My morning routine is sacrosanct. Every day, I wake up at the same time, drink the exact same amount of coffee (which is usually just a little too much), take the same bus, and settle into work. I find a great deal of comfort in this routine, which is why the lack of shock to my system over the month of August was itself quite a shock. On Sunday, July 28th, my wife and I flew up to Anchorage, Alaska and settled in a small Airbnb on the outskirts of town.
This was not a permanent move; in fact I’m already back in Seattle. Our time in Anchorage was limited to a month as Sarah wrapped up a rotation at the Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC). While her routine was shockingly similar (which is to say, “brutal” – residency is no joke), mine was very different. Gone was the morning commute to the office. My french press had to stay at home, and the view from my office became dominated by a forest filled with vegetation and the occasional moose.
Other than the change of scenery and slight shift in daily routine, however, my work life remained the same. I may move around, but our platform’s infrastructure and tooling could care less about where my laptop is opened so long as my logins are valid.
I wish this claim were the first of its kind, but alas, my feet are walking on a path already traveled by Scott Fennell. For years, Scott practiced his craft in Anchorage, helping build our little corner of the internet. Although he’s relocated to Maine (Scott apparently lives only on the edges of the United States), I felt a great deal of comfort knowing that this arrangement could work even if it was only for a short period of time.
Working remotely afforded me some of the most spectacular views that I could imagine. Just miles away from my house is a view from Kincaid Park looking out on the Cook Inlet and the Turnagain Arm, which is home to miles of mudflats that are visible as the tides go out.
On my way to Kincaid Park for the first time, we encountered all variety of wildlife that went un-photographed due primarily to a state of shock. Bear here simply walk out onto the road, porcupines cross trails without thinking twice, and moose have no qualms chewing on bark as throngs of people walk past.
This past weekend, we visited a few glaciers. The Raven Glacier, which we came upon after hiking up the Crow Pass Trail. Here’s a view looking down the valley:
The following weekend we traversed about 8 miles of the Kesugi Ridge Trail in hopes of catching some glimpse of Denali. We were fortunate to get an unobstructed view in the morning:
We rounded out the trip with a weekend in Seward and Homer. In Seward we were fortunate enough to get out on the water on a kayak and see some sea otters, seals, and glaciers close up. On the way back I snapped a photo at the same location where just 50 years previously, the glaciers in this picture used to reach, but are now receding slowly into the Harding Icefield:
There is a small part of this boy from Montana that wished the stay were more than just a visit. Alaska feels like the parts of Montana that I miss to this day. It’s a feeling of disconnectedness rooted in natural beauty and peace. However, there is no mistaking the fact that this is Alaska, and while the summer beauty is palpable, so is the threat of winter as this picture from Scott illustrates:
More importantly than the frigid winters is the lack of things I’ve come to appreciate about Seattle. The diversity of the population and cultures, easy access to any number of businesses that are open well past 8pm, and a series of vibrant industries and universities working on questions that fascinate and titillate.
I did not miss my morning bus commute, and my routines were far less important than I thought, but Seattle is certainly home.