Making it to Alaska

It’s the day before my 30th birthday when I wake to a cold Alaskan morning. It has been a dream of mine to make it to the bush, and after 16 short hours, and a few hours of sleep, I can finally enjoy it.

The mountains protrude from the horizon in every direction, and the whole state appears to be on fire with Fall colors.

A sentimental trip

My dad was in Alaska 50 years ago, almost to the day. But he hitchhiked from Michigan to the ocean front where he began his life as a sea-faring man.

He combed the ocean looking for halibut and other cold-water fish. The spirit of adventure brought him north, where he learned how to overcome bristling conditions, and the scent of dead fish.

Like my dad has always been drawn to the sea, mountains are my magic. I fly north to Anchorage because I want to see the region’s snow-capped peaks and glacial formations. But the sentimental ideas surrounding my visit to Alaska don’t escape me.

Travel memories

I know my visit is bringing Dad’s memories back to life. He asks me what it’s like, where I’m headed, and if I’ve seen any wildlife yet. I tell him it’s the most beautiful place I’ve seen, we’re driving towards the tallest peak in North America, and so far, we’ve only seen humans. He laughs, good heartedly.

The caretaker of a local inn tells me that Anchorage was a fraction of the size it was when he arrived in 1976. I can’t help but imagine the place my dad would’ve seen upon his arrival.

To me, Anchorage is a small city, strapped with a heartbreaking homeless population and the most dazzling mountains on the continent. To my dad, it was probably barely a blip on a map.

Wishes for my dad

Perhaps it’s because Dad’s travel days have become less common that I feel the need to travel to places like this. I don’t want to waste any time. If I have the opportunity to seize the day, I want to make sure that I do. Because we never know when our ability to do so will disappear.

Living with a chronic disease like Parkinson’s makes many things more difficult for my dad. Timing is everything – if he misses a dose of Sinemet or his routine is disrupted, the repercussions impact his body, mind, and soul. And I imagine that the disruptions can be dangerous, given the wrong set of circumstances.

I still hope that he finds a way to live to his fullest ability despite this horrible disease.

Hope for the future

As I make my way through the mountains, he shares that he would’ve liked to have seen such a beautiful place one more time. I ask him where I should go during my visit. He tells me that you can’t go wrong in Alaska; It’s beautiful in every direction.

His words are true.

After his stint in Alaska as a fisherman, he never returned. I still try to convince Dad to board a plane with me to make our way to some of his favorite destinations. Most of the time, he giggles and tells me that I’m out of my mind.

But I maybe one day, he’ll find a bit of extra courage to head into the backcountry with me for a little while.

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