I made my way to the airport in Anchorage for the seventh time this summer (it’s been a busy season of visitors!) to pick up my friend Casey. She generously donated a bit of her September to getting away from Yosemite to roadtrip with me through Alaska, across Canada, and into Montana.
It was amazing to have the company and the time with such a good friend. We spent several days in the Kenai Peninsula as I wrapped up my last days at work. To bring new and established friends together is a beautiful thing and was the crowning touch on an unbelievable summer. Everything considered, Alaska wouldn’t mean nearly as much to me if it weren’t for the people that I’ve shared it with.
We hit the road on a classic stormy Portage morning and drove out of the rain and up to Fairbanks. Not for anything specific, but just to see the Interior portion of the state, to soak in the rather odd Chena hot springs, and stop off for a quick photoshoot at Santa’s house in North Pole.
Then we headed south and picked up the Alaska Highway, driving straight through from the end in Delta Junction, into Canada, to the beginning in Dawson Creek. It’s a long trek, even with good company and lots of catching up to day. Also, cold this time of year. We dubbed it “chasing fall.” We were a bit overdue as we headed north into Fairbanks- the leaves had mostly long since abandoned the trees and fresh snow was dusted across the peaks. As we moved further south into Canada, we were stunned by the bright yellow landscapes. And by the time we got into Montana, it felt like late summer.
We were together on the road for 7 days. Lots of time to accumulate too many highlights to remember. The biggest treat (beyond the mere being together) was the wildlife. Wood bison, mountain goats, moose, Sitka deer, caribou, elk, porcupine, black bear. And glaciers in Jasper and Banff National Parks! And taking Casey to Liard hot springs – the best stop off in all of Canada, by far. And the poutine; how can I describe the wonderfulness that is poutine? The cold nights camping under so very many stars. The Nat King Cole sing-a-longs. The weariness of miles that further solidify a kindred bond.
And then there was the big change of itinerary that took us on a detour into southwestern Montana. Casey’s grandparents live only a couple of hours off the route I’d planned. A hot shower, a warm bed, and friendly faces? Yes, please. Such an incredible – though very short – time with caring people. They welcomed us in and shared a glimpse into their rural Montana life before sending us on the last bit of our journey together.
After an early morning of foggy sunrise, a quick jump into Idaho, and dodging a few cattle, I left Casey at the airport to head back home to the Sierra. It was oh so tempting to carry her east with me or to want to turn west to familiar paths. But that’s for another time to another destination. My road leads to DC, with a few exciting stops on the way and a different way of life to reacclimate to.