Six months ago, I was an unemployed recent graduate wondering what step to take next. I had left the beautiful sunny beach town of Ventura, California and returned to my hometown of Lansing, Michigan. Back home, I was doing alright with freelancing photography and videography, but something was still calling to my soul. I was craving adventure, new learning experiences, and an intimate connection with nature.
Well – ask, and ye shall receive. I am now indulging in my sixth week here in Haines, Alaska – working with Rainbow Glacier Adventures, LLC. It’s really striking to consider how it was not so long ago that my heart leapt at the posting for an open photography assistant and guiding position here in Haines, and how quickly it escalated from a phone interview to a plane ride from Michigan, to a ferry ride from Juneau to Haines. It seems paradoxical that it was six weeks ago now, because it seems like I have been here such a long time, and such a short time simultaneously.
My first week out here was incredibly overwhelming. The learning curve of adapting to Alaskan living was – to say the least- steep. I didn’t know anyone, and I had no idea what to expect, but quickly, that all changed. I still remember the day I got off the ferry, awe-struck by the snow-capped mountains and vast ruggedness of my surroundings. I remember the smiling face of my boss, Joe Ordoñez as he greeted me at the port with his wife, Edie, and his adorable youngest daughter, Sapphire.
That first day was lovely. The sun was shining bright, it was fairly warm with calm winds, and it smelled so delightfully crisp and fresh. Then – my second day came, and so did a whole new reality. I woke up across mud bay, alone in my tiny little cabin, able to see my own breath. I struggled to get my fire-oven going, and made the trek dreadfully across the bay in a completely unexpected blizzard of snow. I spent a grueling day moving kayaks out of storage in 38 degree weather, wondering what in the world I had gotten myself into. Later that night, Nelle – one of my favorite co-workers invited us back for dinner and (thank god!) a hot shower. While we were there, and I was soaking up the hospitality of these wonderful new people, three moose walked through her front yard. One was a mama, with two younger calves, which we guessed were probably 2-3 years old. The size and regality of these creatures mixed with the warm food and even warmer company left me feeling grateful, and once again I was elated to be here.
The rest of the week consisted of my exploring the library (which is beautiful and fantastic, I might add) enjoying my first taste of fresh-smoked wild Alaskan salmon, the strong winds blowing my cabin door clear off it’s hinges, learning to drive big tour rigs, and getting to know some of the locals at the Svenson’s gallery opening. Needless to say, it was an exhausting and exhilarating week.
Closing the end of that first week was the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Ferry system – where I witnessed native Tlingit dancing for the first time, and then spent the afternoon bird watching at the beautiful Chilkoot Lake with some of the other guides here. Looking forward to sharing the rest of my journey, and to posting some pictures as well, to try to give a sense of the journey through my eyes.
Thanks for taking the time to read, I’ll be continuing to share my personal story of this unique and exciting experience as the summer goes on!
Here’s my favorite shot from the 50th Ferry System Anniversary Celebration – witnessing Native Tlingit dancing for the first time is really a powerful experience!