I haven’t yet provided a post-mortem (so to speak) on my vacation, and there were a number of important lessons in it. Some were things that I know to be true, but that I choose to ignore. Some were new to me.
My two-week trip was decidedly not for the faint-hearted. We spent 12 days rafting on the Alsek River in the Yukon, BC, and Alaska. It’s an incredibly remote area and conditions were relatively primitive (I say relatively because our guides were phenomenal cooks under sometimes sub-optimal conditions).
The weather was typical of that region for late June and early July, with days that were rainy and overcast, followed by days of beautiful blue sky and sunshine. Note that I did not say that the sunny days were warm.
During the days on the river, we would stop at some point to gather wood for the campfire and fresh water since the Alsek has generous amounts of glacial silt in it. Every night when we got into camp, we were as a team responsible for getting the boats unloaded for the night. We would then pitch our tents and get our gear situated, wander about camp for a bit, enjoy supper and conversation.
One night around 10 PM we got to witness the most remarkable alpenglow I have ever seen.
In the mornings, the procedure would reverse itself (save the day that we had a heli-portage over Turnback Canyon, which contains Class VI water, and we had to tear EVERYTHING down) and we would eat breakfast, pack up our tents and gear, load up, and be off in the boats for another day of sightseeing.
Some days were broken up with hikes during lunchtime.
Every day was ripe with interesting conversations (we had more doctorates per capita amongst our group than there are in Boulder or Berkley!), and filled with eye-popping scenery.
I think we all know that I am incredibly passionate about my work. I’ll admit that other than when I was asked questions about it, I didn’t think about work at all. I stayed in the moment of being in this place where few are privileged to visit. I enjoyed the company of my fellow travelers. I slowed down. I just…was.
It was healing in many ways. I was also reminded of my great love for the wilderness, which is one of the things that brought me to Utah in the first place. Utah, which also provided us with the basis for much of the wit and wonder of Edward Abbey. For years, I had this quote on my refrigerator in my house. It finally fell apart a few years ago, but it’s back at the forefront of my thoughts after this trip:
“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”
Anyone want to run the Marsh Fork of the Canning in July, 2016?