Hiking across America

The author with her father in downtown Portland.

The author with her father in downtown Portland.

By Gabrielle Raia-Elise Akimoff

I was born in Salem, Oregon in 2006. I don’t remember much about that time, because I was 18 months old when we moved to Montana because of my dad’s work. He’s a journalist.

Gabrielle Raia-Elise Akimoff in Oregon in 2006.

Gabrielle Raia-Elise Akimoff in Oregon in 2006.

In Montana, I loved to go hiking. My dad said that when I was two, I hiked three miles. In Montana, we had a lot of hiking adventures. My parents said I saw my first moose and picked my first huckleberries on some of those hikes.

Clockwise from top left: Me on my dad’s back, my first moose, my first three-mile hike on my own two feet and picking huckleberries with my brother.

Clockwise from top left: Me on my dad’s back, my first moose, my first three-mile hike on my own two feet and picking huckleberries with my brother.

We left Montana when I was four and moved to Alaska. Again, because of my dad’s work. It was so cold in Alaska. We moved there in November, so it was already cold when we arrived. In Alaska, we went hiking at Flat Top, a mountain in the Chugach Range near Anchorage. We went bird watching a lot, and I saw a heron, bald eagles and even a ptarmigan.

Clockwise from top left: Hiking Flat Top, exploring Matanuska Glacier, a Willow Ptarmigan in spring and our Alaska home.

Clockwise from top left: Hiking Flat Top, exploring Matanuska Glacier, a Willow Ptarmigan in spring and our Alaska home.

We also went to a special place called Halibut Cove. It’s a boat-in community, where you go to the post office, the coffee shop or the store in your boat. That was my first-ever boat ride. So, Alaska was fun, and I thought it was our last move, but nooooo!

Clockwise from top left: My first boat ride, coffee at the Halibut Cove coffee shop, the cabin and dinner on the deck.

Clockwise from top left: My first boat ride, coffee at the Halibut Cove coffee shop, the cabin and dinner on the deck.

My dad moved us to Chicago when I was six, and we lived in the suburbs on the south side. You may already know that Chicago is really flat, so we didn’t do much hiking. We did hike at a place called Starved Rock, where water has carved really neat waterfalls in the limestone. In Chicago, we shopped in the city and ate at fun restaurants. We also lived next to the Forest Park Preserve. They are huge parks set aside for people in the city to use to get away from all the concrete.

Clockwise from top left: Starved Rock hike, riding in the Forest Park Preserve, a day in downtown Chicago and exploring the northwoods of Wisconsin.

Clockwise from top left: Starved Rock hike, riding in the Forest Park Preserve, a day in downtown Chicago and exploring the northwoods of Wisconsin.

This summer, my dad brought us back to Oregon to be with family for a while. And we hiked at places I don’t remember, because I was only 18-months-old when we left.

I don’t know where we’ll go next, but I’m sure we’ll keep hiking wherever we go.

It’s kind of fun being back where we started.

Photographs: Tim Akimoff

Gabrielle Raia-Elise Akimoff has been to 26 states and lived in four of them, but she won’t be satisfied until she catches up with her oldest brother, who has been to 15 countries. She wants to be a dolphin trainer/fashion designer when she grows up, as well as a published author. Her second-grade teacher said that her geographical awareness is off the charts, probably because her journalist dad keeps moving her around the country. She really likes hiking in the woods. 

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Editor’s note: Last month, VOA contributor Tim Akimoff was passing through Portland when I met him and his daughter for lunch near my office. It was great to see Tim, a former University of Oregon student I recruited to The Oregonian. And it was a delight to meet his daughter Gabrielle, a courteous young lady with a love of books.  My instinct told me this 9-year-old girl just might be interested in contributing to VOA.

More reading: “When I’m sixty four” by George Rede

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One thought on “Hiking across America

  1. I love seeing your joy in making these types of memories, Gabriella. All us parents HOPE that is happening when we take our kids out and about in nature, but we often wonder. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. And happy trails!

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