan Natives are Eskimos. There are also Athabaskan Indians, and various Yupik Native groups.
One of the biggest surprises about Alaska is how complicated it is to be a Native.
Tireless Traveler In Alaska
Alaska boasts some curious statistics.
There are approximately 570,641 square miles of land in Alaska vs. 3,531,905 square miles in the lower forty eight. The population in Alaska actually averages out to be 1.3 persons per square mile in Alaska and 87 people square mile in the lower forty eight.
Alaska also has the highest peaks in the northern hemisphere. Sixteen of the highest peaks in North America are in Alaska.
Rhode Island would fit into Alaska more than 400 times, Texas would fit two times into the land mass called Alaska.
There are mountain ranges and deserts. Thousands of rivers and lakes dot the state. Alaska boasts the most western point (Cape Wrangle) and the most northern point (Point Barrow) of the United states.
Rocks are hard to find along the Western Yukon River, so are trees. What look like trees are actually large shrubs.
The only battle fought on U.S. soil since the Civil War was fought in Alaska. Alaska was invaded by the Japanese in 1943. The aleutian Islands of Attu, Agattu and Kiska were captured for a short period of time.
Alaska is indeed a neighbor of Russia.
The history of Alaska is littered with colorful personalities like Jefferson C. Davis who was the first head of the Department of Alaska . He set up the first U.S. fort in Sitka in 1867 and remained there until 1870. The first head of Alaska had a reputation similar to many who have lived in Alaska. His name sounded like that of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy. The Alaskan Davis murdered his superior officer, William "Bull" Nelson in 1862. Because the Army was desperate for experienced field officers he was returned to his Civil War Command.
Jefferson Randolph"Soapy"Smith was a colorful character in Alaska's history. He ran a gang of thieves. They were so smooth many didn't realize they had been fleeced until the deed was done. The Smith gang would meet new arrivals pretending to be ministers. They would befriend the new arrivals, then show them the safest place to keep their nest eggs. Would a man of the cloth be a cheat? Yes.
Family legend has Tirelesstraveler's grandfather dealing cards in Soapy's saloon in the late 1800's.
Alaska is adorned with beautiful colors as well as colorful people. Blue Glaciers and The Northern Lights shatter the gloom of winter and bring fairy tale wonder to the people of Alaska.
Mountain Range From Jetliner
Hi My Name Is Judy!
Hi everyone. I would like to introduce myself. I am Judy. I have known Tirelesstraveler all her life. Today she took a quiz on Face Book called "How Weird Are You"? She got 56 percent weird and this only surprised me because I would have thought she was weirder. Tirelesstraveler was in Alaska last summer. She has been having a hard time getting this adventure into words. Frankly it has been driving us both crazy. She talked about going to Alaska for six months before she went last year. She would have talked about it the rest of the year if she hadn't had other trips to keep her occupied. TT has asked me to help her. I think it is past time; she just made the decision to return to Alaska next summer.
Many have asked what she was thinking going into the Alaskan Bush alone?
I knew exactly what she was thinking. "Adventure! Here is my chance to see why friends Ed and Shannon have poured so many years into Camp. She would have been thinking - girl, you are so qualified to work with kids in the middle of nowhere."
I believe she inherited her adventurous spirit from her grandfather. Her Grandfather was a German immigrant, who saw most of the world before he died in 1945, nearly ten years before Tireless was born.
Here comes Tireless, lets see if she is ready to tell you about her trip.
Yukon Delta From Nine Passenger Plane
TT: "Hey, Judy! Thanks you so much for helping with this interview. There is so much I want people to know about this trip, but my thoughts are all over the place."
J: "It is my pleasure to help you. Are you ready to begin? Take a seat and get comfortable. Ready?"
TT: "Yes, I am very comfortable. I will never take a comfortable chair for granted. Any chair is comfortable after three weeks standing, sitting on wooden chairs,or in aluminum boats or on the cold wet ground"
J: " What were you doing sitting on cold wet ground?"
TT: "I was hammering tent stakes. Actually, I was kneeling, not sitting."
J: "OK, why did you go to Alaska? What were you thinking?"
TT: " I think it has something to do with my infatuation with MacGuyver".
J: " 'Hold It - is there a point here? What does MacGuyver on T.V. and Tireless going to Alaska have to do with anything? "
TT: "Yes. I explained what I would be doing to just about everyone I knew. I talked to groups and individuals. Telling them that I would be working with Native kids between the ages of 9 and 18 at a summer camp. There was also the possibility I would be helping my friend in the kitchen. I have experience working in both areas"
Western Yukon River Basin From The Air
TT: "Come on Judy give me a minute, you know I am a story teller. Rewind back to MacGuyver infatuation. The dogs and I were at the park. There is a maze of locked gates. The ball went over the fence into the maze. Trying to get it back I tried all sorts of things. I tried using the end of the Chuck-It, tried to snag the ball with the end of the leash. Finally Joe P. Dog went under the fence and retrieved it. Anyway I like to pretend I am MacGuyver. Alaska seemed like a MacGuyver adventure."
J: "Well...Did you say Joe P. finally went under the fence and got the ball?"
J: "You were outsmarted by a dog?"
TT: " No Joe P. was my assistant. Everyone needs assistance when attempting to do something out of the ordinary."
J: " Did you enlist others to help you on this adventure?"
TT: "Yes. I explained what I would be doing to almost everyone I knew. I talked to groups and individuals telling them that I would be working with Native kids between the ages of 9 and 18 at a summer camp. There was also the possibility I would be helping my friend in the kitchen. I have experience working in both areas"
Foxy Local Inhabitants
How Did You Get The Idea To Go...
TT: "Fourteen years ago friends told me they were going to Alaska. When they returned home we heard nothing until the following spring when they were preparing to return. They were amazed with the camp. Camp AN is a summer camp that Yupik native kids attend. They went back the next year and then the next, I became intrigued with the stories they told about the kids and the hardships of Natives. As the years went by I could hardly wait to get their annual spring letter.
I always thought going to Alaska would be interesting. Apparently my grandfather went to Alaska and we know a family from Alaska. Their eldest son has lived with us .
Just about the time I was ready to go to camp five years ago cancer detoured me. A year ago, November, my health was good, 'I decided now was the time be the year.' I wanted to see this place that caused perfectly sane people, my friends, to leave a nice home, and go live in a tent in the Alaska bush every summer. You weren't required to stay for two camps, but if it takes you two days to get there you ought to stay awhile".
J: " I thought you said you were in Alaska for three weeks? Did it rain every day you were there?
TT: "Well... Yes it did."
J: " O.K. what was so extraordinary?"
TT: " It was cool, wet, overcast, and the sun set for a couple of hours each day. I loved it."
J: " Are you kidding?"
TT: " Not at all. The weather wasn't very good. Most of my luggage didn't get there until a week after I did. The facilities were primitive, but the showers were hot. We didn't have the usual mosquitoes because of the constant wind. I saw pictures from the summer before and you could see people covered with mosquitoes."
J: " This trip doesn't sound extraordinary, it sounds awful. Did you enjoy yourself at all."
TT: "I loved it,"
J; "What there to love?"
TT: "People. Complicated wonderful people. Walking around at midnight taking pictures of flowers,foxes and the bright sun. Watching how the sun moves around in a circle as it rises and sets during the summer. The way people worked together as a team was interesting. How the kids responded to adults was fascinating.
Wind Rain And Sun
What Was So Special About Your Trip To Alaska Beside The Location?
J: "So, friend, what was so extraordinary about your trip that you told groups and everyone you knew?"
TT: " Many people take cruises to Alaska. Mostly they cruise the southern part of Alaska. When they go inland it is up to Denali and toward Fairbanks. Fishing and camping is popular during the summer. Many go to the top of the world, Barrow. It's the top of the world. A lot of people work on the northern slope. They see glaciers and mountains and it is just beautiful,"
I heard a lot about Alaska from my adopted kid B.J. He was driving me to his house the night I came in from the bush. He was describing the beauty of the The Sisters, Flat Top and Prince William sound. The fog and rain were so thick I didn't see much of anything but fog and rain. Anchorage was overcast when I arrived and it was overcast when left. Apparently the summer of 2014 was the rainiest summer in recent memory."
TT:" From the time I decided to go and began the process everything fell apart. I began a new chemo-therapy. Supposedly the side effects would be minimal. No hair loss and I would be feeling good. It was going to be wonderful. I charged on with plans for Alaska. I filled out the application for Camp and permission for a background check. My background check came back clear. When I didn't feel well in February, our friend, Younde, booked my flights. I was concerned about the timing of my treatments and my trip; the doctor assured me we could work around the trip.
By March I was no longer hiking. I wasn't anemic, but the medicine was effecting my liver. I felt crummy.
June 19th I was getting ready to leave for treatments when my nurse called. "I am so glad you haven't left yet. Your platelets are too low for treatments this week. We will reschedule for next week."
"Wow what a day. I just got a whole afternoon back. Farmers Market here I come! Then it occurred to me I couldn't eat my way out of a failing liver. Most of my cancer journey has been successful because of my healthy eating habits."
Luggage Transfer St. Mary's
The next week the same thing happened. I was beginning to feel stronger. Still the thought of what the cancer was doing without treatment kept me wondering. Delays went on until the the end of June.
I couldn't delay any longer. I had to call my friend whom I was meeting in Alaska, and tell her there was a chance my trip would be cancelled. Platelets help blood clot. Being a long way from medical treatment without healthy platelets to clot bleeding is not a good idea.
The Medic at camp was a doctor instead of the usual nurse was the main information calling my friend revealed.
My husband said 'If the doctors says O.K. you should go'. The doctor finally said your platelets aren't too bad. You should go."
Typical Transportation Traveling Throughout The Yukon Basin
Tireless This Just Gets Worse
T: "...So go I did. In San Francisco, I posted on Face Book; "Boarding my flight to Anchorage", then turned off my phone. In Seattle when I turned on my phone there were 49 likes and 15 comments on my Face Book post. I didn't know I had that many friends on FB!
I got to Anchorage. I spent the night on the floor of a church in Anchorage. We flew out to the bush the next day. I was really looking forward to receiving the box I had mailed myself a month before. I was a little worried when the airline agent weighed my suitcase and said,'Twenty five pounds isn't much for a trip to Emmonak.' We had a lay over in Saint Mary's and it was a sight watching luggage transferred from the big jet (39 passengers) to the bush plane(9 passengers) via a backhoe. Extreme mud calls for extreme measures.
We landed in Emmonak and my ride was in a trailer attached to a four wheeler. I was with a gal who had been to camp AN many times. It was when we got to the village I discovered the luggage I had sent ahead wasn't there.
It was partly cloudy when I pulled on my rain boots, rain jacket and hat and climbed aboard the boat that would take us to camp. It started to rain and I discovered I had two fleece hats and no gloves. We went up the river to Camp loaded with building supplies. I met my friend Shannon on the river bank as she promised, and we had a joyous reunion."
Here Is Camp From The Air
J: "Wait! Where do you think you're going? I have all sorts of questions left to ask you. Why is being a native so complicated. What....do you think you are doing?
Tireless just left the room. I am so sorry. She is a little hyper sometimes. Thank you so much for joining me for this interview. Be sure to watch for the next part of this adventure."
"Tireless come back here!"