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Living life to the fullest

By Sun Advocate

It’s been a wild month in the Larson households as my sons and I just returned from a 12 day vacation to Alaska and came right back to the Helper Arts Festival, a good friend’s wedding and back to work.
While in Alaska we visited old friends from Montana and one evening I skimmed through a book written by Norman D. Vaughan, an Alaskan who at 89 years of age fulfilled a lifelong dream of climbing Mount Vaughan, a 10,300-foot Antarctica mountain peak named in his honor. Vaughan is a close friend of our Alaskan hosts and in the book he signed it by writing, “The only death we die is the death we die everyday by not living.”
I love that philosophy and although Vaughan may have written it for himself it has been our family’s philosophy for a couple decades.
This was the 20th year my sons and I have vacationed to some unique location, testing our skills, enjoying nature and getting to know each other as we grow up and grow older. My sons were just eight and five years in 1983 when we ventured off on our first camping trip. Since then we have traveled to over a dozen states, floated or canoed most rivers in the west, climbed nearly every mountain range and visited hundreds of museums, gardens and parks.
Our first night in Alaska found us camping in the Denali National Wilderness Area nestled under the towering peaks of Mount McKinley. It was raining and we didn’t actually see the mountain for three days. The Denali experience was incredible with its tundra rolling plains, raging rivers from melting glaciers and wildflowers in dozens of delicate shapes and colors. The wildlife was greater than we even anticipated, including grizzly bear, moose and caribou.
A later trip into Fairbanks provided a fascinating tour of women who settled Alaska and the trials and tribulations they encountered during the infamous gold rush. I also got to see firsthand the building of the Alaska pipeline and how its construction forever changed the northern city.
From there we were on the move, spending three days kayaking around Resurrection Bay near Seward. We had to take kayak lessons to do so, although all of us own kayaks. The fact is we had never kayaked on the ocean waters before. It looked and was relatively easy but I have to admit when we were on our own, out in the middle of the bay, heading towards the ocean I cringed a bit when those three and four-foot waves crashed through the flimsy little kayak I was in. Again, we followed reason and pointed the bow of the kayak into the wave and paddled through without a problem.
Each of the nights we camped along the beaches far from civilization listening to the waves splash on the shores as the tide rose and lowered. And each night we caught and ate delicious salmon fresh from the sea.
And talking about salmon, we spent another day out on the Kenai Peninsula fishing for Silvers and both boys caught their limits. Although I didn’t catch my limit I was sure glad to pull in one of the bigger fish out of the bay. I must admit that fishing in Alaska sort of spoils a person.
We also hiked up Russian River and watch hundreds of Sockeye Salmons spawning as they jumped the waterfalls and rapids heading back to their birthplace.
When I read Mr. Vaughan’s inscription in his book about living life it seemed to be speaking volumes to the types of lives my sons and I have chose to explore. There are so many things to do and so many places to see. I am really grateful we have the drive and desire to continue enjoying these adventures.
Each year our trips seem to overshadow the year before and I can hardly wait until we start planning for next year’s vacation.

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