In February 2020 I texted four girlfriends “want to celebrate our birthdays in Alaska?”.
In March 2020 a pandemic hit.
In August 2020 five girls landed in Anchorage, rented an RV, and explored the Kenai Peninsula for 12 days.
“To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful
countries in the world” – John Muir
The land of the midnight sun. The last frontier. The Great Land.
The 49th State. Alaska.
Maybe it was because we had all been living in some form of lockdown for 6 months. Maybe it was the fact that I had finally completed my second year of law school. Maybe it was everything and nothing all at once, but that trip came at the most perfect time for the five of us. We boarded that 7 hour flight out of Chicago half nervous, half excited, and fully unaware just how magnificent Alaska’s untouched landscape was in person.
From Anchorage to Soldotna. Soldotna to Seward. Seward onto Denali National Park, down to Girdwood and finally “the end of the road” – Homer.
Our RV became our little home, friendly neighbors at our campsites became our saviors offering their sage advice from years on the road, and Alaskan Brewing Co’s Belgian style witbier became a provisions necessity on long days out on the trail.
I’ll admit before the trip I was nervous how five girls in their mid-twenties were going to navigate a state bigger than Texas, California, and Montana combined in a recreational vehicle when none of us had ever even been inside an RV let alone drive one. But that’s the funny thing about trips like this one, everything always works out, problems never come along without solutions, and rolling with the unplanned roadblocks becomes second nature. We quickly fell into our roles. Maeve & Haley – our wilderness nurses, Kooky – our captain, Maggie – the backpacking expert, and me – the hype woman.
Our first week consisted of salmon fishing in the Kenai river, late nights at local taverns and early mornings in the Alaskan Fjords. We celebrated the National Park Services 100th Birthday on August 25th in Denali National Park, we celebrated my birthday the next day feasting on homemade French toast and dancing along the campfire until the moon finally rose.
Maggie’s Birthday was celebrated two days later mountain biking the Russian Lakes Trail to lower Russian Lake.
Finally we started the second half of our trip working our way back down the Kenai Peninsula stopping in Coopers landing, staying the night in the Air BnB of a famous Iditarod dog trainer. We cooked home made pizzas, listened to her stories, and ventured down to the local watering hole only to find other Midwesterners who had braved the pandemic travel to explore the other side of the country.
Our time in Alaska ended in Homer. The famous town on Kachemak Bay. 218 miles south of Anchorage the this charming town was home to the Salty Dawg Saloon, the best oysters you’ve ever eaten, and beaches the stretch on for miles.
As I wrote this blog post, I referenced the journal I kept throughout the trip. The last words I wrote before boarding my flight back to Chicago were, “Thank you Alaska – for disrupting the seemingly ordinary and routine life as I knew it, you’ve reminded how important it is to take time to look up, from whatever I’m doing- and appreciate what is in front of me - I didn’t know how badly I needed it.