Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Seeing the Elephant

I believe that many people often hum or at least have the tune, "Leaving on a Jet Plane" by Peter, Paul and Mary,  stuck in their heads when they leave for a trip. This is not the case for me, but I have never been accused of being normal or ordinary.  The song that continuously loops through my psyche is not really a modern song at all, but a portion of script from J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit."  If you have ever read this great adventure you will recognize this as the lyric the dwarves sing to Bilbo as they put away his precious dishes on the eve of their journey.

Chip the glasses, crack the plates!
That's what Bilbo Baggins hates!
That's what Bilbo Baggins hates!
So carefully, carefully with the plates!

Blunt the knives and bend the forks!
Smash the bottles, burn the corks!
That's what Bilbo Baggins hates!
So carefully, carefully with the plates!
J.R.R. Tolkien

Why, you ask, would this phrase be the mantra from which I draw my packing inspiration?  Because it marked the beginning of both a life changing experience and great adventure for little Bilbo.  My journeys are just the same.  Each is a prized opportunity to learn new things, see fresh places, and to find my own treasure.  

Today I leave on my long anticipated Alaskan Caribou hunt.  Months of planning and hard work have gone into this expedition.  From phone calls, reading guides, creating lists, and building arrows, to copious practice with both bow and rifle.  I feel ready.   It is time to make my own Alaskan reflections. 

Although I feel prepared, I am still left with many questions.  Will Alaska be as beautiful as it is in my dreams?  Will I find the Caribou I seek? Will my hunting skill set so keenly developed for Colorado be able to carry me through this hunt? Will I be able to handle the bugs?  Just how big are the bears, and will I get a glimpse at a wolf? Is this the "first" time I go to Alaska, or the "only?"  I will not know the answers to these questions until I set my foot out the door and make the nearly 4,000 mile trek north. 

You, dear reader, are fortunate.  You have the chance to come with me, but forgo the long plane rides, wet weather, and Alaska's state bird: the mosquito. I hope to write several posts as the trip progresses, and I encourage you to check Facebook and Twitter for daily updates as well.

This is the hunt of a lifetime.  A hunt I have been training my entire life for.  With that, it is about time to stop writing about it and get going.   The first leg is to the airport via several stops for family and gear. There is no better vehicle to get me there than my beloved mountain truck: the suburban.  She sits, fully loaded with my gear and ready to take me on my way.  A few goodbyes and lingering embraces with my girls are all that remain. 

There is a saying that developed in early American history called "Seeing the Elephant".  The elephant was a creature of fame and had legendary status due to it's size, grandeur, and scarcity.  Town folk and farmer alike would line the streets when the circus came to town to catch a glance at this massive animal.  Alaska is my mythological creature of wonder, and I'm going to see the elephant.

As I go, I believe it is only just that I leave the last thought to Mr. Tolkien.  

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.  You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." J.R.R Tolkien 

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