Get Away With You

What refreshes your soul? 

Here is what tops my list: A good book under a warm blanket, a quiet room with a piano (and time to play just for fun), laughing with my kids, and hugs.

For my husband of nearly 20 years, soul refreshment seems to come hand and hand with adventure…outdoor adventure to be exact. Since moving to Alaska in 2006, we have gone on more adventures than I can count, and I’m thankful to have taken part in many of them. And, I’m thankful to have watched how the time away refreshes the soul of my husband.

During April of 2020, most of us were grasping straws, trying to figure out what to do (and not to do) about the pandemic-induced mandates. It was a stressful time, and I remember feeling stuck…inside…all…the…time. Each day melded into the next, and I’m pretty sure I started to lose my mind. Moments of depression sank deeper than normal, and not seeing any end in sight wasn’t helping.

Then, I decided to listen to the heart of my husband, Andrew. He suggested heading out on a snowmachine trip to the cabin for a few days. I’ll let pictures of that time speak to what it was like.

Fast forward to this past weekend. We once again headed out on an adventure, and I could see a sparkle in his eyes as we headed out of the driveway. I knew this would refresh his soul.

Our 11 year old daughter, Maya, had drawn a caribou tag for an area north of where we live, and we headed out intending to stay for the whole 6 days if needed. However, we weren’t prepared for was the amount of adventure this trip would bring. Spoiler alert…we came home early.

After finding a nice camping spot with a trail nearby, we headed out to scout a bit the night before her season opened. We run an 8-wheeled Argo for our trail vehicle, mostly because we usually travel in swamps when we venture out, but the rocky terrain didn’t seem to bother the rig. We spotted a nice caribou about 600 yards away, and enjoyed the surrounding mountain views until around ten o’clock that night, planning to come back out in the early morning.

Opening day was gorgeous. Though the sun was intense, the clear skies allowed for 360 degree views of the mountains. At one point, my husband and daughter headed out to a ridge to glass an area we thought we had seen some caribou earlier that morning. While they were away, my son and I were tasked with keeping an eye out and flagging them down if we saw something. Well, we did.

A young bull caribou was headed downhill, across the valley, and flagging my husband down from 500 yards away took a bit. Hindsight, once I got their attention, I also should have also pointed them in the direction the bull was traveling. They unfortunately came back the opposite direction, so we just watched as the caribou trotted off. We were a little deflated, but excited nonetheless. Sometimes you head out on a hunt and see nothing. We were seeing caribou, the sun was shining, and my family was still having a great time. Andrew was still smiling.

The Alaska Range, Denali Highway

That night brought heavy rainfall and wind to the sun soaked area, so sleep was limited. We ventured out again after a late breakfast, but our Argo didn’t seemed thrilled to be back out again. There was a strange sound coming from one of the rear chains, and closer inspection at the top of the hill revealed that we had lost a wheel bearing (or something like that. If you want any Argo details from this story, ask Andrew). It was only the second day of the 5-day season, and we weren’t going to be able to go very far on our now 7-wheeled Argo.

The terrain in front of us suddenly felt so vast. We wouldn’t be able to access and hunt much of it anymore, and we would solely rely on God’s sovereign grace to direct the animals our way…though I’m pretty sure that’s how it works all the time anyway.

The kids and I walked the surrounding ridges and glassed for movement while Andrew tore into the problem. Other hunters in the distance were the only things we could see, and the area just seemed to grow in size as we considered how much of it we could no longer access.

When we made it back to the Argo, Andrew was still smiling. Hands covered in grease, and the problem decently patched up, he started to talk about getting back down to camp and figuring out what to do next. It seemed our hunting trip might have been coming to an end. And that is when we heard the nearby shots.

Quickly glassing the area again, we saw a small group of hunters in the bottom of a valley, with at least 8 caribou out in front of them. From what we could tell, two youth hunters had taken two animals from the small herd, and the rest started to move. With the Argo still in need of buttoning up, Andrew sent me ahead with Maya to travel toward a mature cow that had separated from the rest. We headed out, both carrying our rifles, and ready to intercept. (If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I would have done something like that, the answer would be no.)

As we traversed a ridge, we kept losing sight of the cow. Stopping to glass on occasion allowed us little glimpses, helping us know we were even remotely on track. We kept going. The terrain in those hills is rocky with low bushes and tundra plants, currently full of ripe blueberries, with the low areas full of small ponds and marshes. Not terrible to navigate through, but nonetheless a challenge for us humans when trying to get somewhere fast. The caribou have no problems whatsoever.

We stopped at the bottom of a ridge in front of a swampy area to glass again, praying to catch a glimpse of the cow. As God’s sovereign hand directed, the cow was headed straight for us. The wind direction was in our favor, and I don’t think I’ve ever stood so still. I told Maya to load her gun and get ready. I did the same. The cow was within 200 yards and still closing a bit.

I’ll spare you the details, but Maya shot and my shot followed. She successfully got her first caribou. Her joy and shock was evident in her tear streaked and smiling face. And then, we heard cheering from above. Andrew had been able to watch the caribou the whole time! He couldn’t hear the shots due to the wind, but he knew she had succeeded. Big time smiles.

Our journey out of there that day proved tricky. We lost an axle on another wheel, and being down to 2 wheels on one side, we couldn’t load anything in the rig. So, we tackled the “real adventure” of packing an animal out. We had left most of our gear behind with the Argo, so we made a second trip for most of that as well. The kids were amazing, trekking both ways with out too much complaint, and we all earned our supper that night. Plus, we were able to get the Argo down off the mountain on the second trip. Lots of smiles.

Not only do trips like this seem to refresh my husband’s soul, they write stories. I enjoy watching my husband come alive when he tells stories of our adventures. Add that to his soul refreshment list. So, we will keep getting away and writing stories, for the good of his soul…and if I’m honest, for the good of mine as well.

Enjoy the music.