Spirit of Adventure

As long as I can remember, the term “Spirit of adventure” has been said in my family. Many times our old station wagon could be seen bouncing down a rutted, old logging road in the backcountry of northern Idaho. My mom clinging to the door handle, with a white knuckled, death grip, dad grinning from ear to ear as he jostled the steering wheel, and us girls in the back seat shaking like little bobble heads. Mom would always beg dad to turn around and he would laugh and say, “Where is your spirit of adventure?”.  My Dad was a firm believer that if a vehicle had four wheels on its frame, it was 4wheel drive. I grew up believing a “spirit of adventure” was something you were either born with or never had. My mom always informed us, in no uncertain terms, that she didn’t have a “spirit of adventure”, while my dad seemed to have more than enough for the both of them. “Spirit of Adventure” took the blame for quite a few of the scrapes my Dad got us into over the years. Hunting with my dad meant getting up before the sun and hiking into the mountains while it was still dark to get into a place to wait….which also led to us getting lost, because nothing looked familiar after the sun came up, but when our little legs would start to get tired, Dad would remind us it was an adventure! My sister and I took to grabbing chunks of charcoal as we hiked through burned areas and marking trees along the way, at ages six and nine, we told my dad we were playing “Indians” , but on the way home we always looked for our marked trees to make sure we were headed the right direction.

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My dad pretending he caught the big one.
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Fishing, the perfect stress relief, just like my dad taught me.

I came to grips with my fate, one summer day, after my older sister asked me why in the world I had just scrambled across a rickety ladder placed precariously between the branches of two trees. As I looked at the ladder, all I could think of was “spirit of adventure”. That’s when I knew, I had inherited my dad’s “spirit of adventure”, that restless, uncontrollable desire for excitement and adventure, no matter how big or small. As it turned out, all of my sisters would, in one way or another, inherit my dad’s spirit of adventure. For me, I loved the wild things and wild places. I ran around scratched and scraped from trying to tame feral cats, and even ended up getting bit by a raccoon, who wasn’t interested in being tamed. My poor mother would sigh as she patched my pants again and removed another tick.

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Now in my thirties, I am, perhaps, in the middle of my greatest adventure yet. My husband and I recently moved into the Alaska bush to work as caretakers and hosts at a remote, fly in lodge. As I look out my window, all I can see is a vast expanse of wild and untamed country. In our first weeks here, all I wanted to do was explore, to crest one more hill and take in another view. My husband, who is not spontaneous, has given up sighing when I pop into his meticulously, organized shop and say, “Lets go exploring!” He no longer asks me where are we going, because he knows it doesn’t matter, but with each trip his backpack gets a little heavier. He is always prepared for anything that might possibly come up on our trek, first aid, food or shelter, he has it all in his backpack. Somedays I almost expect to turn around and see him marking trees with a piece of charcoal.

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Joe trying to keep his backpack dry under his raincoat.

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Recently, we had a guest who was a city girl and very nervous about her first backwoods adventure. After a few days of hiking, watching bears amble across the tundra, and soaking in the breathtaking views, I saw her begin to transform. It was her voice that asked to hike further, her eyes that wandered to a distant hillside. That’s when I discovered, “spirit of adventure” rests in all of us, its a living, breathing part of us, it needs only to be awakened.  I don’t know what lies down the road or where it will take me, but one things is for sure, adventure will always be right around the corner.

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Note the backpack, and this was just for a walk on the river bed.

Dog Days

The days have shortened and the sun is hanging lower and lower, but Fall stubbornly refuses to give way to winter’s snow. As the warm weather hangs on, (warm being relative of course, the fact that it is staying above zero at night warrants a warm spell around here) I find my dog Howie sleeping in random spots around the grounds soaking up the sunshine. I can’t help but smile and think what a rough life for a dog. IMG_7485IMG_7898

When, we made the decision to move up here, I knew Howie would be in heaven. He has become such a larger than life character here at the lodge, photo bombing and entertaining guests with his tricks. I once heard a saying, “Whoever said diamonds are a girls best friend, never owned a dog” and well, I completely agree. IMG_7810Picture 121 Howie came into our lives after a long search for just the right dog, basically cheap and healthy. I grew up with black labs and Joe grew up with a German Shepherd, so we both got a little of what we wanted with Howie, who is a lab/shepherd mix. When we went to pick out a puppy, he was the last male left, while I was drawn to one of his sisters who was sweet and calm, he was a restless ball of energy, rummaging around the place with the biggest pot belly I had ever seen on a puppy. IMG_0076  IMG_0047 IMG_0075 IMG_0136_4 From the start, he was full of personality, lovable, restless and way too smart. He inherited the labs love of water and retrieving, and the German Shepherd’s vocal tendancies…. not barking, but vocal grunts and groans. He gives a clear indication of his feelings, while physically obeying, he lets out long groans that let you know he is unhappy about it. The other lab trait that he inherited is a little less pleasing, there is no other way to put it then he is a gluttonous, pig. As a puppy, I once found him splayed, all four legs out, on a pile of dog food eating, (he had ripped open the bag). Another time, he ate every single dandelion out of our yard, which at first was exciting, then he threw them all up in a disgusting pile. He occasionally sneaks into the compost pile, but he always tells on himself immediately. I look at him and he melts and slinks to his dog house, and I know he is ashamed of himself. Howie also tries to trick Joe or I into feeding him a second breakfast. Our rule is whoever heads out to the outhouse first feeds Howie breakfast, but he will try and trick the next person out by going and sitting by the shed door as if he hasnt been fed… sometimes stooping as low as to bring us his dish. Luckily, we are onto his scam, but it doesn’t  stop him from trying. Frankly, not once in his five years have we ever forgotten to feed him, he would never let that happen.

"Did you forget something?"
“Did you forget something?”

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In October, Howie turned five years old, sometimes I think he will never grow up or slow down. His energy is endless, even as a puppy we taught him to run on a treadmill because we could never wear him down. On hikes he is always ready to go further, he will play fetch until he falls over (literally), runs along side when we bike, and will catch anything you throw at him for as long as you want. He has never been one to wander or run away, he loves spending time with us and there is no such thing as “personal space” when he is around. When, I am sitting up on “Bear Point” glassing for animals, he tries to get as much of himself touching me as possible, at times getting tangled in the straps from my binoculars. He shamelessly uses me to block the wind for him, but I let him since his black coat provides an extra bit of warmth.

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Owning a dog like Howie has been a lot of work, but his unconditional love has rewarded us a thousand times over. I am greeted with excitement everytime I walk out the door. He is convinced that something wonderful is about to happen, even when all I do is walk to the outhouse. He is gentle and kind, loves everyone, and never tires of hugs and affection. Howie is quirky and his antics fill us with laughter. Life in the bush, at times, can be harsh and cold, tiring and mundane, but Howie’s constant enthusiasim reminds me life is an adventure and you never know what lies around the corner.

He still lets Joe pick him up like this….only he is a lot heavier now!
He still lets Joe pick him up like this….only he is a lot heavier now!

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On days, when it is quiet and lonliness starts to creep in he slips his nose into my hand as I walk or rests his head on my shoulder and the world is a warmer place. Some may prefer the cold, brilliant sparkle of diamonds, but as for me I prefer the warmth of my dog’s copper eyes. IMG_2482

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