We spent August 7th with Glacier View ATV Tours at mile 99 of Glenn Highway in Glacier View, Alaska. We were fortunate to have the trails to ourselves and be guided by Tommy, one of the owners, for 2.5 hours of ATV riding through open fields, forest and to the top with a view over the Matanuska valley. The weather was perfect for trailing riding with temperatures in the 60’s, no rain, and no wind.
If you are in Alaska and looking for a fun way to spend time in the Alaskan wilderness, these is a great outfit to go with. Tommy is down to earth, easy to talk with, and provides a lot of knowledge and history of the area. One detail we were impressed with is Tommy stopped a few times to pick-up trash near the trail.
Evening approaches the valley shielded under the canopy of oak. The colors change from green began a week ago and today the carpet has become red. A southerly wind rattles the dense forest, shaking loose leaves and small branches. Other than nature it is quiet and calm. I come here for the quiet and calm. Peace abounds as the shadows like a blanket settle over the landscape.
I ride past open fields of golden tops swaying in the wind. The setting sun cast long is bright to the naked eye, but warm, beautiful, and peaceful.
I ride the single-track dirt trail through an immense soundscape of birds calling, squirrels foraging for nuts, and the blue jays singing.
I witness the last preparation of bees. One by one they take flight with cargo, like helicopters slowly leaving the earth, and into the setting sun. Evening dew settles upon the elongated grass, capturing the last rays of light.
The butterfly visited me today. Within the back trails under the coming darkness, the color of wings pushing the air creating a vibration captured my attention as it crossed directly in front of me.
The setting suns light scatters with the thin white clouds occupying the evening sky.
I continue to ride and the trail ascends before flattening out, bringing me between field and placid waters clinging to the last light.
The transition of summer to fall contains a new color palette as greens give way to red, yellow and orange. Flaming red maple leaves fall from the sky as I look up, standing in the middle of the trail.
On a somewhat grey and dreary day we headed north to the fields and trails near the Wild River, the St. Croix. Alone on sandy trails well suited for horses, we circled the empty field through the forest and made our way to the river. Beneath the grey sky, we felt the presence of life, animals, and trees absent of sound. The two deer that crossed our path did so leisurely as I assured them we are guests here, just passing through.
In previous journeys here through the thick woods, I knew that John Haines was here walking with us, with an eye for details and subtle nuisances. Today he was here also, but we took this in as a whole, all of the nature seen and not seen, all of the light passing through us, with us, and a part of us.
The empty field, the river, forest, trails, sand, and the animals all served as a reminder that this is home, this is birth, this is where we came from.
Fall is the perfect time of year for building trails through the woods. Most tree leaves have fallen, the intense underbrush of summer, including small trees, weeds, and tall grasses, have wilted. The trail emerges and you can more easily find where you left off the previous fall. Passing by birch, pine, oak, and maple this is nature in all its forms. From the deer runs zig-zagging everywhere, to the seasonal creek that is now dry, to the raven flying so close you can hear the wings flapping, this makes everything else worthwhile.
In preparation for winter and snowshoeing, I spent the past two weekends installing new trail markers, making sure existing can be seen clearly, and cleaning fallen trees and other debris. Now is also the time to scope out where the next spur trail will be installed.
An early morning trip north, yielded a few surprises – It can snow in May in MN! Ice pellets and snow flakes dotted the semi blue and grey sky above the tallest of the pine trees. Meanwhile, our clothing was being attacked by deer and wood ticks. We recorded the first snow fall in October and now May marks the 8th month we have had some snow.
As I have gotten a few years older, my favorite season has shifted from fall to winter, much to the dismay of everyone else who reminds me that summer is slowly becoming a season of two months.
Winter is the season of awareness. It is when everything becomes brighter, and the true self and being emerge or are revealed. It is the season where we turn inward, to look for warmth and comfort within. We become more aware, with sharper senses, we see the outlines of trees against the blue backgrounds; we see the moose tracks carrying further and deeper into the woods; we realize the quite solitude of mountain peaks overlooking valleys and the distant howl of coyote or the growl of a circling raven.
Winter reveals more of the delicate balance of animals, vegetation, humans, and role each of us play. Survival instincts become second-nature, and beings rely more on themselves to emerge on the other side of the mountain pass.