I had some reservations about signing a lease on an apartment that was 25 miles away from my job. The price was right and they’d allow my cat, but I thought about the winter and whether or not I’d feel differently when driving on dark and icy roads.
My daily commute has come to be the best part of my day. I suppose it helps that I love my job, and look forward to going into the office every day, but I’ve come to treasure the hour of quiet.
One of my favorite parts of the drive is the stretch of Kenai Spur Highway, crossing into Kenai from Soldotna. Part of me longs for drives decorated with yellow leaves swept swiftly aside by my windshield wipers, but there is a different, equally breathtaking beauty to winter. I love the cozy feeling that comes with seeing the landscape lightly dusted with snow that looks like powdered sugar while Mount Redoubt looms imposingly behind it.
The best days are the ones when I see moose. They’re definitely my favorite Alaska animal but I’ve been warned against getting too close. I didn’t know they were known for their aggression. There are a few that like to hang out on a section of Kenai Spur I drive every day. I pulled over the other day to watch them for a bit. As they chewed lazily on the grass, fearful drivers flashed their lights and laid on their horns.
I also have a certain love for the intersection of Kenai Spur Highway and Marydale Avenue in Soldotna. Before accepting my current job, I did extensive research on Soldotna and what it might be like to live there. There are a lot of impressive images produced with a Google search of “Soldotna, AK,” but my favorites are shots of Mount Redoubt from this intersection.
Cad-Re Feed is usually featured prominently in the lower left-hand corner of the frame, and I remember thinking it was the first place I wanted to go upon arriving in Soldotna. Imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when I saw Cad-Re Feed after a casual glance out my window. The view is just as impressive in person.
Of course, Kenai Spur is not the only road from Soldotna to Kenai. On clear days, I take Bridge Access instead of Kenai Spur, because you can’t beat the view of the mountains. I appreciate the turnout, where I often sit parked on chilly mornings to count gulls while sleepy shoegaze plays from my radio.
I love days with moose. I love days with mountains covered in so much snow they look like sand dunes. I love days with spruce trees silhouetted against rainbow sherbet sunsets. I love days with alpenglow sunrises and coffee shack pit stops. With eagle sightings and intricate ice fractals on the windows.
Surely the drive doesn’t beat the countless and breathtaking experiences I’ve had since moving to Alaska: touring the turquoise waters of Resurrection Bay, feeding Sitka deer in Anchorage, hiking the rim of Kenai River Canyon, wandering docks on the Homer Spit, snowy treks in Skilak. But it’s special in a different way. It’s grounding and consistent and meditative.
It’s a reminder of how gratifying little things in life can be. I’m thankful for them.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org