It has become an annual ritual to drive out to the high point on the tundra, a surprisingly tall and steep hill on the bluff a few miles from our compound.
We found a nice day with no fishing and gassed up the four wheelers for the trek.
If you are not in the know, this is what a tundra gas station looks like.
It is an exclusively self-serve operation.
And free carwashes are not an option.
With full tanks, we headed out.
Robbi, Alden, and Augie on one quad.
Kato and I on another.
We drove until we found the hill.
The path up is very steep. Not sure of the grade, but in the course of ascent, there is a heart-stopping moment or where one wonders if the quad might not flip backwards.
Fortunately, it did not and never has. Fortunately, we all reached the top intact and inspired.
The top of this hill is the best place to observe the tundra in its majesty.
The best vantage for getting a glimpse of the river, and the town of Egegik on the other side.
The best place for a picnic.
In the course of adjusting her hat in the course of said picnic, Robbi discovered a shell she had not placed where it was found, a stowaway, it seems, a casualty of rigorous fishing and insufficient opportunities for exploratory hygiene.
We were were joined in the picnic by small plastic friends, one of which is named Ice Cream Baby and the others of which are green.
There is no better place to pretend that one is grumpy than atop this particular hill.
And there is no greater thrill than riding back down that treacherous path when one’s time on the hilltop is done.
You will be relieved to learn we all made it down safely.
On our way back through the tundra, we stopped to smell the flowers. Literally. Tiny irises were blooming near the winter road.
But we didn’t stop for long. More adventure loomed.
We pulled off the road, and drove across the tundra.
Eventually, we parked and had ourselves a hike.
Explored on foot, the tundra comes alive.
There is so much to explore, including tiny venus flytraps you’d miss from the back of a four-wheeler.
We found a lake, no more than a wide, shallow dip on the tundra floor, no more than a few feet deep at the center. We prowled the shoreline in search of little fish and wildflowers.
All adventures must end, eventually, but not without a final ride back home again.
This place was part of Robbi’s childhood, and so it is a part of who she is today. I’m glad my kids are getting this experience. She is only 7, but Alden has made eight trips to the tundra.
Next summer she might start to fish. We’ll see. She’s already her mamma’s daughter: fierce, strong, patient, tough, adventurous, impervious to grime and windswept hair.
We should all be so lucky.