Zebra Tales
Trey '21

Leaving the Last Frontier

Pioneer Peak is the prettiest mountain in the world.

Now, I understand; that’s a bold claim to make. With mountains like the Matterhorn, Kilimanjaro, Denali, Everest, and Fuji all vying for the title, one could definitely overlook the 6,398-foot peak nestled in the Chugach Mountains. However, I rest my case:
As the cliché goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. It’s fantastic right?! The pride and joy of Palmer, Alaska. . .A breath-taking photographic experience.

Right now, you might be thinking: “What is this guy talking about? There are thousands of mountains that are more beautiful than this. Lies!” And to be fair, you are probably correct. Beauty is a subjective science, so I will confess: I’m a little biased. After living in the shadow of Pioneer Peak for the last thirteen years, that mountain came to symbolize everything that I loved about my home—Alaska—and everything that I was distraught to move away from last June.

We initially moved up to Alaska when I was four. My father—a C-17 Pilot in the military—had been re-stationed to Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage, but we decided to live an hour north of the city in Palmer—a small, agrarian community of about seven thousand. Mountain ranges surrounded the town on three sides, and the Matanuska River bisected the city center. Overlooking Palmer was Pioneer Peak—the crown jewel of the Mat-Su Valley.

Every time that I mowed the lawn, threw the football with my brother, or built a snow fort, that mountain framed the scene. Whenever we drove to hockey, rode the bus to school, or biked around the neighborhood, Pioneer Peak was in the background. I’m sad to admit it, but I took that summit for granted, and now the image has devolved into a dream. . .I only realized how important it was to me in those last few weeks.

Ugh, the typical last-minute epiphany moment—I know. Moving is tough—especially in between your junior and senior year—but during my final Alaskan moments, I had some time for self-reflection.

As Jack London wrote in his novel, Call of the Wild, “There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.” In his book, the main character, Buck, is a St. Bernard from the Bay Area who has to adjust to life in the Last Frontier—becoming wild in the process. My own family moved from Sacramento to Palmer—completing a similar geographic journey to Buck—but the similarities don’t stop there. In our own unique way, we had to acclimate to the Alaskan cultural climate. We became a stronger, more tightly-knit family. . .and a little wilder in the process.

To me, Pioneer Peak is a physical representation of London’s “summit of life.” While it was always there—always beautiful—we often forgot it existed because we were so preoccupied with living in the moment—enjoying life with each other on a day-by-day basis.

There are a lot of things in the world that I remain uncertain about, but if there is one thing that I know to be true, it is that everything is written. Destiny—no matter how much you try to run from it—still arrives all the same. It is what carried me from Palmer to Groton, and it is what has now carried my family to Kentucky. If my own life were a novel, the first chapter has just ended, and while exciting pages lie ahead, I couldn’t be more grateful for the starting point of my story. . .and for that “summit of life” I had the privilege of waking up to for thirteen years.

That is why Pioneer Peak is the prettiest mountain in the world.