everything at once

Photo of a sign saying please slow down
Slow walking in Fairbanks

Within an hour of arriving at the cabin last week, I aggravated a stubborn rib injury. I was tugging open the lid of the hole in the ground where we store our perishable food when I realized I’d gone wrong. (Moments before, I’d reminded Stewart how important it was that we go slowly and be mindful, especially because we were tired and had so much to do.) I worked for a week to manage the pain. Then I gave up and decided to come back to Fairbanks early.

Temsco sent out a helicopter—a tiny, buzzy machine that’s new to them but which has been in service since 1977(!)—and suddenly I was back in Denali Park Village with cell service and vending machines, tour buses and plush toys and people from all over the world talking about bears.

As it happened, it helped to have the extra travel time because Alaska has been in all kinds of weather chaos this summer; in the past few days it’s affected transportation to, from, and within Denali. The Alaska Railroad—like many other services in the state—is doing its best to keep up. Currently, the train isn’t running south from Denali to Anchorage because hot dry weather has caused dangerous fires along the route. And a section of the train track north of Denali is out of service because unusually heavy rain caused a retaining wall to fail in the Healy Canyon. The Denali depot seems to be a fulcrum—too hot and windy to the south, too wet to the north. Either way, it’s hard to get a train, which is what I needed to do.

I had a telephone conversation with an Alaska Railroad agent that went kind of like this:

I was planning to take the train from Denali to Fairbanks this afternoon but I just heard it’s not running.

We’re not selling any tickets for that train.

What about tomorrow?

We’re not selling tickets for tomorrow either.

Do you know of any other way I can get from Denali to Fairbanks? I have to catch a plane.

You might want to look for a shuttle.

Okay. But just to be clear, I heard you say you’re not selling tickets, but you didn’t say the train’s not running. Is the train running?

We’re not selling any tickets for that train.

Sometimes what’s not said is the loudest part of a conversation. I hitched a ride to the train depot and put myself in front of a kind looking person behind the counter. I started the conversation over again. The kind person said the railroad would put everyone on buses in a couple hours and drive them half an hour north to Healy. She said the train to Fairbanks would be there. Then she sold me a ticket.

Things don’t make any sense—fires colliding with floods and evacuations bumping into people lined up to buy t-shirts and little stuffed moose from the last frontier—but let’s keep asking questions, at least.

Photo of double rainbow at Denali National Park train depot
No train, but rainbows

P.S. All else is well at the cabin. Stewart will be there until early September.


9 thoughts on “everything at once

  1. Shae….sorry you were in pain while in Alaska but glad you made a decision that felt right for you and were able to make it to your flight. Sending metta and healing thoughts your way . XO Nancy


  2. Ah Shae, I’m so sorry—for you & Alaska both (though glad things at the cabin are OK). Safe journey, & hope you heal well & quickly! XOXO


    1. Thank you, Dear Jane. I’m safely home and happy to be. I wonder whether you’re still in Europe? I hope you are well and safe wherever you are. Your letter has been great company!


      1. So sorry again for your mishap and for missing Denali but glad you are safely home. Please let me know if I can be of any any any help. Sending love and support. 💕❤️🙏


  3. Oh, Shae! I’m so sorry. I love your Alaska trip every year and I’m sorry you had to cut it short. At least you’ll have some quiet time at home to rest up and heal. Safe travels.


    1. Kaela, thank you. It was going to be a shorter trip for me this year anyway — but obviously it was still not what I’d hoped. Gotta figure some years will be that way. Home sounds good! Hope you are well.


  4. So relieved to read this. Shae your instincts are intact. But sorry to read re injury and how frustrating that must have been. Weather!!!my granddaughter is a militant on the environment and I’m so proud of her. We’ve got to deal with this! I love all your efforts in this life you and Stewart have created and respect you immensely. Glad you took care of yourself. I send love and prayers to you both. 🙏❤️


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