I first had the wild hair to start Alaska Trail Guides six years ago. The momentum and passion developed as a cumulation of all the great moments I have had while guiding and living in Alaska. One of the questions that Frankie (my partner) asked me numerous times, and with good reason, was: ‘who is our target market?’. I struggled with the answer and as I sit here now I realize why. It is because our “target market” is those who enjoy biking, wandering, and life. There is no one specific demographic for people who want to get out and explore. You can be anyone, from anywhere and any age. Now, that is not business minded and that makes marketing extremely difficult. Well, I am happy to say that people have been finding us and spending part of their precious time in Anchorage with us biking on the trails. This summer we have biked in the hot Alaskan summer sun, in the wind and of course we have gone out in the rain. The day is what you make it and all our clients have taken what the day has given them and embraced it.
Last week, I met Scott. I had the pleasure of spending two days biking with him, connecting and sharing. Now, before I continue I would like to throw out there that I have been guiding for 10 years. With this in mind, I have met a lot of people, no two people have ever been the same. The two days with Scott encapsulate why I love guiding and why I have such a passion for owning and running my own company. Within the first minute of meeting Scott he asked me a question that I have never been asked before: “Will there be any stops along the way where I can play my guitar?”. I did quick scan for his guitar and did not see it. Scott continued: “if there is, can I can run up to my room real quick and grab it?” I do not like telling clients no, and this request was a simple one, however our itinerary for the day did not accommodate a guitar. We were going mountain biking in Kincaid Park and it was forecasting rain. Straight from the singletrack trails we were to jump onto the Coastal Trail and head to Downtown Anchorage. I explained this to Scott and let him know that tomorrow (day two) there would be a couple great spots along the way, as we would be on pavement out the Turnagain Arm with better weather and the vehicle would meet us with his guitar.
The weather held and we did not get rained on. We biked two loops adding up to about nine miles of singletrack, splashing through puddles, exploring the woods, learning about the native plants and simply enjoying the moment. A female moose (cow) with her calf greeted us as we transitioned from singletrack to pavement. At a respectful distance we were able to observe her and her calf graze along the edge of the trail and disappear into the woods. My first day with Scott I appreciated his genuine interest in the moment and the world around him. I also learned more about the guitar.
3:33 pm. Every moment in time has the potential for being imprinted on us. This moment in time was one for him. While the reason is not a happy one, Scott has taken it and turned it into a positive influence in his life. Scott experienced a loss a few years ago at 3:33 pm. Someone who left this world before his time. I have a feeling Scott has always lived mindfully, however, since he made a point of no longer putting off till tomorrow what he can do today. One of those things was playing his guitar. He had been doing what most of us do, I will play tomorrow, I will make time tomorrow. Scott’s tomorrow became today and now he makes a point of picking his guitar up everyday and playing.
Day two, I picked Scott up, guitar in hand and we headed South. The sun was coming out and it promised to be a beautiful day. We started our drive out the Seward Highway. I can not count how many times I have done the drive to Girdwood, however, it never gets old and if you look around there is always something new to see. Scott quoted John Muir and I am sure it tied into the conversation and beautiful scenery, but what sticks with me is the quote: “for going out, I found, was really going in.” Shortly after, he picked up his guitar, the conversation quieted and he started strumming. The feeling in the van was calm and reflective.
Our first five miles of our bike ride were peaceful. The tide was high, the wind was quiet, the birds were awake and the sun was out. Scott’s mindfulness and appreciation of where we were was very present. We paused at various view points along the Bird to Gird path and shared information and stories as we biked. At Bird Point we met up with the vehicle and he swapped the bike for his guitar. Wandering out the view point he found a spot in the sun, pulled out a travel chair and settled into strumming his guitar. I asked him how he decided what to play. His response was simple: “I play what the moment feels like”. I sat near him and enjoyed his music, watched the birds flying, the tide transitioning and people passing. My thoughts wandered and reflected on what the moment inspired. He would occasionally ask a question, showing that as he played he was also reflecting and watching the world around him. We chatted quietly then settle back into the music and reflection.
The second half of our ride was similar to the first. The day continued to warm and the morning stretched into the afternoon as we arrived in Girdwood. Guitar in hand, Scott peered out the window as we made our ascent to 2,100 feet in the tram at Alyeska Resort. Overlooking Girdwood we continued to swap stories and share good memories. Finishing up a well earned lunch we wandered down the stairs off the back side of the tram building to find a good spot to sit and play guitar. Up in the mountains in Girdwood Valley, Scott sat and strummed as inspiration lead him. I had the pleasure of enjoying his music three times over the course of the day. Each time a different tune, happy, calming and fitting to the moment.
While Scott found Alaska Trail Guides and I helped him during his Alaskan trip to exercise, wonder and find inspirational places to strum his guitar. I equally enjoyed our experience and adventure together. The two days biking with Scott embodied my motivation and reason for starting Alaska Trail Guides. They solidified that I am on the right path and that people who search for what they want will find it. I look forward to sharing many more experience with those who travel to Alaska.