July 15th, 2013
Through my front door I can see the roaring river coming down from the glaciers, blocks of ice floating in the current. Through my window I see a mountain size wall of ice, shining with the morning sun. And I sit in my temporary home and try to reflect on this amazing moment. How many sleepless nights have I dreamed of this? How many stressful days in my life have I dreamed with leaving it all and find a place like this? At the end of the road, by the river, I set my home for a few days and the gods give me a perfect weather day to explore this unique place in the world. I have arrived to the end of the McCarthy Road in Wrangler Saint Elias National Park.
It was Sue who discovered this place planning our first trip to Alaska in 1997. It was this place where we fell in love, where we discovered that our lives will be bound for ever. And it is this place where I spread her ashes for eternity. There is a small lake by the side of the road on the way to McCarthy where on a clear day you can see the snowed peaks look at you from above. The crystal clear waters reflect the perfect white of the peaks and bind together on another one of those perfect moments. There it is where I want her memories to stay; she loved water and I loved mountains, and we will be together again in moments like that one.
They said last year they have four days of sunny weather all summer long, and here I am in my second day in McCarthy and there is not a cloud in the sky. I start to believe some kind of celestial intervention here because it is just too much luck. Sue knew this would be the place. My favorite picture of her is in the Kennicot Lodge, in the deck, reading a book with the sunset light, with the glaciers in the background. She thought she would never experience moments like that one. She never dreamed of finding me when she did, and I am so glad she did. We lived a good life together, we did so many amazing things together, and all really started here in our first trip to Alaska.
We hiked the glaciers on a clear sky day like this one sixteen years ago. I will do the same today. It is so hard for me to be here and not miss her terribly. It is hard for me to be here and not feel her so close to me, so close that hurts. She is happy for me today; I am sure she convinced somebody up there to give me some good weather, to take the mosquitoes away, to provide a nice breeze along the river, to provide another perfect day in Alaska.
I am trying so hard to live in the moment but my mind always keeps wondering into the future. Images of all my plans ahead keep coming to my mind every night and make the present almost unimportant. I can’t accept that. I am living my dream, I am here in paradise, in the most beautiful place I have found in all my travels and my mind can only think on the next steps. I am realizing that unless I am sharing a moment with somebody it loses at lot of its meaning. The last two months I have spent in solitude have helped me understand who I am and it has helped me gain confidence on being by myself, but it has also taught me that being alone handicaps my ability to be happy. Sharing my life with somebody takes it to a higher level, it reinforces my thoughts, it increases the value of the experience itself. I am here in Alaska experiencing something very few have the opportunity to experience and visions of the future planning my next trip back here keep showing in my mind; but this time I am not alone anymore, this time I will be sharing all I have learned with somebody. I guess I am lonely, for first time in my trip I feel lonely, maybe because this place has such strong memory of her.
I hiked the glacier one more time, by myself this time. I loaded my backpack with all my gear, rented some crampons, and mountain biked all the way to the glacier. It was a great day. How many times you get to bike twelve miles and hiked a glacier for a couple of hours on the same day? It was a great feeling to push through a hard day of physical exercise and see the amazing beauty of the Kennecott glacier up close and personal. In the background you could see the third largest glacier ice wall in the world. There are no trails in a glacier, there are not footsteps to follow or trail markers. I follow different groups of people until I felt comfortable enough. Then I just wondered up and down the ice hills that make the glacier. I explored the rivers carved into the ice, waterfalls of smooth perfection, blue ponds, a whole world made of ice. It is hard to really comprehend the dimensions of such a large glacier and it was easy to lose notion of your location as everything looked the same. I panic on my way back for just a little as a maze of rivers seemed to block my way. I took a deep breath and walked back to higher point where I could find a visual reference. Soon I picked a direction that took me to the entrance to the glacier. What an amazing place. I changed my clothes, loaded my boots and crampons in the backpack and biked down the trail to Kennecott mine and followed the six mile road back to camp. I felt great, I felt happy, I felt confident.
I warmed up what I had left of the ravioli and sit by the river looking at the ice wall, with a cold “dos equis” in my hand. I was in the moment; I was there, nowhere else. There is a wonderful soft wind that comes down the mountain with the river; there are no mosquitoes, and the sound of the river is a beautiful white noise that fills everything. It was almost the perfect place. A nice guy from Anchorage stop by to say hi: “where from Missouri?” He was from Anchorage and lived there for most of his life. It was his first time in McCarthy. He and his wife also took a break at the middle of their lives to travel and disconnect from the normal life a little. It made think a lot. That is exactly what I am doing; taking a break from normal life, but maybe I like this too much, maybe there will not be a normal life anymore. Why not?
My original thoughts of finding a way to make a living in Alaska have dissipated and now only experience the freedom of my journey is keeping my attention. I have no immediate desire to create strong roots anywhere for a while. I know now that roots are only holding you to be close to somebody, alone by myself roots are unnecessary. I am experiencing these amazing locations, I am engraving in my memory these amazing moments I am living. I am chipping away the shape of an amazing life, and that is all I care about.