Tuesday, August 11, 2009

to McCarthy

I'm headed off to McCarthy tomorrow for what I hope will be a creative week. Mentally expansive is what I'm looking for. It's a long drive, maybe eight hours. I'll have a passenger, another writer from Anchorage who I've never met. Is it a good idea to take that long a drive with someone you've never met? Well, all the stories will be new and it's better than taking an eight hour drive with a friend who you didn't realize would drive you nuts in two hours (which is what happens in movies; it has never happened to me). I'm looking forward to it.

It's been 15 years since I was last in McCarthy. At that time I was a newbie, a real Chechako, having just moved to Alaska, not knowing whether I was staying, yet hoping I was. I didn't have a full-time job yet, so when I wasn't doing temp jobs or taking up space in my sister's basement and eating her food, I was traveling around with my dog and a couple of guys I'd met on the ferry between Prince Rupert, BC, and Haines.

Back then, you'd drive the 60-mile gravel road between Chitina and McCarthy, park in the gravel parking area at the end of a road, climb onto a hand tram and shuttle yourself across the river. Sometimes, for a fee, a local would ferry passengers across on the tram, but often you were on your own. I remember sitting in the tiny cage, my dog at my feet, one of the guys hanging off the outside of the swinging cage while the other handled the cable. For a girl who doesn't like heights, it was a bit scary watching the river tumble beneath us. But, it was the only way to get there so there was no choice. I don't remember much more than hiking a bit on the glacial moraines (I think that's where we were), making our way to the Kennecott mine buildings and strolling around the town. We didn't really take the time to settle in and get the feel of the place before continuing to Valdez.

I don't know how much has changed, but a bridge spans the river now, so I won't have to brave the tram to get to McCarthy, home of the Wrangell Mountains Center, which puts on the event. I got the schedule today and now have a better idea of what to expect: writing, some hikes, some discussions, writing some more.

A change of scenery usually inspires me. Hiking in new terrain; among different mountains; a group of people all focused on getting their creative juices flowing. I'll emphasize focus. Because while I just said a change of scenery inspires me, I'm often busy doing other things when I'm out there. Maybe I'm biking, hiking or berry picking, and by the time I pull out my notebook at the end of the day I'm so tired that I can barely start putting thoughts on paper before I nod off and the pen drags to the bottom of the page. Even when I carry my notebook on a dayhike, I am restless in the moment and often don't take the time to write down all the thoughts and clever lines I came up with through the inspiration of a little fresh air. Hell, I might have had the health care crisis solved if I had only taken the time to write it down!

This evening, I've been gathering my gear, rereading the info and hoping for a little bit of sunshine while we're there. I also hope this helps me continue the journey of banishing my fears and honing my creative voice. That's a big expectation. But why not?

I'm not sure if there'll be any posting from McCarthy. If not, I'll be back in a week. Carry on!

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