I developed a yen for long drives from living so remotely here in Alaska, I believe. My best friend in high school lived in Girdwood, a town 30 miles South of Anchorage. The area was so tiny the high schoolers bussed in everyday to attend the same school I went to for 9-12 grade. It’s how she and I met. My senior year, when I had my own truck (real girls drive trucks growing up) I’d drive her home after running or ski practice and we’d hang out.
The year after I graduated, unfortunately, turned out hard as two different friends died in horrible ways–one from hypothermia after missing for 6 weeks, the other killed by the cops after a psychotic break. In the first case, I was away when told the news. In the second, I was at someone’s home for dinner and found out the tragedy by watching my friend get shot on the evening news. (Not my best friend, another friend.) It was unbearable. The long drive out of town towards Girdwood, with such massive mountains–so much bigger than me, so much older than me–turned into my respite when I needed the space to deal with grief. I’d set off in silence heading South and drive along the Turnagain Arm till my feelings had adjusted enough to turn around and head back home. Sometimes it was a long long drive before I hit that point.
Now, decades later, there is still a comfort for me in the shape of these mountains. They still look the same. I recognize the peaks, the saddle between two mountaintops, the slopes along the roadway. And the water, exactly how it looks when it is rushing in versus moving out. Whenever possible I make a point of driving out the Turnagain Arm at least once on a visit back to Anchorage.
These photos might show you why. Taken from multiple points on the drive towards Girdwood.
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