Meet Madison from Michigan—and hear how Alaska whispered her north
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Meet Madison from Michigan—and hear how Alaska whispered her north

By Madison Grosvenor, communications specialist

Madison and her cousins aboard the family ferry boat, the Mishe Mokwa

I grew up in a small town in Northern Michigan in “the pinky” of the mitten, Leelanau County. My family comes from a lengthy line of ferry boat captains on Lake Michigan, first working as mail carriers and later taking passengers out to a pair of islands off the shores of the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Along with a close-knit group of cousins, my twin brother and I spent our summers picking wild blackberries, catching snakes, scratching mosquito bites, and sliding down sand dunes, soaking up every ounce of our unique childhood playground.

From the get-go, my family dynamic was firmly rooted in everything outdoors. From work to play, my parents made sure I grew up in a household dedicated to exploring the bountiful curiosities and beauties of the natural world.

Madison and her twin brother Tracy by the fire on South Manitou Island

My appreciation for nature was present in more ways than just recreation. Environmental focuses started creeping into my creative work through sketches, photographs, and eventually animation and film. During my Bachelor of Fine Arts studies at the University of Michigan, any time not spent in the studio meant taking courses like “Art in Nature: Micro to Macro Spaces,” “Nature Journaling,” “Florilegium: the art of field guides,” and any other classes that promoted the interdisciplinarity approach to the world I craved.

I found that creating art was the best outlet for communicating both my passions and questions surrounding the natural world, which eventually led me to Trustees for Alaska.

Shot from Madison’s thesis film “Wilder”

Big Moves

Post-graduation, I knew I wanted to start my career with a hand in both fields, conservation and creative. I wanted to focus my search on like-minded companies, and I found Trustees for Alaska.

Alaska has always been this little whisper in my head, “Go North! What are you waiting for kid?!” If an opportunity came up to create content surrounding the protection of Alaska’s land, wildlife, and communities, I knew I had to take the chance—however far and however scary.

The not-so-Badlands

The yellow mounds in Badlands National Park

Golden hour in the plains

Getting to Alaska from Northern Michigan is no easy feat. With the best support system that a girl could ask for, I knew this first step was going to be the adventure of a lifetime and something I would need to document.

On Thursday, March 7, I picked up my twin brother Tracy from his house in Ann Arbor, home of my alma mater. After saying bye to my college-town by toasting with coffee and bagels, we headed west, hoping to make it as close to the Badlands as we could.

For a long time, all we saw were billboards, gas stations, and the occasional Midwest roadside attraction. Roads were flat, straight, and looked like they went on forever. The following

morning, we got back on the road for our first real sightseeing and leg-stretching: The Badlands. After a long drive looking out at the plains, we finally started to see something on the horizon. ROCKS!

Arriving just before lunch, Tracy and I planned a full day of hiking and exploring as much of the park as we could. Feeling like aliens on another planet, we stretched our legs and stumbled through the park, soaking up lots of sun (and dust).

Couch crashing and heading west!

After our time in the Badlands, we headed to Bozeman, Montana. We have family in the area and got to couch crash for a few days and recover from our long drive through the plains. We spent our time catching up with family, eating grilled pizza, and sweating out some aches from the road in their newly built sauna.

Brewery hopping in Bozeman

Days later, my brother and I reluctantly hopped back into the car, shooting for the Olympic Peninsula. We had some tricky passes to get through, but luckily the sun continued to follow us all the way west. After getting through Spokane, we found a place to lay our heads and dreamed about staying in one place for longer than a few nights.

The morning of the 12th, we detoured to Snoqualmie Falls to do a leg-stretching hike. It was nice to be out of wet snow and finally see some green. After our last haul through forests and mountain passes, we finally saw WATER. The Puget Sound was in sight, and I was giddy with the idea of seeing my parents.

Madison and the family dog, Banner, reuniting in Port Angeles, WA

They had been traveling for a month and were going to be in Washington just as we were getting there. A perfect reunion and goodbye. We pulled into downtown Port Angeles, Washington, eager to see our parents and leave the car.

Walking down the street, I was greeted by a familiar wail from our family dog Banner, a 60-pound, 10-year-old Australian Shepherd, who toppled me over onto the sidewalk, screaming his head off. It was wonderful. We spent the night recounting our travels, eating delicious poutine, and dreaming up Alaska.

Looking up and down the OP

Family selfie in Larabee State Park near Bellingham, WA

The next week was spent doing my family’s favorite thing: exploring. I noticed that in the Olympic Peninsula, one does a lot of looking up at towering mountains and trees, only to then crouch down to investigate small communities within moss and tide pools. I call it the Olympic stretch.

We filled our days with hiking through the Heart of the Hills and the Hoh rainforest, marveling at the Hall of Mosses, turning over rocks within tide pools, basking in the rare sun of Olympic, and eating lots and lots of seafood. Rather than further explain the endless joys of the Olympic Peninsula, I will let these photos do the talking.

Setting Sail

Madison camped out on wildlife watch aboard the Kennicott

Camped out on the bow for a glimpse of the aurora

Northern Lights Viewing!

After a dreamy week in the Olympic Peninsula, and a few days touring around Bellingham, the day came to set sail via the Alaska Marine Highway. Tearful goodbyes were had since I will not see my parents again until summer. It was a bittersweet moment, knowing our weeklong detour was over, even as the excitement of Alaska loomed.

Just like that, we entered another dream-like scenario—three days aboard the Kennicott ferry. We spent our time chatting with the eccentric travelers in the solarium, eating tinned-fish, staking out the stern on self-assigned wildlife-watching duty, catching a glimpse of the northern lights, sketching, and admiring the mountains as the ferry passed by them. I was perfectly content sitting on my little plastic chair staring out into the world, happy to know that wonderful places like this exist in the world and I get to experience them.

Haines to Haines Junction

After three days at sea, setting our feet on solid ground was a welcome experience. But our travels were not over. My brother and I decided to make the three-hour trip to Haines Junction to shorten our drive to Anchorage the next day.

After finding a viewpoint to dine on cold burritos out of the back of my truck (our first substantial meal since Washington state), we took off once again. Our drive was filled with breathtaking views of snow-covered mountains, soaring bald eagles, and yes, the occasional anxiety-inducing pothole.

Mountain views in Haines

Welcome to Anchorage

Some of the most beautiful mountains I had ever seen were when we were nearing Anchorage. The drive featured views of glowing snowy peaks, snowmachine tracks, and people joyously skiing and boarding right along the roadside. It was the perfect drive to daydream about some grand adventures.

We rolled into Anchorage around dinnertime, exhausted from our long drive, and eager to start the next phase of the journey and explore my new home.

And so…

Madison settling into the slopes at Alyeska

Arriving in Anchorage felt surreal. Furnishing my first solo apartment, exploring the mountains, and saying bye to my twin brother after a whole month on the road felt like a whirlwind.

I am so ecstatic and grateful to be able to experience everything this new place has to offer and to have the opportunity to learn from some pretty incredible people as I go. I cannot wait to see what I bring to this position and what this position brings to me.