Even though I was born here, I haven't seen much of Alaska. I left when I was little, was raised in Utah, spent the last 14 years of my life in Virginia and didn't return to see the land of my birth until my 35th birthday 2 years ago. I had an inkling that I'd want to live here permanently before I visited in October of 2005, and the experiences I had here and the way I felt about this place when I was here just confirmed my need (not desire, but an urgent calling, a need) to live here. When my trip was over and I was on the plane, my heart was breaking having to go back to Virginia. I decided then and there that I was moving here. After a "hiccup" in January of 2006 where I had to totally let go of my past and the people in it, I started making plans to move to Alaska by the end of August of last year. In July, I quit my job, cashed in my company stock and my 401 K, sold all of my belongings except for what would fit in my car, graduated from college and started the drive from Virginia to Alaska. I've never regretted my decision to move here, and every day that I'm here my conviction that I'm supposed to be here grows stronger and stronger. I can breath here, I feel free and content here, my soul can expand here. I feel at home here.
I met Alex online the beginning of February of 2006. We'd both been through some hard times (admittedly, his much tougher than mine), and were looking for friends. I wanted to meet people in Alaska that I could talk to that could give the the "lay of the land" of the Anchorage area so I would know exactly what I was getting myself into. We really hit it off. We talked online and by the phone February through July. I came to visit and do a job search in July. From that moment on, we were a couple. There have been some intense times, of course. Both of us had some adjustments to make, had wounds to heal, have kids to help adjust to the new situation we are all in. But, I wouldn't trade him for anything.... unless it required me to move out of Alaska anytime soon. If he moved, I'd miss him! Relationship or no relationship, Alaska is my heart. Maybe I'll move in a few years, who knows what the future holds. Right now though, I can't even breath when I think about moving away, or moving to the lower 48.
With all that said, I moved here in August and haven't really gotten to see or do much. Sure, I've gone on hikes, have gone berry picking, have gone kayaking, have taken long drives to see Homer and Seward, and even made some brief jaunts to Talkeetna. I've had some great adventures and a lot of fun! However, I have never just taken time off of work and acted like a tourist. I started working right after I moved here. I get to finally take some time off and enjoy my Alaska now that Julie is coming. And boy, are we going to be exhausted. Our schedule is packed. She wanted to see as much of Alaska as she can in 6 days (6 days won't even scratch the surface of what this place holds, but I'll give her a taste), and I'm going to do my best to show her as much as I can. Here's the plan:
Wednesday: Drive to Talkeetna to see Denali (hopefully, it will not be covered in clouds). On the way, stop in Eklutna to see the Spirit Houses; go to the Musk Ox farm; hike Thunderbird Falls on the way out of town (it's a short 1 mile hike, and fairly elevationless); stop in Willow to view float planes taking off and landing.
Thursday: Head towards Girdwood and southern parts. On the way, hike Virgin Falls; hike the back end of Winner Creek Gorge, cross the hand tram (or hike the front section and ride the tram to the top of Alyeska); hit Girdwood for lunch; head south to the AWCC to see the animals of Alaska.
Friday: Head to Seward for the Marine Wildlife and Fjord tour (includes lunch). The tour is 5 hours long! On the way back, we'll stop just outside of Seward and take a look at Exit Glacier.
Saturday: FINALLY A BIT OF A REST! We are bbq'ing at Mirror Lake with the MEETin group. I reserved a pavillion, we will be hiking and biking and kayaking. In the morning, we'll walk around the trails in the neighborhood (my neighborhood has AWESOME trails) and see what we can see. I've seen fox and moose on my walks on the trail. Saturday night, we are going to introduce Julie to brewed beer by heading to one of the restaurants that offers some good brewed beer choices, probably the Moose's Tooth, Snow Goose or Glacier Brewhouse. I think even the nice restaurant in Eagle River offers brewed beer, maybe we'll head there.
Sunday: North to Matanuska Glacier! On the way, we'll stop by the reindeer farm. Matanuska Glacier is one of the few glaciers that we can hike up to, and hike on!
Monday: She and the kids leave today, so we'll stick around Anchorage. We'll hit the Anchorage museum, walk along the coastal trail, eat at the Snow City Cafe, let her do the tourist shop thing, get her a reindeer dog and get her to the plane on time! Monday, we'll sleep (notice I didn't put sleep time on any other day!)
I'm looking forward to being a tourist along with her. I really am. I'm going to take TONS of pictures. There will be NO SHAME while I carry my camera around, ooohhing and aaahhing at this place I call my home. I'm sure I'll be feeling a HUGE swell of pride too, showing her the place I love so much!