In the summer of 1997, I traveled with my brother and mom to Homer, Alaska where my aunt was living at the time. It was an unbelievable experience. We spent months in and out of campsites, bathing in hot springs, and gallivanting across the Northern United States and Canada.
The trip was expansive. At eight years old, I learned more about the country I call home than I did throughout my time in middle and high school. A child of the woods and lakes of Minnesota, I was lucky enough be familiar with exploring the great outdoors. Never one to shy from the allure of branching trails and the lofty heights of a maple or pine, a trip to the largest state in the union was the opportunity of a lifetime.
A year later, I was gifted the same opportunity. I spent June, July, and August of 1998 in a truck with my grandma, meandering to Fairbanks to visit Jennifer.
The mountains quickly became my favorite place to be. Breathing in dust, kicked up by sprinting feet and dirty shoes, never felt abrasive. It was just part of the experience. My hands were cracked constantly, covered in maps of gritty sand and shallow, shale-assisted cuts. And clean clothes? They didn't exist.
Something about Colorado reminds me of those summers. Sweaters and sneakers, freezing lakes and sweltering hilltops. They were some of the happiest moments of my life. Just off the trail, ambling through thigh-high collections of thorny brush and spotty milkweed, spider grass, and fire weed. Or reaching, shoes caked in sand and mud, just one rock higher, just one step further.
Of all of the sunbathed moments that crawl to the forefront of my mind, one instance stands particularly tall above the rest.
Camping in Valdez, Alaska was one the more profound moments of my experience growing up. It's a very small memory. Red fleece, glasses, and buckteeth: standing on a hilltop, peering down over the camp sights, tiny ants and anthills peppering the earth. And me, nine years old, realizing how small we are, how quiet the world can be. And so unequivocally happy! So fortunate! So alive and young and excited.
It's been a delightful first day in Colorado.
I can't believe I get three more.