Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Birth of Our Dream Trip

     Pinpointing the conception of our 2011 summer adventure in the Yukon is not so easy.  Jake & I didn’t just sit down at our kitchen table one night and dream up this journey over a bottle of wine and a plate of aged Gouda.  It has been more of a gradual process that evolved over the years into what we now call our beloved Yukon River Trip.
     After three Ozark River Trips that first year, a 2½-week trip out to Colorado and Wyoming in the summer of 2001 made an impact on Jake & I and our desire to explore the vast wilderness.  We unknowingly dropped an anchor that summer in the Rocky Mountains, and Jake & I soon found ourselves tangled in its line, which continues to tug us toward outdoor ventures that promise a prize of awe and self-discovery.
     Upon returning from out West, Jake & I began a pursuit for more remote camping in Indiana.  Because we backpacked in Roosevelt National Forest out in Colorado, we immediately began to investigate Hoosier National Forest.  We found Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area in HNF to be much more off the beaten path than our previous campsites in the state parks.  Though the sights couldn’t rival the Rocky Mountain views, we were delighted to have found a new playground where we would spend countless weekends over the next decade.
     Coupled with our love for adventure in the wilderness is our fondness for Jack London’s tales.  Soon after we married, I bought Jake a collection of London’s short stories for Christmas.  Since then, intrigue slowly began to take root in our imaginations as we explored London’s Yukon, where so many of his stories are set.  In addition to being found in his stories, the Yukon River was also part of the actual route London took to the famous Klondike Gold Rush.
     Once the idea for the trip was born, several years passed before we were able to put a definite departure date on this dream trip.  There have been many challenges up until this point to make the trip a go.  We mostly owe this upcoming departure date to the Teacher Creativity Grant that I was awarded by the Lilly Endowment back in February of this year. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

As Our Love Grew for Each Other, So Did Our Love for the Wilderness

      Jake & I met finals week my sophomore year in college (May ’96).  A friend of mine was interested in Jake’s older brother Josh and wanted me to leave our current gathering of friends in order to hang out with her at Josh’s house.  I was perfectly content to stay, but she coerced me by saying, “Josh’s younger brother is cute.”  I thought Okay.  Why not?   When I crossed the threshold of that college house on Ruddle Avenue just a few blocks from campus, my eyes immediately detected the cute guy on the couch, and I thought to myself That’s got to be the younger brother.  It was.   A night of darts, listening to music, dancing, playing guitar, and talking prompted Jake to ask for my number, and after waiting two days for a promised phone call, I was ecstatic to accept his invitation to hang out once again.  That was all it took.
     Within weeks of meeting, Jake & I went on our first camping trip along with Jake’s brother and a couple of friends.  That weekend at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore marked the beginning of our countless outdoor adventures together.  We continued to camp with friends throughout and past our college years.   Shortly after our engagement, we put Jake’s childhood canvas tent with clunky metal poles to rest when we each put up half the money to buy our first joint purchase:  a tent.  That blue & green Coleman tent with the tarp bottom was worth every bit of the $50 we spent that afternoon in Galyan’s.
     Shortly after marrying in July of ‘99, we found ourselves camping 2-3 times a month during the spring, summer, and fall months.  We even dared a few winter trips when we felt the temperatures wouldn’t dip below freezing. Seeing as how I still have all of my fingers & toes, I guess our North Face 35 degree sleeping bags did their jobs, even when the mercury fell below 30 and I thought getting any colder was impossible.
     We enjoyed camping those first few years in state parks & forests but soon found ourselves yearning for something more remote.  Jake and a few of his college buddies found that something in a multi-day canoe trip on the Current River in Missouri’s Ozarks during the fall of 2000.  Captured by the beauty of the river and the experience of a multi-day trip, Jake insisted that I make the 8-hour road trip with him the next weekend for my fall break.  Not even four days after Jake’s return, I found myself stuffed in a loaded down Blue Ford Explorer with Jake, our dog Gretel, and another couple.  I felt as though a whole new path to outdoor excursions appeared when we pushed our canoe off the banks of civilization and floated into the foothills of the Missouri Ozarks.
     The Current River will never stop alluring Jake & I back to its shores.  Over the years the bald eagles, wild horses, caves, and solitude of the river enticed us to search for new adventures.  So, we did, and we’ve found ourselves backpacking in the Rockies & in the Smokies, kayaking with alligators in the Everglades, whitewater rafting in North Carolina & in Colorado, and camping in Virginia, Michigan’s UP, Wyoming, Kansas, North Carolina, and just about everywhere in between.  By continuing to dream up new outdoor expeditions, we will nurture our love for each other and for the wilderness.