alaska, ministry, motion sickness, time, travel

The Memories Held in a Hat

I wonder when I won’t be surprised that something in my life happened decades ago? Aging is an odd thing. This came up for me the other day because as I was preparing to take my dogs for a walk I needed to put on a hat because it’s already winter and where did fall go?! I grabbed the first hat I saw and was immediately transported back to 2005 along the shores of southern Alaska where I bought it. Somehow this hat has stayed with me for 13 years.


I was working at St. Luke’s UMC and my boss suggested another youth trip to Alaska. He had led one a few years prior to that and wanted to know if I was ready to lead one myself… of course, I was on board! There were multiple purposes to the trip, as there are with all youth summer trips. However, the two primary purposes were: discover and connect with God in creation and provide some manual labor for a United Methodist church in Girdwood.

We had two 15 passenger vans full of 4 adults and 15 or so youth and all our stuff. I was 25 at the time. I’m still in awe that parents were willing to put their children on a plane with four mid-twenty-somethings for 10 days! Those were some trusting parents 🙂

I don’t remember the exact itinerary, but I know we spent time in Anchorage and Seward. We spent a few days in the Denali National Park area. We slept in hostels and walked on glaciers. At one point, in DNP, we were walking along a paved path and a moose joined us. It was enormous. I was terrified and I hid behind a tree whispering for the teens to do the same. That mother moose had her baby with her and was not to be messed with. If I recall correctly, there was a moose sighting at one other location too. We certainly were not in Indiana anymore!


We played Jenga on an outdoor patio and explored small towns. We attempted to dig out a basement for a church and went white water rafting in wetsuits. We also went on a boat to explore the shores and look for wildlife… and this is where the hat comes in.

This trip took place in June or July and for the most part it was warm. However, the day we were scheduled to take this boat ride it was not warm. I had many layers on but didn’t have a hat, so I stopped in one of the kitchy stores near the pier and bought myself a hat. I proceeded to enjoy the scenery of Alaska while throwing up over the side of the boat for the entire ride. It’s in those moments that I was grateful to have other leaders with me. It’s hard to manage a group when when you’re bent over the side of a boat.

However, in the midst of my sickness, I remember seeing porpoise swimming by and seals reclining on rocks near the shore. I remember waterfalls streaming down the sides of mountains and seeing glaciers in the distance. I remember being amazed at the contrast between greens and blues and browns. I remember wondering how I came to be in such a beautiful place, with such beautiful people.


(Because of that trip I decided to go back to Alaska, but that’s another blog post for another time.)

I have the tendency to throw things away. I get in these moods where I just need to make space — so I make Goodwill piles and throw away piles and watch them grow and find joy in taking those piles outside of my house and away from my closets. There are times that I regret being so hasty. However, I mostly never miss the things I get rid of. I’m grateful, though, that there are times when my sentimental side gets the best of me and says, “No, keep that one a little while longer.” I can’t imagine any other reason that I kept this hat. But, I’m so glad I did. Without it I wouldn’t have had a lovely walk remembering the places I’ve been and the people I went with. Can you believe all the memories that are held in one simple hat?


P.S. I might add that I have a ton of pictures from this trip but they are all stuck on my external HD which won’t load on my computer. I searched Facebook and was able to find these two pictures from fellow travelers. Maybe one day, when I get the HD fixed, I can update this post with more pictures… it truly was an amazing trip!

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