We woke up in the Tolsona Wilderness Campground this morning after falling asleep to the sound of the creek just feet away from our tent… then waking up a little fearfully when we heard a bear jump in the creek and walk around… falling asleep again after that took a bit of effort, so when we finally woke up at 10:30 we had to kick it into gear.
Most campgrounds have an 11:00 checkout, and sometimes it’s not a big deal to take your sweet time packing up. But we had met the owner and founder of Tolsona, who had settled the land in the 60’s. He built the roads leading up along the creek, and built the bridges that washed out 3 times over the years. He said if the bridges washed out again, someone else would have to do it… for a man well into his senior years but clearly full of pep and vigor, I could understand him letting someone else take the job 🙂
We’ve found that there are some rare and bright lights up in the north lands. These people have thrived, found a way to keep their positive outlook and share their personality with passing travelers. Bear & I wanted to respect this campground’s vibe and get our bikes on the road, because we were going to go to Anchorage today!
This was definitely the morning where we would have won an award for fastest tear-down yet. We had all of our cooking gear spread out on the table from the night before…washed clean of smells, but still untidy. Tripods, cameras, and hammocks were about, quite possibly the messiest we had left our campsite yet overnight. We had our work cut out for us.
Step one in tearing down camp, is get the sleeping stuff packed up. Sleeping bags in compression sacks, sleeping mats in their bags, then clear the sleeping portion of the tent of all personal belongings. Zip all doors shut and now clear the vestibule.
Move helmets, tank bags, and any panniers outside that may have found their way in the night before. Attach things to the bike if need be, and re-organize the panniers with toiletries and food cooking things. Once all the ziplock bags are shut and stacked away, then it’s time to tear down the tent. Mosquitoes were’t that big of an issue this morning, and the Thermacell worked beautifully to provide us the room to get things put away.
We were all put away and zipped up in our suits by 11, and rode away into the sun. The road was long and gravel out of the campground, winding it’s way along the stream. Our bikes hummed like birds, singing the morning song. The air was crisp and fresh, and we popped up onto the main road and joined traffic to Anchorage.
This was something new, traffic. We had spent so many quiet days on the road through the Yukon that being sandwiched between 5 to 10 RV’s, or trucks with trailers or boats was new. Driving patterns became a bit frustrated, and apparent that most drivers aren’t sure how to handle multiple lanes or passing zones. Speed up for passing zones, slow down for curves. It makes it a bit difficult to stay cool, but that’s kindof an underlying theme for this trip… the parallels between a motorcycle journey and life are outstanding.
Each of us are responsible for our own machines, our own packing, and our own safety. Each of us are also aware and keep an eye out for each other – did you remember to pack this? Zip that? Fill up your waterbottle? These reminders aren’t pestering words on a journey like this, they could mean the difference between a lost $20 flying out of a pocket or a melted webbing strap that touched a muffler.
So when other drivers cut you off or squeeze you out of a passing opportunity, it can be really easy to lose your cool. It takes a lot of internal reminders that they are responsible for their own vehicles, their own safety. I am responsible for mine.
The paradox is obvious then… that what we do affects other people. How we operate, act, interact-these choices have very real impacts on our surroundings, which oftentimes includes the people and communities around us.
We stopped at a beautiful mom & pop style diner on top of a hill, directly overlooking a glacier field across the road. The view was stunning and there was a garage sale in the parking lot! I stopped in, of course, and got quite a kick out of the size of a pair of moon boots. I’m pretty sure they were for use on the tundra, with valves to inflate sections with air. They were white, of thick rubber/plastic, and although a male size 9 could fit, they were about a foot and a half long because of the interesting bloated shape.
Soon after this restaurant was a parking lot where we could view the ice fields join the river, or create a river, for that matter. I’m a habitual treasure-hunter, and went for a walk around the parking lot looking for treasures. I was disheartened to find a horribly littered diameter of paper, cans, discarded clothing and plastic bits. It was as if everyone decided to empty their cars of trash, just on the other side of the cement parking lot border.
My heart got sad, especially since we had ridden through such pristine land in British Columbia and the Yukon. I knew this land was equally as beautiful, and couldn’t understand why Alaska needed to be the white trash part of the Great White North.
Knowing that I couldn’t judge a state by one parking lot, I had a few miles of self-talk ahead of me.
A motorcycle rider with something to prove really tested my patience, and made a horrible passing decision that put my life in a precarious position. I was furious, and aside from deciding to make bad driving decisions to catch up and beat this person up, there was nothing I could do.
Again, I am in charge of my machine, and my own safety. Others are in charge of theirs. And, what we do has direct and indirect impacts on each other.
What was this compounded message? The filthy parking lot overlooking a massively beautiful glacier followed by beautiful winding roads and an irresponsible motorcyclist cutting me off? How do I re-find my center when so many things are validly upsetting?
Miles of self-talk. Understanding the fear that I experienced while being cut off. Understanding the judgement for those who litter. Understanding what it’s like to do both… I’m not perfect-I’m just now on the receiving end!
We are all in charge of our machines, our bodies, our land. And what we do to them, how we treat them has a direct and indirect on everyone around us.
This trip is humbling in so many ways. Sometimes we have been awed by the beauty of our surroundings, sometimes by the poverty. And always, by the lessons in each.
This trip is incredible, we are now in Anchorage, and before I forget! Bear had a big wish of hoping to see a Musk Ox on our trip to Alaska, and just outside of Palmer (about 40 miles from Anchorage) is an incredible non-profit Musk Ox farm!
Their whole mission is to domesticate the Musk Ox, so that the native Alaskans can manage herds themselves, as a way of adding revenue and supporting their traditional lifestyle. They have a lovely video that explains their mission and history, and I just want to emphasize how CUTE they are!
We got to see babys, moms, bulls and yearlings. They are a beautiful creature that produces such fine hair in the winter, and when it sheds in the spring it can be used as a yarn. It’s an incredible yarn that doesn’t pill, is lighter and warmer than wool, and is so soft and luxurious.
We wanted to buy something with this qiviut, but it is so elegant, it classed it’s way out of our price range 🙂 Maybe we will have to raise our own Musk Ox once they’re domesticated!
Here’s the video, and if you have any extra dollars and want to support their cause, you can donate to help them feed the animal during the harsh winter months. They really are unique creatures, and I especially was amazed at their spiral-shaped nasal passages, so that they can breathe in the sub-zero temperatures without freezing their brains.
Now we are at our friends’ house in Anchorage, and I’m so excited to take a hot shower! First thing though, they are making us a beautiful curry dinner with a side of local salmon. They have five magical cats who are so lovey-dovey, and one very adorable tiny lap dog who has the same haircut as I do by now 🙂 Apparently he has been riding motorcycle for almost 30 days too!
Here we are, about to share a few days of rest at our new home. Time to catch up on sleep and on blogging…