Jeff Scott died of brain cancer a few weeks ago. There was a memorial service for him the other day at Kincaid Park and it was packed. Everybody was there. Jeff Scott was, among other things, the president of the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage. A few years ago, he’d handed the job of NSAA President over to Lars Spurkland. But Lars died unexpectedly in 2014 and Jeff agreed to retake the role of NSAA President. But of course Jeff was, like Lars, far more than just the president of the ski club. Jeff was a pretty extraordinary guy. He and I didn't really run in the same circle of friends, but every time I saw him, he seemed like he was having a really fantastic day. He always had a smile and he was always pretty excited about whatever thing he happened to be excited about. And it was always something. There was this one time when my friend Trond Bjorn and I had a difference of opinion with one of the ski club’s policies, and we told Jeff our feelings about it. Jeff figured what needed to happen was we all needed to go downtown to Humpy’s and have a few beers and talk it out and come up with a solution. As I remember, we didn’t really come up with any firm resolution to our difference of opinion, but Trond Bjorn and I got to hear about all the new and exciting programs that the ski club was initiating, including big plans for ski jumping, and new ways to make skiing fun for kids and get more elementary school students into skiing. Walking out of Humpy’s at the end of the evening, Trond Bjorn and I agreed: “This guy Jeff Scott is an awesome guy!”
About a year ago, last August, Jeff sent me an e-mail. He’d heard about my little t-cell lymphoma cancer episode, for which I’d been going to the hospital for my daily dose of radiation therapy all summer long. Jeff had recently been diagnosed with brain cancer and had just been through a couple of major brain surgeries. He contacted me because he wanted to know if I needed anybody to talk to about my lymphoma situation and he wanted me to know that I should feel free to contact him if I ever wanted to talk about it or needed any support. I was at the tail end of my radiation treatment and all indications were that this t-cell lymphoma thing was coming to a close and I was in remission and most likely it was behind me for good. So for one thing, I didn’t think my little issue was anything like the seriousness of what Jeff had just been hit with, so I thought it was extraordinary that it was Jeff who was offering me comfort; it seemed it should have been the other way around. And at the same time, I felt in no way qualified to give Jeff any advice or insight about what he was dealing with. It seemed it would be so presumptuous of me to compare my little t-cell lymphoma episode (which had been discovered very early, before it spread) to Jeff’s brain cancer, which involved major surgery and chemotherapy and all the rest, and which seemed to me like a life-threatening, scary situation.
The thing everybody knows about Jeff is that he liked to have fun. But lots of people like to have fun, so that’s not so unusual. The thing about Jeff was that he really cared about others, so he was always trying to include other people in his fun. All the speakers at Jeff’s memorial service said the same thing about Jeff: that everyone who met him ended up saying, “This guy Jeff Scott is such an awesome guy!” So I guess it wasn't only me who felt that way.
|Burky and Sally. You probably recognize them.|
The last speaker of the evening encouraged us all (including the entire UAA volleyball team and coaching staff, who were there because Jeff and his wife Beth are huge UAA volleyball supporters) to go out and get involved with people and do something nice for somebody, because that’s the way Jeff lived his life. After the service I was visiting my friends Burky and Sally, and my friend Deb. We were discussing airplanes and how it was better not to buy them. And recreational cabins, and how they required a lot of maintenance so maybe it was better not to buy them either. Sally and Burky mentioned that they hadn’t made a summer brush-cutting trip to their cabin near Denali State Park in over ten years because it was such a slog to hike the six miles through wet, swampy muskeg to get to the place during the summer. So they only went there during the winter on skis when everything was frozen and covered in snow. They reckoned the alders were probably invading the place. It just so happened that Wednesday (today) is Sally’s birthday. And Deb, inspired by all the talk about Jeff Scott’s generosity, and inspired by one of the speaker's requests that we all go out and try to do something nice for somebody in memory of Jeff, started thinking what a nice birthday present it might be if she were to go to Burky and Sally’s cabin and cut down those alders. Problem was, it was such a long, wet slog in to the place, and she didn’t know if she could find it anyway because there’s not really a trail. I know the way in, and I was interested in cutting some brush, but there still remained the difficulty of getting in there when the muskeg wasn't frozen and snow-covered.
|We've been known to take the whirlybird out for a day of summer skiing from time to time.|
If you've been reading this blog (and I know you have) you know that Deb and Keith Essex have been using helicopters to fly skiers up to Eagle Glacier for summer ski training camps since before anyone can remember because they own and operate Alpine Air Alaska. So, as it became clear that we were actually serious about this brush-cutting adventure, it wasn't long before the prospect of avoiding the muskeg hike by flying over it in a helicopter at 120 miles per hour was raised. Rather than spend all day driving the three hours up the road, slogging in for a few more hours, then spending the next day getting back out and home again, we could take a shiny red helicopter and fly up there in the afternoon, get it done lickety-split, and be home by dinnertime! Deb asked me if I was interested and of course I’ll agree to anything that involves zooming around in helicopters so I was 100% on board.
|We had a few laughs on the flight in.|
So after this morning’s UAA ski practice, I packed up my rubber boots and drove over to the Alpine Air hangar to fly up north with Deb and pilot Scott to Burky and Sally’s cabin on Dalteli Lake.
|It seemed we had plenty of choices.|
|That's the Parks Highway. Getting to Dalteli Lake was a lot quicker the way we did it.|
|We found a nice wet swampy bog to land in.|
|On a clear day 20,320 foot Denali would be looming large behind Deb in this photo.|
|Deb and Scott. You may notice that all our hearing protection has been bedazzled by Deb. We did use those clippers. We didn't use the hand cannon strapped to Scott.|
|Yes, that is Big Bird hearing protection I'm wearing.|
|The Dalteli cabin, post-brush-cutting.|
|All those wires are electrified, to keep the bears out.|
|On our way back out, relieved to see the chopper hadn't sunk into the bog.|
|It'll freeze over in another month or so.|
|Back to Anchorage in the evening, coming in over Knik Arm.|
|Home sweet home.|
Happy Birthday, Sally!