I was 23 and on my way to graduate school in Alaska. The plan was to drive from Minnesota to Washington, put my car on a ferry in Bellingham, drive it through the Inland Passage for three days, disembark in Haines, Alaska, and then walk two more days along the Al- Can drive through the Yukon mountain range, the interior of Alaska and then to Anchorage. In a hatchback. In 1990, when hundreds of miles of the Al-Can went unpaved.
Driving to Washington was the easy part. Then there was the ferry.
I was a poor graduate student so I didn’t bother renting a sleeping cabin. I would sleep in a deck chair. Of course, I didn’t expect how cold it would be at night. I didn’t have a sleeping bag so I rented a blanket from the front desk clerk for $ 10. It was cotton and did absolutely nothing to ease the cold. So I shivered in my coat and boots every night and prayed for the heat of the day.
After disembarking, I made my way to the Canadian border and the Yukon. It was breathtaking – the majesty of the mountains unlike anything I had ever seen. At some point nature called, so I stopped. I hadn’t seen another car in at least an hour, so I casually walked into the woods and prepared for the delicate task. At that moment I looked up and saw this sign: “Don’t stop here! Grizzlies feed on salmon 100 meters in front of them. “
It was another moment that took my breath away.
As soon as I left the Yukon, I entered the interior of Alaska. The Al-Can had just reopened that day. It had been closed due to forest fires and smoke was still in the air. The day I drove through it was over 90 degrees and my car had no air conditioning. I couldn’t roll down the windows because the smoke was too thick. When I got to Tok, where I stayed the night in a youth hostel (basically a crib with a mosquito net thrown over it), I was completely dehydrated and was literally still buzzing from the dirt stretches of the highway – if you could call it that. There was no water to be found. All public drinking fountains were closed due to lack of water and completely sold out in the store. I settled on a shriveled orange that I paid several dollars for to serve as my hydration for the evening.
That night, I learned, Tok, Alaska is the sled dog capital of the world. First there was a shot and a howl, and then every sled dog in the Tok metropolitan area howled and barked and cried all … night … long.
By the time my hatchback and I got to Anchorage, I’d lost a few pounds to sweat, anxiety, and dehydration. I was exhausted and trembling and overwhelmed by my own stupidity.
I am amazed that God has come to terms with me. That I was not mistreated or killed by a bear sliding down a dirt mountain pass, or that my ridiculous car was not swallowed up in one of the car-sized potholes on Al-Can, can only be a testament to God’s mercy.
When I see others – neighbors or maybe leaders in church or government – doing really stupid things, I remember hiking the Yukon and praying that God will protect us – especially from ourselves.
Father how we need your guiding hand. Protect us when we come into unknown danger. Help us learn from our mistakes and put you in the driver’s seat.
Kelly is the award-winning author of nine books, including “Jesus Approaches”. Visit her website at lizk.org or follow her on Instagram at LizKToday.
category: Your heart is home