This is a continuation of our family trek from Fort Mill, South Carolina to Fairbanks, Alaska. For other parts in the series, click on the links below:
Day One (Part One) – South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee
Day One (Part Two) – Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri
Day Two – Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota
Day Three & Four – South Dakota (Mount Rushmore)
Day Five – South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana
Day Six & Seven – Montana, Alberta Canada
Day Eight – British Columbia, Canada
Day Nine – Yukon, Canada
Day Ten – Alaska
Day Eleven – ALASKA
In the final day of our travels, we awoke to rain, thus making our final camp-cleanup a true delight. We somehow missed breakfast at the campground so we picked up some donuts and trash at a gas station before heading north two more hours. Along the way we continued to look for wildlife and didn’t much expect to see anything …
But then we finally saw a moose! Granted, it wasn’t a male with the big, broad antlers but still, a moose is a moose is a moose, right? For those keeping track, we saw a mountain goat, stone sheep, countless chipmunks and squirrels, a herd of bison, a moose, and hundreds of ugly ravens along the way. What a collection of wildlife!
Before we got to Fairbanks, we had one last stop that afternoon. We didn’t tell the boys until we got there because we didn’t want to ruin the surprise.
We made it to the North Pole … North Pole, Alaska, anyway. Somebody long ago thought to make the most of this and started up a gift shop / bakery / workshop / reindeer pen that would be forever collectively known as ‘Santa Claus House’, where ‘it’s Christmas every day!’ Eat your heart out, Hallmark. This place might have even given the most ardent Halloween supporters room for pause.
Santa happened to be out the day that we showed up, so we told the kids that he was busy running errands. I assumed that in real life they just didn’t want to pay the guy insurance, so they cut back his hours. However, we got hot cocoa, got to see the reindeer (minus Rudolph, animal rights and all that). The kids seemed to be amused by the whole affair. There was a Christmas countdown clock that really had Owen going. Sure, it still had 4 months at the time, but he got to watch it switch over from 140 days, 11 hours, 00 minutes to 140 days, 10 hours, 59 minutes … and that actually got him pumped!
The rain continued to fall so we packed into the car and got on with our travels. We were 20 minutes removed from Fairbanks and saw the finish line. Kristina had four days of training still and we would be shacked up at a hotel that the school district paid for … but we were essentially there.
The days that followed gave us time to get our Alaska state licenses and check out Pioneer Park (I won’t go into the details of Warren G. Harding’s train cart on display). Fun fact that we learned while there: Fairbanks was founded in its current location because some dude wanted to get down the Tanana river but noticed that it was too shallow, so he turned around and tried going down another river called the Chena river. Turns out it was too shallow, too, so his boat got stuck and, well, that’s where Fairbanks started. Beat that, San Francisco!
There’s more nonsense that I’m forgetting (do you want to hear about my first time trying Doritos Locos Tacos?) but that is the gist of our final day heading to Fairbanks. The following Saturday we would hop on a plane and fly out to our new home, a village on the Koyukuk river named Hughes where we would meet some extraordinarily warm and welcoming people, find new joy in life, and find ourselves more connected as a family.
The trip from South Carolina to Fairbanks, Alaska was one that I could never forget. The sights that nature offered were second to none. The memories created with our kids and pets will be etched in my mind until I’m gone. I think that it probably goes without saying that it has been an amazing adventure. We have experienced so many things in the last few weeks, seen so many places, met so many people … this is the life that we yearned for and I thank God that we were given the opportunity to follow this path. I will never fault anyone else for living their life the way they want (well, for the most part). If some people enjoy the Midwest, good for them. If others scream of their passion for the south, well, I don’t share that enthusiasm, but more power to them. If those people living in Alberta Canada would have it no other way, then all I can say is ‘awesome’! It’s a huge world with plenty of space to find that place that you love. That place that you can call home.
Our place happens to be with each other, wherever that may be. Traveling the country. Seeing life in a new way. Here in Hughes we have found what we were looking for. May God lead you on the path that takes you to your happiness.