Alaskan Villagers Prepare for Trip of A Lifetime

A school teacher in the Alaskan Bush encourages her k-12 students to dream BIG; planning a field trip to the lower 48. A film crew from Santa Barbara, California will document the historic journey. Please visit this site for frequent updates on their progress.

A Dream Come True

Club 33 was such a treat

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Departure to Santa Barbara pt.1

Thank you to all who are following and have commented on this blog site. I apologize for waiting nearly a week to post again, but so much has been happening so quickly that it has been difficult to find time to write. As many of you know we are all now in Santa Barbara; the "trip of a lifetime" is well underway. Before I forget however, I want to reflect on some of the events that have brought us to this place.

On April 30th the village was alive well into the morning hours with preparations for Robert's graduation. I was struck by how the kids, and the villagers, bonded together to make this a very special event for Robert and his family. Extended family, previous teachers, and school district officials flew in by Bush plane to congratulate the school's single graduating senior. There was a pot luck feast honoring Robert Kevin Gusty Jr., the eldest of six siblings, and the first in his family to be attending college in Anchorage next year.

The lights had barely been turned out after graduation before preparations to leave the island moved into full swing. Rounding up the suitcases and backpacks, packing, preparing, saying goodbyes, and taking last words of advice and encouragement.

For the film crew our goodbyes were bitter sweet. We knew that we would be reunited with Debi, Brian, Mary, and the students a day later in Anchorage. We were happy that soon we would have the opportunity to share our homes and families with all of them. We were touched by the gracious invitations from several villagers to return someday soon to Stony River. We were somehow changed by the quiet isolation and relative simplicity that our lives had become while in the village.

Our flight to Anchorage on the evening of May 2nd was spectacular. Golden light from the setting sun followed us through the Kuskokwim River valley, over the majestic peaks and craters of the Alaskan Range, across the vast Alaskan tundra, and into the seemingly chaotic streets of Anchorage. Soon after landing I remember looking at, and listening to the cars whizzing by on 5th Street, and wondering how I ever became so accustomed to the commotion of city life in the first place? Later that evening the crew wondered what LA would feel like to our new friends from Stony? None of us imagined that it would feel so different to us also.

The trip from Anchorage to Los Angeles was an adventure in and of itself. The group of 15 from Stony River shopped for last minute supplies until 1am, and then spent the wee hours trying to sleep in the airport waiting to board the plane. Our stop over in Seattle was marked by curious looks of wonder as the kids rode the airport train between concourses, carefully stepped on and off the escalators and moving sidewalks, and looked every which way at the busy world around them. Some remarked on the view of Seattle from the air; we told them to pay close attention to the size of Los Angeles when we land there, a sight that amazes me every time I fly into the city.

We expected a certain amount of culture shock to hit the kids at LAX and on the freeways as we traveled to Santa Barbara. I did not expect to look down from the window of the plane at the cacophony of homes, and buildings, freeways, and roadways, cars, and more cars, and to feel somehow sickened by the sight.

How has life come to this point? Is more really better? What have we lost by being so busy building and growing and expanding and tearing down and building again? I felt myself struggling to hold on to the sensations of self reliance, quiet, isolation, and solitude that a village 250 miles from the nearest roads had given me.

My cautious self reflection gave way to an unbridled sense of belonging as we turned up PCH to take the coastal route home. The sun was low on the horizon, the waves were clean and glassy, the air was warm and smelled of salt, we were home at last and it felt quite good to be here.

To be continued...


  1. I began the preparations with contacting all of my students and those that could changed their school schedules to be here to help and to take this chance to meet these kids. We're all full of questions as I know they are too. This will be fun to introduce them to the wonderful world of horses and partnerships as we do here.

    Mina and Hannah helped wash 4 & 1/2 horses yesterday afternoon. Mo the mini is the 1/2! We'll see what troubles they get into overnight and if it was worth it...

    My student volunteers range in age from 5-14 tomorrow. And we have adult volunteers too that are taking time off of work to be a part of this. One mom is making handmade horse cupcakes, another is donating 'bittybuttons' for the girls hair and there are Horseman's Hangout tees for all.
    (part 1 of 2)

  2. ( part 2 of 2) My horses are veterans in this work. They are pretty amazing animals and I can't wait for the kids to meet them. Parfait, Sage, Diamond, Bambi, Chester, Punky, GQ, Dakota, Mika, Tango and maybe even Sineadh the mule. My students ask which is my favorite; each one is my favorite for a special job, attitude, sport or activity. They are amazing.

    Well, it's 6am. At 7:30 my employee Tony will feed the horses. At 9 my volunteers arrive. At 10 or 10:30 the students arrive...this will be sooo much fun!
    Marcia Nelson I'll post the fun and activities on my site...check back for a report.

  3. Oops the first paragraph got lost... here we go...

    I am soooo excited. We are only hours away from meeting this whole crew of kids and teachers. This began months ago when I was asked if I could provide a horse experience here at Horseman's Hangout for these children. I read their story and it was a no brainer. I love children, I love horses, ABSOLUTELY I could provide it. (now back to part 2 and 2!!!)


  4. wow, what an incredible journey!

  5. I got to meet (some of) the kids today at breakfast. It was so fun to visit with them! FYI - Today is Mary's (in the photo on the airplane) 14th birthday!