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Author Jan Brett Pans for Creative Gold in Alaska | Travel

Author Jan Brett Pans for Creative Gold in Alaska

As a child, a cold rainy day in New England meant leafing through my nature books, especially the National Geographic Society’s Wild Animals of North America. It was the illustration of the musk ox that most often captured my 8-year-old imagination. The magnificent bull pictured seemed to belong in the Pleistocene epoch, alongside woolly mammoths, woolly rhinos and Smilodon. Yet the musk ox amazingly still exists in today’s Arctic world.

Sixty years and 40 children’s books later, I was reminded of this youthful fascination when my daughter moved to Alaska. She spoke excitedly about the Musk Ox Farm, a historic farm just outside of Palmer where 80 animals roamed, all well cared for and gently combed for their extremely warm qiviut fiber. It is curious how certain childhood memories are indelible. I instantly pictured that mysterious illustration from my book and started planning a visit.

Jan Brett at the Musk Ox Farm

Courtesy of Jan Brett

The short trip from Anchorage to Eagle River and on to Palmer set the stage. The Eagle River is at one end of the famous Crow Pass trail, and bald eagles soared above us. We were lucky that the weather was clear, and we had a magnificent view of Denali and its neighboring peaks from the Carrs grocery store parking lot in Eagle River. On to the Knik River Crossing, with its cautionary sign displaying the number of moose-vehicle collisions that year. Ahead was the turnout for the Knik Glacier, one of the few named glaciers accessible by a highway. The whimsical carved patterns and colors formed in the ice at the terminus hint at the relentless force of nature. When we arrived in the Matanuska Valley, framed by the beautiful Chugach Mountains, the view was majestic. The red buildings of the farm gave way to miles of snow-covered pasture dotted with romping musk oxen.

Being fascinated by musk oxen and plotting a picture book about them meant many visits to the Musk Ox Farm. When I was choosing animals to shelter under my musk ox character Cozy during a storm in the original Cozy story a few years ago, I wanted to add a rollicking, lovable creature that would mix things up a bit. Wait! Isn’t that a…

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