Exactly twenty years ago today, April 1, 1996, I packed my Toyota pickup to the gills and began the journey north, to Alaska. Fresh out of college with a head full of dreams and infinite naivety, I’m not sure what I was searching for exactly, other than adventure and new experiences. What I discovered among the glaciated mountains, oceans, and vast wild space was inspiration like I’d never known. Driving across northern Canada, as the topography transformed, becoming increasingly dramatic, and the mountains grew taller, that inspiration was overwhelming, forcing me to pull over several times each day to pen the thoughts and poetic lines that seemed to flow without effort, almost involuntarily.
After a week of driving, I arrived in Anchorage on a more somber note, thoroughly disappointed that the trip was over. The anticipation and the curiosity, the promise of a new life in the Last Frontier, ignited an urge to continue exploring which, I suppose, explains how I got to where I am today. I had initially come to Alaska to complete an internship for a degree in psychology, but the purpose of my journey was far more significant, and it didn’t take long to realize that a career in human services wasn’t for me. Later that same year, the camera found me, as I like to say, and my path was forever changed.
In the fall of 1999, I moved back to Minnesota and soon found that the adage is true - once you move away you can’t ever truly go home again. Alaska was forever under my skin, there was no denying it, and in 2007, an opportunity arose for me to reestablish myself in the 49th state. I have been here since. Looking back on the past two decades, I’ve had some big ups and downs, and somehow I keep coming out on top. I’ve survived a bush plane crash, been chased by a few bears, underwent spinal surgery and escaped a house fire that destroyed nearly everything I owned. In the end, it only strengthened my resolve to continue to explore and share the magic of my experiences through photographs and words. Now in my forties, I look at the young, bearded man in the photo holding his first king salmon and instantly recognize the wanderlust and youthful exuberance that has come full circle and is stronger than ever. The beard, now infiltrated by shades of salt & pepper, has remained and serves as a proud reminder of how I earned each and every one of my grey hairs. I wouldn’t change a thing if I could; it’s been beautiful ride, and while I have no idea what the next 20 has in store, I can promise it will be anything but mundane.