When my son, Quinton, was a little boy, we used to pull a big green wagon up the street to the library. Every week we’d choose a different subject to read about—castles, dinosaurs, pioneers...
“Hey Quinton,” the librarians would say. “We thought you might like learning about Vikings next.” They all knew us and you could tell they had a great time suggesting new subjects.
We’d clear every last non-fiction children’s book from the shelf. After checking them out, I’d pull the loaded wagon—and Quinton— back home again. The rest of the week would be spent immersed in that magical new world of Vikings or Gladiators or The Middle Ages.
The Joy of Anticipation
“Oh Marilla, looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them. You mayn't get the things themselves; but nothing can prevent you from having the fun of looking forward to them.”
~Anne of Green Gables, 1908~
If you think of Christmas morning—anticipation is half the fun. So, before going to Alaska when Quinton was five, we read as much as possible about the Gold Rush. We read about whale watching and the Chilkoot Trail; about Carcross—the World’s Smallest Desert—and the Juneau Ice Fields. It was an effort to build Quinton’s excitement, letting him imagine what he’d see once we arrived in order to appreciate the sights even more.
At home we’d laugh our heads off while filling a backpack with cans. We’d climb up and down the stairs, pretending to be explorers—carrying all our supplies over the mountains while searching for gold.
We counted down the days until leaving for our own gold rush adventure.
The day after we arrived, we decided to follow a picturesque highway at the foot of the mountains. We were getting on The Alaskan Railroad the next morning, taking the train to Seward. Today...we were free to wander though.
The road wound its way beside the lakes and glaciers, beckoning us to keep driving—even though we had no idea where it led. We’d pull over to watch mountain goats perched on a cliff. A train came speeding by, blowing its whistle as we waved to the conductor from the side of the road.
After turning off the highway, we followed a dirt road, heading deeper and deeper into the forest.
High on Quinton’s list of things to do was panning for gold.
“That looks interesting,” my husband, Gord, said, pointing to a handmade sign on a tree. “Crow Creek Mine.”
So, we kept driving.
We eventually arrived in what looked like an old ghost town. We got out of the car and walked through the little village. There was evidence of people being there, although not a soul to be found.
Built in 1898, there were lots of buildings—a mess hall, a blacksmith’s shop, a bunkhouse, barn, icehouse and a meat cache. We wandered through them all looking for someone.
We saw nobody.
We started to joke nervously about all the ways the townspeople could have vanished.
Finally...we spotted a young lady walking out of one of the rustic buildings.
“Hello,” I said awkwardly. “Um...we were wandering around and just stumbled upon this wonderful place.”
“Well...” she replied with a strange grin. “Not all those who wander are lost.”
She handed us pails and shovels, pointing toward a trail beyond the old village.
So, the three of us continued deeper into the woods, following the path. The sound of a raging river getting louder and louder until it finally opened up into the most breathtaking scene.
We spent hours there, beside that thunderous river, panning for gold—with Quinton in his glory.
Years later and it still remains such a simple, but precious, memory.