Sunset over Savage River last week
At long last, my days in Alaska are coming to an end. Today is the beginning of my last week working in Denali National Park, and the last week of one of the best summers of my life. I think it goes without saying that I am devastated to leave — and not just Denali, but this entire beautiful state and the communities of which I have become a part over the last 4 years.
Where do I even begin?
I came to Alaska at a critical point in my life, a point at which I was open to all the possibilities of existence in the world. And beyond just learning to fend for myself in this rough and wild place, I also grew into myself as an individual, an adult, and a woman. I came to Alaska to be closer to the roots of the connections between humans and nature, and that is what I found.
I also found friendship. I found beauty. I found sadness. I found love. I found heartbreak. I found truth. In this vast and distant land so far from home and everything I once knew, I found new meanings in life, some of which can never be expressed in words but only felt in the depths of the heart. I think that anyone can find all of these things anywhere, but for me, I had to come to Alaska to find them for myself.
Reaching Denali was sort of a climax in my journey. This is not to say it’s over, but it represented everything I had been working towards over the past few years. I had been working to become a better interpreter, to inspire more people, to explore more of Alaska, to experience more wilderness, and Denali has it all.
I feel as if I could keep exploring Alaska forever.
But earlier this summer, a fortuitous turn of events gave me a new direction to follow for a while. Most of my close friends and family know by now, but here’s the official announcement:
I’m starting graduate school. Hooray!
It’s been hard to keep my excitement on the back burner all summer, but now that I only have a week left of work, it seems like the only thing that can temper the sadness I’m feeling about leaving Alaska for the next foreseeable future.
Over the past few years, whenever I finished a season in Alaska, I knew in my heart that I’d be coming back the very next season. This time is different though. This time I don’t feel that. This time my heart is pulling somewhere else, and although I know that it will be somewhere else incredible, and I know I will be coming back to work at Denali some day, it probably won’t be for a while.
But if it weren’t for my work in Alaska, I probably wouldn’t have decided to try for grad school, and so for that I am forever grateful.
To answer the question you’ve probably been burning to ask over the last couple paragraphs: I will be going to the University of Oregon for a Masters in Environmental Studies, Media, and Geography. Pretty much everything I love, in a state that’s *almost* as cool as Alaska. 🙂
Mountains make me weird.
So what is the future of Trekking Alaska?
After next week, I’ll be transitioning this blog to my domain name, Trail Mixed, to follow whatever adventures unfold from graduate life in the PNW and beyond.
My hope is that my graduate studies will afford me the opportunity to begin working more internationally in the environmental field, utilizing various forms of visual and mixed media to further explore the human connection with the natural world. And in between being all academic like that, I will most definitely be seeking out the greatest outdoor adventures that Oregon has to offer. It’s going to be hard to beat Alaska’s adventures, but darned if I’m not going to try.
And after graduation?
Best of luck to you, Andrea! Enjoy grad school! I visit Oregon every year, I hope to run into you again.