I want to start reflecting on this summer with an onslaught of adjectives — hot, exciting, adventurous, challenging — but I have two more things on my agenda, Jack and Ali.
The pair are flying up to Alaska next week for a shoulder season adventure. It will be Ali’s third trip to visit, Jack’s first and my fifth time hosting out of state guests this year.
I’ve been lucky enough to welcome friends and family into my home, simultaneously allowing them to experience the vast Alaska wilderness and my cramped, one bedroom, attic apartment.
My friend Kate came in the middle of winter. She had two weeks for her second trip to the state and didn’t want to do much but “ski and chill.” So, we had a weekend skiing the trails of Homer and a week just hanging out next to a wood stove in Seward after trips around Bear Lake.
Nikki came for a quick weekend trip and we spent those few days sitting near the beach, watching the waves break.
Michelle and my first cousin once removed, Augie for short, came to visit at the end of July, giving me a good dose of family time and a new lens to see Alaska through — the eyes of a 2-year-old.
It turns out that boat rides into Kenai Fjords National Park are scary if the boat is moving, but OK when stopped looking at whales. Meanwhile, sled dogs can pull, jostle and shake the cart you sit in and it’s OK, because “dog-dogs” are the best.
During Michelle and Augie’s stay, that playground down the street quickly morphed in my mind from a directional landmark to a main attraction. Sure, all of Alaska is a playground, but every once in a while you need a good swing sesh.
Camille visited me from Manhattan at the end of August, over Labor Day weekend. While in Seward, we hid from wildfire smoke by catching up indoors, our conversations highlighting how different our daily lives had become and remembering the days in college when they were nearly identical.
We spent a long weekend in McCarthy, camping out our last night, and Camille woke up in my loaner sleeping bag freezing. We packed up the car that afternoon and drove to Anchorage for her flight the next day.
“Do you want to find another place to camp tonight?” I asked her.
“I already booked us a hotel,” she replied.
We cozied up in the warm, hotel sheets that evening, still catching up, before heading back to our “worlds away.”
So, I’ll be heading back to Ted Stevens International again this Monday, ready to experience Alaska with two new viewscapes and a plan to excite them over the course of the next week.
We’re going to head north, then south with some out and about in between.
I don’t expect their trip to be anything like the others, but I do hope that long after we see our first towering mountain and hike our first trail, that Jack and Ali can look out on the land that I’ve come to call home and think, “Oh, I get it.”
Because, after seeing this state through so many different eyes — I do too.