If you’ve sent me an e-mail in July-early August, then you probably got some sort of away message, thanking you for your patience and telling you I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. This is the heart of summer in Alaska, and it seems that each year I spend most of the time with an away message on auto reply. I trade my computer and studio projects for living out of a backpack, doing a bit of sketching, and mostly traveling and soaking up life in rural Alaska. McCarthy in the summer is amazing, but I can’t seem to pass up the opportunity for adventure, so I’m often off exploring. I can’t really imagine my year or my work without that time and I consider myself very lucky to be able to take it.
This I’ve popped back home for a few days at a time, but mostly I spend those days checking on the garden, doing laundry, and repacking my backpack. I have not had a wink of time to catch up on my blog or Instagram, and I decided to put my Patreon subscription on hold. I’m getting lots of ideas and oodles of inspiration. To get back to civilization (which I suppose is relative, but here means my off-the-grid-cabin with internet and laptop), I wanted to catch up and to give you a taste of what I’ve doing.
Two of my good friends volunteered for the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park this July to caretake at Bremner Historic District. This is one of my favorite places because it is in a beautiful alpine valley in the Chugach Mountains (which I love to spend time in). I got to spend the night out there and help them pack gear up to the cabin where they’d be living for a month. There were so many alpine flowers blooming. I was jealous of them getting to live there for a month. However, I made the most by going for some walks and taking photos of plants and old mine artifacts.
Next, I switched gears and worked as a backpacking guide for a week for Kennicott Wilderness Guides. This is something that I used to do more of, but I was happy to help them out for a trip this summer. It was the first time that I went in the backcountry in a while without art being my main focus and I was surprised how refreshing this was. Guiding usually takes all of my energy and focus because you are thinking about and responsible for others. We had a great group to hike with and I appreciated how well they got along as a group of friends as well as how they shone through adverse conditions with smiles and good attitudes.
It was also fun to explore a new part of the Wrangells, on the north side of Mt Sanford. This was the peak of the hot and smoky July that Alaska had. There was so much smoke from wildfires that spectacular views were often obscured.
The rain socked in and we got back a day late from Mt. Sanford, which meant I had to scramble to unpack and repack for my next trip, which was a personal trip I have been dreaming about for almost ten years now. Ever since I drew a map of the Copper River Watershed area, I have been dreaming about going to this interesting piece of land that juts out into the Gulf of Alaska. In learning more about Kayak Island I became more curious. It a wild and remote island, but it is also the place where William Stellar landed ashore in 1741 as part of the Bering Expedition from Russia. It also is situated to collect whatever floats in the ocean currents, including driftwood and trash from all over the world (especially the Pacific). It’s one of the most wild and interesting places I’ve been. A main reason for going there was to collect research and ideas for art work, so I have a lot more to share down the road.
Above: Scenes from the southern tip of Kayak Island - Pinnacle Rock, Beach combing, and reading at the Cape St. Elias lighthouse.
I originally wrote a draft of this post in Port Alsworth. The last step in my summer journeys has been to the area around Lake Clark National Park (at least for what I have planned at the moment). I spent a week working with the NPS to teach day camp for middle and high school students in nearby villages of Nondalton and Newhalen. I worked with archeologist Monty Rogers (of Cultural Alaska) to develop and teach some art/ illustration lessons to go along with learning about and building underground pit caches.
Since I was already in PA, I figured it made sense to explore Lake Clark National Park a bit. What an amazing place, four million acres at the head of the Bristol Bay watershed full of big mountains, forests, and lakes and rivers full of salmon and other wildlife. Coming from the land of glacial silt and moraine it felt very abundant. The lake is huge and we got to spend a week exploring the northern side of the lake via water taxi and sea kayaks from Tulchina Adventures. It was a wonderful mix of relaxing on beaches, cooking on fires, swimming, hiking, and kayaking which could be chill or challenging depending on the wind and the waves.
Now I am back home in McCarthy and I just had my thirty third birthday last week. I’m feeling full of ideas and gratitude for all I’ve been able to do, especially getting to partake in so many beautiful adventures over the summer. To be honest, I don’t exactly know what’s next, but I’m glad to be home to be able to catch up and spend time capturing some of these experiences in my studio time.