The author-illustrator, Tomi Ungerer said, name your destiny's destination. We didn't have a specific Point B on our ride across the tundra on the backs of sturdy 4-wheelers; we just knew we were headed into the wild to imbibe the sky and tundra, and explore ancient fossil beds on unnamed creeks along the way.
So we loaded up tools of the trade: rock picks and hammers, chisels, shovels, and a tool bag to carry our newfound samples. Sack lunches, water, a sense of humor (or two), wiley imaginations, and the willingness to embrace whatever stumbled across our path.
We were searching for prehistoric marine life that lay directly beneath our feet. Here, in the green-covered mountains, we were looking for ancient sea life, as it were.
We followed the trail up and down mountain passes, across rushing creek beds and into the wild, getting all muddied up in the process. Fortunately, we are creatures who take well to the mixing of earth and water and actually enjoy getting exceptionally dirty (as long as there is a shower or claw-foot tub at the end of the day).
Forget the hair and nails; just take me to the mountains
From the top of Belanger Pass, we hopped off our wheelers, and spinning slowly in place we took in the view of 4 different mountain ranges: the Alaska Range, the Talkeetna Range, the Wrangell-St. Elias Range and the familiar, in our backyard Chugach Mountain Range.
You can lock your sight on one for a spell and get lost in a daydream of sorts.
OK. Back to ground level now.
After some bumpy riding over boulders and fumbling with very small turn ratios, we hit the Mother Lode. In an unnamed tributary to Alfred Creek in the Talkeetna Mountains, we found, you might say, decorated stones, or embroidered rocks. Attractive and textured.
Chip, chip, chop, chop (can you hear our hammers at work?)
Cross-sections of variegated shells, like scallops, mussels and clams unfolded before our eyes. In the base rock of sandstone, we were, quite literally, standing on the beach in our mud boots, in the rain, way the heck out in the green mountains in a place that used to be saltland. Oh, Saltlandia!
Here's what the geologists and other rock fools really die for. Ammonites...the spiral impressions of a prehistoric octopus-like animal in a shell. The only surviving and nearest relative of the ammonite today is the pearly nautilus. Everyone loves the nautilus shell, no?
I swear sometimes I feel like I'm in a science fiction movie.
Whatever your destination, keep your eyes on the path. Go where the trail takes you...
...and take notice of the flowers, though sometimes found in very hard places...
take notice and smell the flowers along the way.