For as long as I can remember, the phrase “spirit of adventure” has been said in my family. Many times our old station wagon could be seen bouncing down a rutted, old logging road in the backcountry of northern Idaho. I can recall my mom clinging to the door handle with a white knuckled death grip, dad grinning from ear to ear as he jostled the steering wheel, while us girls were in the back seat shaking like little bobble heads. Mom would always beg dad to turn around and he would laugh and say, “Where is your spirit of adventure?” My Dad was a firm believer that if a vehicle had four wheels on its frame, it was 4-wheel drive.
I grew up believing a “spirit of adventure” was something you were either born with or never had. My mom always informed us, in no uncertain terms, that she didn’t have this inherent spirit, while my dad seemed to have more than enough for the both of them. “Spirit of adventure” took the blame for quite a few of the scrapes Dad got us into over the years. Hunting with my dad meant getting up before the sun and hiking into the mountains while it was still dark to get into a place to wait. These blind excursions would lead to us getting lost, because nothing looked familiar after the sun came up. When our little legs would start to get tired, Dad would remind us, with great enthusiasm, it was an adventure! My sister and I took to grabbing chunks of charcoal as we hiked through burned areas and marking trees along the way. At ages six and nine, we told my dad we were playing “Indians,” but on the way home we always looked for our marked trees to make sure we were headed in the right direction. Our game was really a means of survival.
I came to grips with my fate, one summer day, after my older sister asked me why in the world I had just scrambled across a rickety ladder placed precariously between the branches of two trees. As I looked at the ladder, all I could think was “spirit of adventure.” That’s when I knew I had inherited my dad’s restless, uncontrollable desire for excitement, no matter how big or small. As it turned out, all of my sisters would, in one way or another, inherit my dad’s longing for the outdoors, with a touch of danger. For me, I loved the wild things and wild places. I ran around scratched and scraped from trying to tame feral cats, and even ended up getting bitten by a raccoon who wasn’t interested in being tamed. My poor mother would sigh as she patched my pants, again, and removed yet another tick.
Now in my thirties, I am, perhaps, in the middle of my greatest adventure yet. My husband and I recently moved into the Alaska bush to work as caretakers and hosts at a remote, fly-in lodge. As I look out my window, all I can see is a vast expanse of wild and untamed country. In our first weeks here, all I wanted to do was explore, to crest one more hill and take in another view. My husband, who is not spontaneous, has given up sighing when I pop into his meticulously organized shop and say, “Lets go exploring!” He no longer asks me, “Where are we going,” because he knows it doesn’t matter, but with each trip his backpack gets a little heavier. He is always prepared for anything that might possibly come up on our trek—first aid, food and shelter, he has it all in his backpack. Some days I almost expect to turn around and see him marking trees with a piece of charcoal.
Recently, we had a guest who was a city girl and very nervous about her first backwood’s experience. After a few days of hiking, watching bears amble across the tundra, and soaking in the breathtaking views, I saw her begin to transform. It was her voice that asked to hike further, her eyes that wandered to a distant hillside. That’s when I discovered the “spirit of adventure” rests in all of us as a living, breathing part of us that needs only to be awakened.
I don’t know what lies down the road or where it will take me, but one thing’s for sure, adventure will always be right over the next hill.
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Categories: Life in Alaska