I had been living in Phoenix for four years when in a six week span my car was broken into, my apartment was robbed and, while drunkenly awaiting the sweet embrace of a carnitas burrito from Filiberto’s, a fellow patron pulled a knife on me. Whether or not I had displayed some sort instigative obnoxiousness is lost in the fog of time and tequila. What is known however, is that when faced with the threat, I began to dance like an idiot. This distraction bought me the necessary time for my would be assailant’s friends to corral him. Awaking the next morning it was obvious. I needed to hit the road.
The obvious choice of course, for young man having spent his first 21 years in the deserts of Arizona, was to head north. North! to Alaska, go north the rush is on! first as a cook in the wilds of Denali. There I faced bear, wolf and the darkness inside when camped on a solo trip to the Muldrow glacier. “Camped” is a strong word. Against the advice the permit desk park ranger, I was wrapped in a tarp at the shore of the lake at the mouth of the mighty river of ice. The clear weather of the day had given way to rain and my companions for the evening were the howls of the wolves, the din of the glacier and, what was at the time, possession of the truth that I was going to die. The rain falling upon my tarp burrito kept time as my thoughts bounced between “I’m going to die out here and no one is ever going to know”, and the permit desk girl’s warning about going with out a tent “Yeah…we don’t recommend it”. But no, my fellow Keystone Ice chugging, top tobacco smoking, colleagues and I had decided that the zenith of the backcountry camping ethic was “ultralight”.
I survived of course. And after a moist hike back to the park road I was blessed by the arrival of a bus from one of the Kantishna resorts heading for the park entrance. As she had no resort guests aboard, and as she possessed a kind heart, I rode back to employee housing in style. Shivering, but the none the worse for wear, I slept before a return to the noble profession of prep cooking.
It was one of the first of many, often ill conceived, adventures in the great north woods. I climbed, skied, paddled, backpacked, drank, and wandered my way through the coastal rain forests and the serrated mountain tops of the Cascades, the Chilkats and the Coast ranges. I lived upon the Alaska ferry boats, motoring through the fjords of the great north. I worked through two degrees in mathematics before abandoning the third. I found and then lost a great love.
It has seemingly always been in my nature to roam. That movement brought me to so many places and introduced me to so many amazing people. Of course it also tore me away from them as well, just as it has once again. I am so truly optimistic and excited for what comes next, but it will come with the pain of the void left in my heart for those dear friends I have made.
I doubt that the northwest has seen the last of me. I still love the desert, and the truly fluffy fluffy pow pow of the Wasatch will always call to me. But the ice fields, the forests and the mountains are closest to my heart. The land of rain and salmon, the island filled seas, have not seen the last of me. For I can say with my very soul, that the Northwest is fully the bee’s knees. To say goodbye I leave my favorite song from the Northwest.