The girl had been to the Great Land several times before. Building on her early childhood fishing in Wisconsin by exploring the salmon and trout streams of Bristol Bay with her Dad. Accompanying him to their Varykino cabin and helping set up camp there. Taking a family road trip through the accessible wilderness areas between Seward and Fairbanks.
Still, it took more than a little gumption for the Midwestern teen to approach her father with an idea for her sophomore summer of high school. There’s a program at UAF, she said. I'd like to go. So she spent most of the summer in Fairbanks, studying aquatic ecology, before meeting her Dad for their annual trip to Bristol Bay.
One thing leads to another. The managers of the remote fishing lodge needed a new nanny for their young children the following season. Too young to be employed formally by the lodge, she first put in two summers of childcare duty, then graduated to regular lodge staff, which is to say, waitress, cook, maid, bartender, you name it.
Weekly days off were spent fishing and hiking in the lakes, streams and forests of Wood-Tikchik State Park. Winters were back in Chicago during the first years, then in Portland during college, although year-end holidays were generally spent in Anchorage.
Her father was only mildly surprised when she decided to move to Alaska in search of employment opportunities after graduation. Soon a young man appeared on the scene. Alaska born and raised, he was a good match for her in many respects.
She picks up the story a year and a half later:
“We were having the perfect weekend out at the cabin for my 25th birthday. It was eighty degrees and clear blue sunny skies the entire time. Because we know how to camp in style, and because it was my birthday, we had been celebrating over a bottle of Scotch (and some wine) all weekend.
"On Saturday, we spent the morning clearing the yard and trails. Because it was so hot out, we took several breaks to rehydrate and relax inside. During one of those breaks, I was lying down in the bed nook when he said my name.
“I looked over and there he was, kneeling on the floor beside the bed, with a little box in his hand. When he opened the box and asked the question, I was so shocked and happy I couldn't help but cry. After shedding a few tears, I managed to say ‘yes!’ It was such a wonderful weekend. The cabin will forever be filled with happy memories now.”
They were married in Girdwood last Saturday, July 5, in the company of family and friends from all over the United States, Canada and Australia. Her parents beamed with pride and joy. The honeymoon? Several days at Varykino. Fitting for an Alaska wedding.