Out the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry window is a bank of white fog that lines the shores of British Columbia. I know beyond that is hundreds of miles of dark green forest, taiga. It’s such a big land up here. Miles of nothing, miles of everything plant, tree, and animal-wise. How would I do living in such wilderness? I’ve marveled at all those eccentric homesteaders in Alaska watching that reality TV show, Alaskan Bush People. Could I go without my Starbucks coffee—room for cream please? What about my allergy medication? I guess I could sneeze and cough my way through bear country.
Suddenly I’m keenly aware of how much it takes to keep me operative.
“Where’s your sense of adventure?” my husband chides me.
Dale’s ready to go native, but I’m hesitant to leave life as I know it behind. And is it really an adventure to not reserve a room in Talkeetna? To end up sleeping in the back of the Prius huddled under some hoody jackets? To my thinking, that’s not adventure, that’s dumb.
“All I’m saying is we don’t have to plan this trip to-the-teeth. Let’s live a little dangerously,” Dale tells me.
I think about a documentary I saw once about a young man, Timothy Treadwell, who lived his life very dangerously. He was so fascinated by grizzly bears he decided to live among them in Alaska. He even made friends with a few bears—or tried to. One, he affectionately named “Brownie.” Then, he drug his girlfriend up to his campsite to experience the wild and sadly, they both were attacked and killed by bears. It’s a tragic tale—yet still worth mentioning under present circumstances.
My compromise on the “adventure” part of our trip to Alaska was to not book a motel for three nights of our two-week vacation.
I know, I know, it seems risky to me too, but I’m big enough to let fate decide where I lay my head and find my sustenance in the Alaskan outback.
“You know, they do have stores in Alaska,” our friend Ed told me when I voiced my concerns about roughing it.
Thinking about having an adventure in Alaska made me remember “the law of contrasts.” I made this “law” up a long time ago when I noticed my days seemed to be blurring one into another, dependent on the same routes and routines. I felt a little numb driving to work, picking up groceries, and doing laundry on the weekends. It didn’t feel like madness to me. The problem was, it didn’t feel like anything. I was stuck beyond feeling—until I began to jog.
What I needed in my life was some contrast.
Jogging is nothing like climbing Denali, but you have to admit there is something torturous about both tasks. I began jogging to lose weight. Before work early in the morning when it was dark and cold outside, I’d dutifully put on my sneakers and ran down our gravel road, a mile and back.
What I discovered beyond all the jogging pain—was true gain. For the rest of the day I usually felt good, happy even. It could have been the mythic endorphin “rush” runners get. But I’ve read you actually have to run the length of an Iditarod (or portion thereof) to get a real runner’s high. I think the suffering of my morning jog elevated my mood somehow and made me notice, in contrast, how pleasant the rest of the day was.
I could remind Dale about my law of contrasts, but I don’t want to give him more ammunition for arguments against preplanning our motels in Alaska. Instead, I’ll take my philosophizing another direction and talk about how difficult life can be, and why make it more so? It’s so easy to just pick up the cell phone and make a reservation. They do have cell service in Alaska, don’t they?
Image Credit: Alaskan Bush People Image Credit: Alaska (Diana Hooley) Image Credit: Dale and Diana (Diana Hooley)