September 17, 2018

Drawn to the Power of Denali

My view of Denali's South and North Peak, the two highest mountain peaks in the North America.
Denali has a magnetism so powerful that just the sight of it brought me to tears. The beauty was so profound and its size unfathomable, I was overcome.

I wept uncontrollably. In that moment, I was filled with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. I was reminded of how insignificant my everyday problems really are.

This moment came after driving a couple of hours along the Parks Highway. I was unable to see the view through the trees so I figured I had better get out of the rental car and find a way to see the mountains. Once I was out of the car I came across a little path that had probably not been tread upon in a year. I hiked down the path for about a mile, through the brush and over small ridges to the base of an 25' tall boulder. I was hopeful the vantage point from the top would deliver the view I longed for.

But first I would need to scale the side of the cliff to get to the top, a skill I am certainly not adept at and was not prepared to do. I hadn't counted on hiking so far, and certainly hadn't imagined I would need to ascend a sheer wall of stone. Armed with only my camera and keys to the rental car, without even my cell phone, I considered the danger of the solitude and wildlife.

"If I fall from here and injure myself, I am bear food."

But I couldn't come this far and quit now. I knew what I had to do. I swung my camera to my back, grabbed a couple of handfuls of rock and forced myself up the side of the cliff.

I stood up at the top and saw much more than I imagined. The valley yawned out before me. Across the miles of pines Denali shone brightly under the summer sun, as if to greet me. In that moment, I was filled with humility and gratitude.

To show some perspective, this is a panorama of the valley, with Denali peaks on the left side.

I had come so far, not just this day, or this week or month, but over the last 8 years. I have pushed through so much and brought myself to this spectacular moment. I wept my thanks to the Universe, to God, to every bit of collective energy, for this, for all of this.

This is the entire panoramic view from my vantage point. When faced with a view like this, it's no wonder I was overcome.

Anyone who has spent any time in Alaska will tell you it's unlike any other place in the U.S. Not only is the size of the state remarkable, but around every turn there are astouding views. The danger of wildlife is ever present, only heightening my experience. The extremes of the 49th state define the power of its draw.

Yet, there is no part of Alaska more powerful, awe inspiring and elusive then Denali.

Less than 30% of the people who trek to this mammoth ever see the peak(s). Long time residents of the state have made countless attempts, only to be thwarted. Due to the weather systems surrounding these peaks, it is rarely visible.

Yet I was able to see it two days in a row.

The day before I visited Denali National Park, I stayed the night in Talkeetna. I sat by the river for over an hour as the clouds rolled out, taking in the beauty of Denali's southern peak.  

It was suggested to me to visit Talkeetna, a quirky town 50 miles from Trapper Creek, the entrance to Denali National Park. Shortly after I arrived at the hostel I had booked, I invited Babette, my roommate for the night, to join me at the river. As the clouds cleared we were both treated to the breathtaking sight.

Babette seemed to glow as she soaked up the warm sun and beauty of the moment.
While we sat in silence, listening to the river, appreciating remarkable view, tourist buses arrived at the river, one after another. Each tourist rushed to the shore, stood for a minute or two, took a couple of photos, then meandered into the town to shop and eat.

"Got it! I got a picture!"

The tourists came just long enough to snap a photo then promptly left to spent a couple of hours shopping in the tiny town.

They missed the best part; the true magnificence of Denali.

The more challenges I face in life, the more I find myself seeking greater challenges. Each day I'm intrigued to find what is waiting for me down the road. But at this stage of my life I am better able to stop and appreciate exceptional moments. I take the time to be present, taking in every part, the scents, the sounds, the emotions. I enjoy the rewards of my efforts. Denali reminded me that there is so much good in the world, that my worries are often much smaller than they feel, and beauty is all around us, if only we take the time to find it.

I have more than a photo of Denali. I have the imprint of it's powerful presence on my heart.

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