For many people, a trip to Alaska fulfills a lifelong dream to visit a wilderness wonderland. For others, the vast, remote expanse serves as an escape from a troubled past. I, on the other hand, wandered north on a whim.
At 23 years old, college degree in hand but searching for work nine months after 9/11, I landed in Anchorage with one friend in town, a job at the daily newspaper (remember those?) and little more than a suitcase full of clothes – clothes that had never met subzero temperatures. Fortunately, it was June, so the sun barely dipped below the horizon, even in the middle of the night. As you might expect, this turned into an eye-opening, life-altering experience.
Alaska has a way of imposing its will on you. It’s there that I saw my first bear in the wild. Hiked to a glacier. Golfed on a frozen lake. Almost slid off the face of a mountain (not on purpose). I also bought my first camera, a Canon Powershot S70, as a way to chronicle my adventures.
After three years, I returned to Oregon, the only other place I’d called home, a different person. The people and places of Alaska had awakened a passion for the outdoors and photography. I started checking off locations – the Columbia River Gorge, Silver Falls State Park, Crater Lake National Park – with a zeal even I didn’t expect.
After my first round of exploration, I moved to Central Oregon, bought a full-frame camera and set a goal of visiting someplace new every weekend, be it a mountain, lake, canyon, desert, lava field or rock-climbing mecca. I met my amazing wife there, and since then, we’ve set off on bigger adventures – Yellowstone, Italy, New Zealand – with many more to come.
Now, I’m back in Corvallis, Oregon, where I made that seat-of-the-pants decision to give Alaska a chance. Sometimes, you have to leave a place to truly appreciate it.
Thanks for coming along on this journey with me.