Ten pm (Alaska time), somewhere halfway between Seattle and Alaska the feeling of “going home” grabs me. I first made this flight to Alaska in 1972 and have made many since, mostly during the winter months. But I don’t think I have ever made the trip north in late April and never to Fairbanks. Leaving drizzle-foggy Seattle at 9 pm, the sky is dark in every direction, but now, halfway home, the northern horizon is beginning to show a dusky twilight as if we were headed east into a new dawn.
I love to travel and I am comfortable calling almost anywhere a temporary home. This particular trip, I am headed home from southern Arizona after visiting my mother in Tucson. Lou and I have made many trips to southern Arizona's Santa Cruz River watershed over the past 25 years. We have always been comfortable here in mid-winter and have often dreamed of making a winter home somewhere in the area. The last few winters, we have spent months camping in the various "islands in the sky" mountain ranges of southeastern Arizona and occasionally peruse the real estate market, particularly around Patagonia and Tubac. Last winter we got a little more serious about finding a spot to be more permanent than a camper in the mesquite, but after submitting an offer for a respectable deal and wading part way through the paperwork, it was not meant to be.
This winter, for various reasons, we didn’t make the journey south, but we continued to keep abreast of new real estate listings via the internet, which I now know, does not present a necessarily accurate picture of places for sale. I promised my mother that we, or at least I, would pay her a visit before spring, so after procrastinating all winter, I finally made the trip this week. The timing may have been perfect for various reasons...spring snowstorm in Chicken, desert flowers in southern Arizona and a possible connection with a potential winter retreat; we’ll have to wait to see. I spent some time checking listed properties and one, a foreclosed home on 5 acres in the Tumacacori mountains, felt like the right fit (and maybe the right price). After making a “steal it from the banks" offer, I have spent the past few days enamored with the thought of a new winter place to visit and explore, even a mystical arch in the Tumacacori Mtns that reportedly provides entrance into another world, but even so, the feeling of my real home will probably always apply only to Alaska. Now, about a half hour after starting this scribbling (I’m a slow writer), the northern horizon is growing brighter with a layer of burnt umber topped by a light shade of yellow-green and then shades of bluish-turquoise before rapidly fading into the darkness overhead (you northern travelers will know what I mean); the light beckons, calling me to the only place I have ever felt was truly home.
Now, another half hour has past as I have gazed out the window into the increasing light and dimly lit mountainous landscape passing beneath us. It is after 11pm and the light continues to grow; another happy homecoming. Welcome home! I never feel like a stranger in this place called Alaska.