Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Why Go Into The Wilderness?

Wittier, AK (~6100 miles traveled). I know, its been quite a long time since I last posted here..but I've been busy exploring and having fun. I've also been away from my laptop and wireless signal (nice to do every once in a while, trust me).

Denali - a rare clear view

When I started telling people about this trip, many of them questioned the choice of Alaska as one of my key destinations. They’d cite all the usual stuff, its cold there, its rugged, it’s a long way away, and there are grizzly bears in Alaska. All true. As for the cold, yes indeed it has been cold. I think it fell below freezing every night. But as a fellow hiker told me, “there is no such thing as the wrong kind of weather for hiking, there is only the wrong kind of clothing!” We went out everyday, and enjoyed some of the most spectacular scenery imaginable. I consider it an honor of nature that on the first day that we went to see Denali, it was perfectly clear and we saw the entire mountain in all its glory. Something that is really very rare I am told. Denali is glorious. Its jagged, snow covered peaks present a sharp contrast to an unbelievably blue sky. It has the highest absolute vertical ascent of any mountain on earth (I know Everest is taller, but Denali has a greater overall bulk and vertical rise).

me - Denali Park
I did travel over 6,000 miles to get to Alaska, and I guess that’s a long way, but going a long way was entirely the point of this trip in the first place…..which has been great. We saw many animals in Alaska, including grizzly bears. It happens to be the time of year when the salmon are making their run upstream to spawn, which provides a veritable feast for the bears. One night while we were camping along the
beautiful lakeshore of Quartz Creek Lake, in the Kenai peninsula area, a bear decided to give our trailer a shove in the middle of the night. The three of us woke with a start. My brave dog made a beeline for our bed, and once firmly ensconced in my lap, managed to muster enough courage to growl at the bear outside.

The bear left without incident (no doubt in fear for its life after hearing from my ferocious dog ☺ ). The next morning, the only evidence that a bear had been about was a deep recess in the beach that the bear had dug to lie down in, and a few salmon skeletons scattered about. I don’t know why the bear decided to shove our trailer, perhaps just to remind us who is king of the forest in Alaska. Which brings me back to the question of why go into the wilderness. There was a time when people were drawn to Alaska, not so much for the wilderness itself, but for what it contained. The gold rush of the 1800’s is a great example and of course there’s the modern day “gold rush” for oil which is unfortunately still going on. Others have gone and continue to go in order to pit themselves against nature itself… .a contest that takes no prisoners and has claimed a number of lives through the years. Another group of people, and I met a few of them, go to Alaska in search of a simpler life, relatively free from the modern world. I didn’t go for any of those reasons. I went because I wanted to see and feel what one of the few remaining wild places on earth was like. I wanted to walk on the tundra, climb in the mountains, plunge my hands in glacial melt and splash my face with the coldest, cleanest water imaginable. I wanted to see animals in their natural habitat, living as they were meant to live. I was able to do all these things and more. I took nothing away from Alaska except pictures, memories and a more profound sense of my own place in the greater order of things.

Go if you can.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful growing collection of photos Kathy. It looks so different than Connecticut...

Great wildlife photos, and liked the ATV pic!