How I Honeymooned Your Father, Part XVII: Last Song

If you’re just tuning in to our Alaska adventures, here are the links to Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, Part X Part XI, Part XII, Part XIII, Part XIV, Part XV, and Part XVI. Where did we leave off last? Oh, boy! Talkeetna! We spent 24 hours there, making lemonade out of lemons, by ziplining after our Denali Flight Tour dreams were all squashed by the weather. We had a locals’ dinner, a tourists’ dessert, and then went looking fruitlessly for moose, but fruitfully for adventure – like abandoned earth stations and tales of severed moose heads. Sometimes I have something so deep-rooted and burrowed that I want to say, but I don’t know how to say it. I’ll let Eddie Money say it, but pretend it’s me.

I may not have his obvious charisma, but this is about more than Talkeetna. It’s the whole thing. It’s the whole life. It’s dreams and magic and little girl wishes. There’s nothing I can say to make you understand, but it’s ok. I imagine you get it anyway. It’s about that hollowed out feeling from things beginning and ending. And how every ending is a beginning, and every beginning is an ending. It’s about how nothing is ever as it seems, or how you imagined it when you wanted it for SO LONG. That’s ok, too. Sometimes the reality is even better. Achier. Breakier. Heartier. It has grooves & heights. Peaks & dips.

It can knock you off your feet, and make you lightheaded and dizzy.

Now bear with me, because this post could easily be two posts, as it is two or more stories, and I’m even adding two songs for you. We woke up on our last day at Grace and Bill’s Freedom Hills B&B and went to the main house for breakfast. It was awesome to sit with other guests and talk about Alaska land, Denali, and bull moose. There was spotty WiFi but I remember taking a shower and then making a video for work out there in the wilderness. I was even wearing a lumberjack shirt. During checkout, Bill suggested we go back to Anchorage through Hatcher Pass, therefore bypassing Wasilla – easily the ONE place in Alaska I wasn’t completely captivated by – but we were only on the main road once. I’m certain there’s beauty there.

Hatcher Pass wasn’t shabby, though! It was an old road for the gold miners! So cool! #TheMoreYouKnow

It was foggy and drizzly, with cold wind gusts. We went to check out a lodge on a mountain out there – boasting warm soup and awesome views – but it was closed! I didn’t take a lot of photos, other than the ones above. It was hard conditions for it and I was tired and overwhelmed. Sometimes the world is almost too beautiful? Magical and barely touched – like a watercolor. It was like that, but also cold, rainy, and windy. I was numbed over because of all the beauty and emotions.

I wouldn’t kick this view out of bed:

Our flight was a red-eye, so we had the whole day to explore. We headed to Anchorage – and had dinner plans later with Erika and Steve. Remember them from the beginning of the story? They’re our family and they had given us our first moose, first soup, and first warm bed in Alaska nine days previously. It was probably around late afternoon now, and I had to tackle Anchorage’s WiFi for a blog post first. Yes, even on vacation, but it was only one or two! So I went to a McDonald’s while Cassidy decided to go back to Eagle River to explore the visitors center. Well, while I smelled french fries I didn’t ever intend to eat, he was seeing what he thought might be his last moose of Alaska. We all know smartphones don’t zoom in so well:

Holy cow, though! Not cow. Holy bull! He did a solo hike and saw his second bull moose of all time on a secluded bog. In Alaska. MAN. And it was his favorite moose encounter of the whole trip, and maybe of forever, although we saw our first moose in the wild together in 2004. She might have favorites rights for all time? I don’t know, though. What makes me happy is that Cassidy’s favorite moose encounter actually became his SECOND favorite. That’s right. With only a few hours to spare left before our flight, we somehow topped that together. He picked me up from the dreadfully WiFi-ed McDonald’s and we went back to Powerline Pass. We weren’t there long, because of dinner reservations, but can we say worth it?

Worth it.

Then we rounded a bend, with minutes to spare, and Cassidy said, “Oh, hello!” There was our last bull moose of the trip!

That looks close, right? It was. I was balking a bit, and I went to warn two incoming runners about the moose so they’d change their course. They saw the look on my face and said, “Don’t worry! Anchorage moose are different from the ones outside the city. They have more tolerance for people coming close to them.” That does NOT mean I recommend getting close.

He looked at us curiously, but mostly minded his own business. I had the luxury of distance, although this is NOT my zoom lens. This is just a 50mm. My rented zoom was already packed in my suitcase, and ready to be checked at the airport.

I had to go black and white for at least one!

Oh my. Well that’s it for moose! We made it to our dinner reservation just on time, and guess what I ordered? That’s right. Salmon. We showed Erika and Steve all of Cassidy’s pictures and told our stories in chronological order. Then, the airport:

I took that same photo on our first day there – after landing at night – and I felt like I had grown so much in nine days. The things I had seen, and not seen. The things I had done, and not done. I felt like something inside me had been sleeping.

We boarded the plane and had someone sitting in between us, which seemed fitting. It was dark and I leaned my head on the cold window, thinking of everything I wish. I wish I had taken more photos. I wish I could break through a shutdown. I wish I could do it all over. I wish I could feel it all over. I wish I could feel.. in general.. when sometimes I can’t touch that raw part of myself. It’s frozen over. Our plane’s satellite radio kept playing one song, and these days, I can’t listen to the song much.

Whenever I take a deep, altering trip, there’s always one song that makes me think of it the most. It’s almost a treat to revisit it in small doses, and reopen the heart and sound waves – to let it all come back rushing towards and through me.

I’m back there now. I’m forever there, in the middle of dreams dying and coming alive. Ending and beginning. They all meet in the middle. I’ll never forget that silent and endless night in the sky – and the brightness I found on the other side.

It was always leading me here:

*Endnote – my mother-in-law took that picture, bringing our kids to meet us in the middle of a parking lot in Sturbridge, MA, after ten days apart. The photo is 100% candid – showing our sleeplessness, sweat, tears, and LOVE. Thank you for reading.

How I Honeymooned Your Father, Part XVI: Talkeetna Charm

If you’re just tuning in to our Alaska adventures, here are the links to Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, Part X Part XI, Part XII, Part XIII, Part XIV, and Part XV. Where did we leave off last? The trip was/is winding down. Ack! After a not good chill-out, chill-over phase, we went ZIP-LINING! It’s fantastic to get outside your comfort zone.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve been doing that lately.

After zip-lining, we were hungry and tired and exhilarated and hungry and tired. We had several destinations still cut out for the evening. For one, dinner. For two, dessert somewhere special. For three, our awesome bed & breakfast – Grace and Bill’s Freedom Hills B&B. For four, moose-viewing, obviously. We managed all of those things, of course. First of all, Grace and Bill’s. I don’t believe I met Grace, sadly, or the two girls. Bill was a wealth of information on anything moose, Talkeetna, and Alaska. I could have talked to him for 17 hours, but that would have been 17 hours of not going to the places he described!

We definitely can’t have that.

First, dinner. We thought about heading back to Denali Brewing Company, but then drove by Latitude 62 to check out their menu. It was awesome! We sat at the bar and ordered way more food than we could eat, even after hours of zip-lining.

I believe I got halibut, again. Salmon and halibut were common themes. I also got soup and there were fries and non-alcoholic drinks, and alcoholic drinks, and a funny waitress who muttered the “F” word at one relevant point and was so much fun.

Cheers to her. (back)

The restaurant was not like home! We liked that, of course, but not like home:

Then we were approaching sunset on our last official overnight of Alaska, so we had the usual “dessert or moose-seeking first” debate. You know how it is. Food. Sleep. Romance. Moose. There’s an order to everything! In this case, moose first. Bill at the B&B told us about a bear attacking a moose just down the street from our place, and leaving the giant moose head there for days. I did not want to see that, but I also did, so we went to search. We didn’t see it. Whew. We wandered along some places near the restaurant. The late sunsets still tripped me up. It felt like afternoon – especially after an early(ish) dinner.

I loved the trails and paths and voices of other hikers at this late hour.

After hiking, we got hungry for dessert.

The fancy place to stay is Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. On a clear day, it has Denali views. On any day, it has tons and tons of tourists – often older people off of cruise ships. The staff there is loving and patient, and like at Disney World, they wear nametags with their cities of home. We sat at the bar, ordered drinks and dessert, and took it to eat around the lodge lobby fire. SO GOOD. I remember swirls of chocolate, and wondering if I’d ever stay there in the future. Perhaps. Perhaps it’s not my style, though. Grace and Bill’s Freedom Hills B&B seems more my thing, no matter how rich I might get one day. From winning the lottery, or course. Or discovering some new moose breed. Or ice cream. I don’t know. A girl can dream, right?

Talkeetna

Once the sun got lower, we went around and around Grace and Bill’s neighborhood, hoping to find moose. We never did see moose in Talkeetna (don’t worry – we’re not done with moose in Alaska yet), but we did stumble upon interesting sights.

Talkeetna

What else can you really say? We ate, drank, drank, ate. We looked for moose. We zip-lined. It had only been 24 hours in Talkeetna thus far. We had dinner and dessert. We found an abandoned comm. satellite station. I know I can’t wait to get back to Talkeetna one day. The tourist season was ending so it was mostly locals. We were ahead of the northern lights, though. I’d even do the endless night, to see the northern lights. And you KNOW I’m all about sunshine. Sacrifices.

Talkeetna

Next up – just one more full day in Alaska. So much still standing between us and a hug from our kids. Moose. Another moose. Bypassing boring Wasilla for something decidedly not boring. More salmon, more excitement, holy cow moose – I miss it.

See ya SOON!

Part XVII