Summer Away

Summer Away

June 23 approaches.

This date may be insignificant for you, but it holds great value for us. This is the day we begin the Summer Away: the six weeks we've set aside for adventure in many forms. Our upcoming travels are the product of two years with mismatched schedules. Kathryn's a teacher, I'm a guide. Kathryn gets breaks when the kids are out of school, precisely when everyone wants to go canoeing, caving, and snowshoeing with me. Is this arrangement unbearable? No. Is it ideal? Also no.

We don't have kids, but someday, hopefully, that will change. For now, it's just the two of us. No dependents, no pets, no real reason not to get out and go. So we go.

These six weeks will carry us all across the US, from Oregon to Alaska, from Yosemite to the valley of the Tennessee River. We are flying, driving, hiking, camping, and climbing. We'll visit at least nine national parks and wander mile after mile of trail and highway. We'll see glaciers advancing to the sea and retreating to the mountains. We'll share the land with animals that once roamed well beyond their present ranges. We'll glass birds and whales through binoculars, watch the sun set over the Tetons, feel the summer heat of the inner Grand Canyon. That's the plan, at least.

With so much time and territory laid out before us, it seems inevitable that plans will be altered to some extent. The odds of perfect execution are poor, and perfection isn't the goal here anyway. This isn't a quest to check off boxes on an arbitrary list. This is an opportunity to put ourselves in the path of wonder. That trail looks inviting? Let's hike. Right here's a good spot to camp? Set it up. Yes, there are ideas of what we'd like to do along the way, some more concrete than others (what with permits and tickets and the like), but few things we have to do. Plenty of room for adjustment.

For now, all is possible. Heat hasn't stifled a hike, clouds haven't obscured a vista, weariness hasn't foiled a sunrise. Nothing has happened, but anything can. The ideals, the dreams, the hopes of what these six weeks will be – they are the lake held back by the moraine, the collected melt of the glacier, accumulated to a point where confinement is viable no more. One June 23, the dam will burst, the moraine will break, and the water will course downslope. Its path, loosely defined for now, more thought than reality, will make itself known, following a route that can't been foreseen or resisted.

The lake, the idea of adventure in our minds today, is beautiful but impermanent. One day, it will become something equally impressive, revealing the power and potential it held in silence. The lake becomes the stream, the torrent: the adventure itself. Whatever that adventure is, we'll meet it first on June 23. On that day, we'll fly into Anchorage and begin the Summer Away.


Photo: South Sister, Deschutes National Forest, Oregon

Naturalist, Photographer, Cartographer