This July I took a trip to the Last Frontier: Alaska. Now this trip was not a vacation or a trip of business. Instead I went to Alaska to volunteer at a summer camp for children who are visually impaired or blind, Camp Abilities Alaska. I had met the director of the camp at a similar program and he invited me up to work as a counselor in Alaska. However, nobody else from my area was going, therefore I had to fly by myself. I was 17 years old flying close to 8,000 mile roundtrip on my own. Of course my mother was delirious, going over every aspect and every conceivable situation that I might encounter. My two flights to Anchorage were smooth and thankfully uneventful until we approached the airport. To this day I have never enjoyed my time in an airplane as much as when we landed in Anchorage.
The next day the rest of the staff and I climbed a 3,100 ft mountain called Flattop. The views as we ascended were absolutely beautiful. I felt on top of the world as the airplanes flew below us yet my mortality was constantly questioned as I remembered one false step and I would cease to exist. It was a true victory to reach the top to see views that stretched for miles out past the bay into the Pacific. The mountain peaks were drenched in sunlight yet it was approaching 10pm as we began to descend because in Alaska the sun is up for about 21 hours in July.
The rest of the week however being enjoyable was hard work. Each morning I woke up at 5:30 to take a shower and still have time to wake up my camper and get him ready for the day ahead. Each day I taught my camper various adapted sports including track and field, tandem biking, goalball, swimming, archery and an adapted version of baseball called beep baseball. We spent our days traveling around to a number of facilities such as The Dome, a huge indoor field and track arena, the roof of which is supported by nothing but compressed air. We also used one of the gymnasiums of Alaska Pacific University as well as the pool of University of Alaska, Anchorage.
However, the week was soon over and it was time for the campers to go home and of course my dreaded flight back to Hartford. After a barbecue at a friend’s house I was driven to the airport to prepare for the hardest trip of my life. That’s right. I began with a flight 5 hour flight leaving at 12:00 midnight to Phoenix (pretty much in the wrong direction). Then I had a 40 minute layover in Phoenix in which I had to switch terminals just barely making my flight to Philadelphia. I then had another 40 minute layover to make my flight to Hartford. In all, the trip was 17.5 hours with a 4 hour time difference. Yes it was a brutal trip home! However, I would do it all over again if only for the view taking off from Anchorage at 12 midnight with the sun just setting behind the mountains and the lights of anchorage lighting up the navy sky. It was perhaps the best view I had ever fallen asleep after one of the best experiences of my life and the best part is that now if my mom is worried about me going to a friend’s house I can say “mom you let me fly 4,000 miles to spend a week with people you barely know”.
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