Today feels strange. It's the anticipation, the eagerness, the packing, waiting, and wondering. All of the emotions and thoughts that precede the adventure have created an odd feeling here on the brink.
Tomorrow we'll beat the sunrise to the airport, which means that all the packing needs to be done today. And not just for Alaska, mind you. When we return from the Last Frontier, we won't linger. Our quick turnaround for the next leg of the summer has made packing for that trip a necessity now, too. Thinking six weeks ahead adds to the oddity of the day, trying to minimize the strain between the different stages of our summer travels. Will we want this blanket at some point? How many cans of fuel do we need for the stove? How many times can I wear this shirt? The answers to most of these questions won't end up mattering all that much, but today they carry a collective weight of uncertainty, the accumulation of dozens and dozens of minor decisions that makes the task at hand feel not-so-minor at all.
It's hard to focus on anything other than the trip(s) ahead. Productivity in any other area is elusive on days like this. My mind wanders forward in time, imagining what may be in store, checking weather forecasts, reading field guides, poring over maps. The projection of what the trip might be is ever-present, a picture of what is possible. I have to remind myself not to play it all out or try to plan the days in detail. A healthy imagination builds the excitement and adds to the expectant joy, but in excess this can set us up for a let down, boxing our minds into how things could or should have been rather than reveling in the beauty of what really happens. Overplanning lays the same trap. Deviation from the script seems like a mistake and disappointment ensues, distracting us from the unexpected wonder at hand.
Tomorrow, these will no longer be concerns. The possible will become the present as we fly north. It's been seven years since I was in Alaska. I'm ready to be back there again.
I hope for mountain views, for clear skies around Denali. I hope for wildlife sightings left and right, mammals, birds, and spawning salmon. I hope for hikes to glaciers, for long drives through forests, for grand vistas of grander rivers, for good weather, for calm water, for a taste of wilderness on the staggering scale that Alaska offers. And if none of these hopes should come true, I hope for the presence of mind to enjoy whatever comes in their place.
Thankfully, that shouldn't be hard. After all, we'll be in Alaska.
Photo: Denali National Park
Naturalist, Photographer, Cartographer